Italian engraving

Italian engraving

M. Raimondi Portrait of Pietro Lretino. 1525

Italian engraving of 15-18 centuries. Around the middle of the 15th century, the art of cutter engraving on metal appears in Italy, and almost at the same time artistic value is acquired. Handicraft wood engraving. The artwork appeared somewhat later than in Northern Europe, Italian engraving thus develops completely independently. Its masters, who were born and formed in the cultural climate of the early Renaissance, although they did not possess the technical virtuosity of their German and Dutch comrades by profession, immediately turned to the most advanced artistic problems caused by the search for Italian humanism and the high level of development of painting and sculpture in Italy of the 15th century. The double connection of the new emerging art with folk art and the artistic culture of the early Renaissance, which at that time was experiencing its first bright flowering, predetermined its high quality.

In engravings on copper and wood, the original skills of arts and crafts are long preserved. Cutting engraving on metal according to legends originates in jewelers’ studios, and the art of woodcut as in Germany and the Netherlands goes back to the skill of woodcarvers who manufactured printed boards for printed fabrics, for playing cards, for gingerbread and tiles , and later, with the development of typography, cut fonts, initial letters and book illustrations. The connection of engraving (and, above all, engraving on copper) with the art of painting and sculpture manifests itself both in translating the plots and compositions of easel and monumental works in small early engravings known as “niolo”, and in lively interest in the new art of the greatest masters. century, in their direct participation in the formation of techniques and style of engraving.
Tradition connects the origin of engraving on copper with the technique of “nyello”. The term “niallo” means a technique used by jewelers, beginning with the Middle Ages; when working on metal or silver items, including plates designed for embellishment by the niello, the surface of the metal with a pattern applied on it, cut deep, was covered with black powder. Consisting of sulfur and other components, this powder was called the Latin word “nigellum”. The metal plate was warmed up, and the molten black mass filled the deep grooves of the pattern left by the cutter. After the product was cooled, the excess parts of the hardened “nigellum” were removed, and the figure clearly appeared on the surface of the metal with thin black contours, giving the product a finished and precious character. Apparently, before proceeding to the last stage of working with “nigellum”, the artists, trying to check the desired result, filled the grooves of the images cut into the lines of the drawing with ink or dark ink, and then on proof paper they made proofs *. So the first, first random engravings were obtained. Giorgio Vasari, an Italian painter, architect and an outstanding art historian, ascribes their invention to the Florentine master Mazo Finigverra, dating the birth of the engravings of the “niolo” in 1460 **. However, Vasari’s statement is hard to believe. Many copper engravings that appeared in Italy in the middle of the 15th century, and even earlier in Germany and the Netherlands, could not have been due to the emergence of only one master, probably such tests on paper naturally arose in many jewelry shops. Among the early works of this type that have survived to this day, there are several miniature engravings, which, in the words of the Italian researcher Mary Pittaluga, are due to their “precious charm” to the small size and close distance between the strokes.
The creator of the engraving does not yet know the laws of linear perspective, the decorator’s instinct draws him to fill the space – and he knits, like a pattern, the procession of the Magi from the bottom up, from right to left. From the dark depth of the “niolo” appear light, with light shadows the figures of Mary, Joseph, kings-mages and very far away – horsemen, horses, camels and even shepherds – the characters of another story, “The Worship of the Shepherds”.
Even more delicate and delicate is the portrait of Bentivoglio inscribed in the circle. Thin features, a gentle profile, a sad expression of a person harmonize with the colors that arise around the young figure. An engraving similar to a precious jewel is reminiscent of a chased medallion.
For elegant “nilly” characteristic light forms, protruding from the dark. This could become a kind of iconic canon if the desire to surround an object with a spatial environment that arose during the Renaissance did not lead the first masters of engraving to abandon dark backgrounds and to use the artistic possibilities of white paper.
One of the first masterpieces of new art is rightfully considered to be the “Portrait of a noble lady”, preserved in a single copy in the collection of the Berlin engraving cabinet. Cutting engraving on copper is made by the master of the Florentine school, it dates from 1440 – 1450-mi years. Only a jeweler, carefully working in small forms and expensive materials, could carry out such a clean and elegant line as the outline of the profile of the lady. Her headpiece, precious necklace, clothes are filled with finely designed ornaments. And this sophisticated patterning could also be recreated only by a masterful master of gold affairs. It is in contrasting the clean surfaces of the face and neck, limited only by the contour, the decorative-designed surfaces of the headgear, necklaces and dresses, which is the main artistic effect of this work. At the same time, his special charm keeps the traces of the jeweler’s skill in contact with the great art of the early Renaissance. There is no doubt that this engraving bears in itself the memory of the well-known profile portraits, published from the workshops of painters Domenico Veneziano and Paolo Uccello.
Further development of the Italian engraving on copper is guided along two paths: an engraving of small form with a slight elegant stroke, like Botticelli’s silver pencil, and an engraving of a broad and strong manners, coming from the feathering of the drawings of Pollajolo. The linear character of both manners for a long time determined the fate of the Italian engraving.
The very mention of these names indicates the participation of the great masters of the Italian Renaissance in the creation and development of art engraving on copper. And, indeed, they participated in it, sometimes directly, that is, they cut themselves, like Pollayolo and Mantegna, or gave their drawings to engravers, as did Botticelli, and later Rafael, Michelangelo and Titian.

