- Museum number
- Object: Sylvestres Eremi Specus Cartusiana Disciplina Exculti
St Bruno kneeling in front of a crucifix in the wilderness, accompanied by fellow Carthusians. 1620
- Production date
Height: 389 millimetres
Width: 506 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Michael Bury, 'The Print in Italy 1550-1620', BM 2001, cat.99.)
Villamena's engraving was commissioned by the Charterhouse of S. Maria degli Angeli in Rome and dedicated to Bruno d'Affringuez, prior of the mother house at Pavia. Schleier (1983, pp.24 and 81) pointed out that the Roman Charterhouse also commissioned from Lanfranco and Crüger an engraving with Sts Bruno, Bernard and Benedict, which was dedicated to Bruno d'Affringuez and dated 1622.
The Carthusians were probably motivated to commission prints in the early 1620s by the fact that they were trying to have their founder, Bruno (c.1032-1101) formally canonized. His feastday had been approved by Leo X in 1514, and in 1623 Pope Gregory XV imposed observance of that feast on all Catholics. It can be shown that Villamena's plate was itself sent to the Carthusians who had commissioned it, for a later state was published by the Charterhouse in Naples in 1650 (Grelle, in Ficacci, 1989, p.141).
The composition is very close, in reverse, to a plate dated 1621 in the series of 18 scenes of the life of St Bruno, engraved by Theodore Crüger, mainly after drawings by Lanfranco. Schleier thought that the Crüger engraving of this subject was copied from the Villamena (1983, pp.79-81, no. XVI). But as Grelle pointed out, it is more likely that both Villamena and Crüger worked independently from a drawing by Lanfranco (Grelle in Ficacci, 1989, pp.141-43).
The radical simplification of the engraving style gives an extraordinarily schematic quality to the image. It conveys the expressive message without lingering over local detail. The approach seems appropriate to the austerity of the life of the Carthusians described. Bruno is shown with six others engaged in various forms of devotional and penitential activity, all have rays as beatified. In the Saint's legend, Bruno set out for what became the Grande Chartreuse and a life of penance and seclusion, with six companions (A. Jameson, 'Legends of the Monastic Orders', London, 1850, pp.132ff.).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001/2 Sep-Jan, BM, P&D, The Print in Italy 1550-1620
2002 Feb-Mar, New York, Miriam & Ira D Wallach AG, The Print in Italy
2002/3 Sep-Jan, Ottawa, NG of Canada, The Print in Italy 1550-1620
2003 Feb-Apr, Edinburgh, NG of Scotland, The Print in Italy 1550-1620
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number