Imprinting devotion

early Florentine religious engravings, 1460-85

Project leaders

Department of Prints and drawings 


Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council

An Arts and Humanities Research Council
Collaborative Doctoral Award

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Nearly 200 engravings have been associated with Florentine artisans working in the 1460s, 1470s, and 1480s, yet over the past 100 years little attention has been focussed on them. The few scholarly works that have been produced are mainly comprehensive catalogues that consider the important and difficult issues of attribution and technique.

The older connoisseurial approach, however, allows only a partial, obscured perspective of the prints, since a large proportion of Florentine engravings were created in response to social, religious and commercial factors as well as artistic developments. Although prints could be manipulated by their consumers in many different ways, the way they were 'packaged' by their creators - with text, in books, or in a specific visual template - indicates that many of them were intended to be 'read' or used in specific ways.

This project aims tostudy and explore the significant number of devotional prints produced in this period to show how they were made in order to cultivate distinct modes of prayer and meditation popular at the time. Considering the engravings in broad iconographical categories that relate to different types of spiritual behaviour, it will examine the probable intended functions of images that figure Christ, the Virgin, the saints, or an allegorical narrative.

Anonymous Florentine, Allegory of Pride and Humility

Anonymous Florentine, Allegory of Pride and Humility. engraving, about 1470-80