Italian engraving

N. Baldrini Stigmatization of the St. Francis

The master, in whose work the Italian engraving on metal reached the highest peak in the 15th century, was Andrea Mantegna, the great painter and engraver of Northern Italy of the early Renaissance. Based on the experience of Pollajolo, having carefully studied the basics of the Florentine dash, Mantegna subsequently went his own way. In seven or eight engravings with sufficient confidence attributed to this master, he achieved the highest level of artistic laconicism, which in the 15th century distinguished the mature Italian engraving from modern northern specimens, more often gravitating toward analysis and detailing. In comparison with the aggravated dynamics and tense linearity of Pollajolo, Mantegna also affirms in graphics the characteristic tendency for his art to give images a clear plastic certainty, an almost sculptural palpability. But most importantly, his engravings, no less than the paintings of the later years of creativity, amaze with restrained seriousness in revealing the deep feelings and great pathos in depicting human passions.
Turning to engraving, it seems that around 1475, shortly after the completion of the famous cycle of frescoes in the Chamber of the deglamations of the Sposo in the Mantuan Palazzo Ducale (1472 – 1474), Mantegna begins with compositions of mythological content. In the “Bacchanalia with the Chan” and a somewhat later “Bacchanalia with Silenus”, the world of the Renaissance-inspired images of ancient myths comes to life. Technically, the early “Bacchanalia” reveals a clear dependence on the style of Pollajolo, but at the same time they definitely sound the individual attitude of Mantegna to the graphic tasks: a clear line of contour,
confidently sliding over shaded areas, characterizes the variety of movements and poses; Features of modeling with the left light stripe left on the edge of the form underline the volumetric plasticity of monumental and several statuary figures; The symmetrical clarity of the construction gives the composition of the sheet a certain spatial depth.
In two engravings on the plot “The Battle of the Sea Deities” (1493), the creative power of Mantegna has grown so much that he almost completely breaks away from the picturesque principles of Pollajolo. Florentine heritage still sounds in the system of hatching, in the highlighting of figures on a darkish background, developed by plant motifs. But the naked figures no longer merge with the background into a single decorative whole. They are given close-up. In detail, they live an independent life. In comparison with sharply allocated on a darkish background, as if plastered figures of bacchic reliefs, the elaborate plastic of sea deities, achieved by transparent shadows and light outlines of picturesquely treated nude bodies, informs them of lively softness and flexibility. In the sheet representing the left part of the composition, a thin layer of the atmosphere envelops the bodies of the fighters, combining them no longer with the background, but with the environment – the wet environment of a swamp overgrown with reeds. In an effort to give the image space, Mantegna establishes footholds for the eyes: a castle on the mountain and stony heaps on the shore on the left. The impression is strengthened by the statue of Neptune, turned with its back to the viewer, facing the scarcely planned landscape.
In the second engraving, everything is full of battle movements. Renaissance ordering of the composition, its division into two parts – three figures in each – is not immediately revealed. Dissonance in the movements corresponds to a sharp dissonance in the imagery: the ugly figure of Hatred breaks the harmony of Hellenistic reminiscences.

