- Museum number
Martyrdom of St Lawrence; Lawrence lies on a gridiron and fire and raises his arm in agony; a soldier prods him with a fork as a man kneels down to tend the fire and another holds a bundle of wood; at right is a statue, whole-length in profile; an atmospheric dark scene with billowing smoke and two putti above, one holding a martyrs palm; after Titian. 1571
- Production date
Height: 485 millimetres
Width: 340 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Michael Bury, 'The Print in Italy 1550-1620', BM, London 2001, no. 56)
Cort returned to Venice around 1570 according to a letter of Lampsonius, see Como, 1930, pp.180-82) and engraved two further compositions for Titian: the present work and Tarquin and Lucretia (New Hollstein 191). His return had already been envisaged in 1567, when Lampsonius wrote to Titian praising the six engravings of 1565-66 and making a series of suggestions about which of his works the painter should have Cort engrave in the future (Tiziano, 1977, p.239-41).
This print relates to two painted versions of the subject by Titian. The earlier is in the church of the Gesuiti (begun 1548 and still unfinished in 1557; Wethey, 1969, p.139, no.114). The other is at the Escorial and was sent from Venice to Spain at the end of 1567 (Wethey, 1969, p.140, no.115). The print is in reverse and is an original composition, containing elements from each: the angels with the palm of martyrdom as in the Escorial version while the figures below are close to those of the Gesuiti. It can only be concluded that Titian made a design especially for Cort to work from.
The elimination of any architectural space and the filling of the background with the billowing smoke of the fire rising into the heavens is a masterful idea. For the smoke, fitfully illuminated by the fire and by torches, is both visually effective and at the same time symbolically significant. It is out of the smoke of martyrdom rising to heaven that the angels come, bearing the reward for Lawrence's sacrifice. Cort through his virtuoso command of lines that curve and swell is able to sustain visual drama over the whole surface. The result is a tour de force in which the dramatic focus is never lost.
- 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