Italian engraving

S. della Bella Death on the battlefield.

In the “Battle” Mantegna achieves monumentality, seemingly impossible in the modest limits of engraving. However, it is this quality that is growing in his subsequent works devoted to the religious theme.
For a long time, the earliest engraving of Mantegna was considered to be the “Madonna and Child”, actually performed between 1480 and 1490 years. In this work, inspired by sculptural relief on the same plot from the workshop of Donatello, tragic notes clearly sound, opening for Italian engraving the world of deep human feelings and experiences. Laconism of execution, a thin contour and parallel hatching, wider and free in the background and extremely delicate in the modeling of the face and hands of the Madonna, strict closure of the composition reinforce the tragedy of the female figure immersed in the mournful thought, emphasizing its rigor and monumentality.
The highest achievement of Mantegna-engraver’s work is “Lamentation of Christ”. The powerful tragic pathos of the artist achieves the greatest heat in him. Closed, compressed composition strengthens the stress of mourning. In different ways, in different gradations, it grows from the silent grief of Longinus the centurion, the torment of Mary Magdalene and the scream of John to the tragic despair of the fallen mother of Christ. The event takes a cosmic character. It seems that the whole world is participating in it: the earth is shaking and cracking, everything is moving, everything is trying to go somewhere; voices sound like a huge organ. All this explosion of feelings is embodied in a small form of engraving, with few means so skillfully used that it is the laconism of the graphic language, its restrained strength and power that absorbs the depth of the concentrated in the subject of mourning.
The disciples of Mantegna worked mainly according to the drawings of the teacher (“The Triumph of Caesar”, “The Flagellation of Christ”, “The Descent from the Cross”, “The Position of the Coffin”). But even the most daring and beautiful compositions of the workshop are inferior both in design and quality of performance to the artist’s original works. When comparing the two etchings “The Situation in the Coffin” of Mantegna and his school, it becomes clear how the great pathos of the great master in the creations of the pupils is weakening: the elements of space and time are lost, the rock took too much space in the composition, and therefore the burial scene began to appear less significant; gestures and poses of participants in the tragedy are traditional, they are devoid of the pathos of Mantegna.
Among the students of the great master is Zoan Andrea. His “Dance of the Four Women” is executed in the opposite direction from the sketch of Mantegna to the four muses for the painting “Parnassus”, written for the studio of Isabella d’Este. It seems that the techniques of the teacher are preserved: the shaded background, parallel hatching at an angle to the contour, sometimes accompanied by aura. But gray shadows, sometimes covering almost the entire figure, never occur in Mantegna. Andrea passed the light dance steps of the goddesses well. However, the rigid folds of their clothes are purely decorative in nature and are not consistent with the movement of figures in the engraving.
Mantegna had no successors. His younger contemporary Giovanni Antonio da Bresche at the beginning of the creative path mimicked his techniques, but then began to imitate Durer and, finally, moving to Rome, worked in the manner of Marcantonio Raimondi. The imitations of this artist are quite successful, but the outline is overly exaggerated, the shading is sometimes put too smoothly. Inspired speech Mantegna from his imitators turned into a scheme. And yet the compositions “in the spirit of Mantegna” and even copies of his works can not be denied the strength of expression and strong grouping of groups. An example is the engraving by Antonio da Bresche “Hercules and Antey”.
At the end of the 15th – beginning of the 16th century, the aspiration to the picturesque transmission of light and air arises among the Venetian engravers. The beginning of this trend is particularly noticeable in the artist from Vicenza Benedetto Montagna. The creative path of this master is clearly designated as landmarks by two engravings executed by him. In the “Holy Jerome” the forms are angular, the contours are strongly outlined and sharply separate objects from the surrounding space, which is constructed according to clearly distinguishable plans. The whole image is clearly constructed, while distant objects are presented with the same sharpness as they are given in the foreground
In the hatching, Mantegna’s influence is still noticeable, but the unnecessary details will flicker the image, “verbosity” creates an impenetrable line between the master and his followers.
As in the history of engraving on metal, and in the development of wood engraving, in the 15th century the two centers are of primary importance: Florence and Venice. But in Florence engravers worked mainly on metal, wood engraving was given much less attention. Its late flourishing dates back to the end of the 15th century. For small illustrations, very elegant and delicate, linearly executed figures are characteristic. They were performed on a shaded background, the feature of which is a white stroke, obtained by the cut in the finest ditches or hollowed out dots and small strokes. For the early Florentine engraving on the tree, the formative beginning was emptiness, and not convex printing surfaces, as in the “Negress” sheet. A typical example of such a technique can be seen in the illustration to the “Pious eulogies” of various authors. The effective beginning of these illustrations is embodied in white figures praying and praising the Madonna, which stand out against a background dotted with white strokes. Black notes only a few details: the radiance around the Madonna, the bands on the choristers, the purse at the waist and the handkerchief in the hands of the youngest of them and the tiny caps on the figures in the depth of the image. Black color gives the eye the necessary support. Just like the figures, a curb in the form of a pattern of white crosses on a black background is executed – a characteristic design of Florentine engraved illustrations.

Italian engraving

D. Andrea Dance of four women

At the beginning of the 16th century, the development of engraving in the Italian cities changed its path. In connection with the crisis in the political and socio-economic life of the country, the previously lively exchange of cultural values ​​between its cities has almost ceased. Individual schools follow the destiny of their states: some of them disappear, others become independent and develop their own style.
Florence after an unsuccessful struggle for republican freedoms, after the siege of her troops by Charles V comes to the restoration of the Medici and the complete devastation of the country. The Papal States still retained their independence, while the south of Italy, together with Naples, was conquered by the Spaniards, while Lombardy reflected the invasion of the French, it was made easy prey.
In the 16th century Rome became the main artistic center of the country. Around 1510, Marcantonio Raimondi started working in Rome, gaining rapid success and the glory of the first Italian engraver. Raimondi was born in Bologna, a city famous for his scholarship, and received here the foundations of humanistic education, which, however, lost the freshness of thought characteristic of quattrocento by the end of the 15th century. In Bologna, Raimondi studied with Francesco Franch – goldsmiths and a skilled nallist. From him, he inherited the old manner of engraving, coming from the masters of Florence and Northern Italy. In the early engraving of Raimondi “Orpheus and Eurydice”, light figures are clearly delineated from the shaded background by a solid outline; Soft non-crossing shading slightly simulate shapes. But having received from the old masters the techniques of engraving technique, Raimondi could not penetrate into the depth and grandeur of the figurative structure of their works and for a long time remained within the poetics of the niolo. The very subjects of his subsequent engravings, such as “The Court of Paris”, “Priam and Tisba”, testify to the fall of the heroic theme, highly raised in the art of the 15th century.
As early as the 15th century, the Renaissance posed to the artists of Italy the task of depicting the subject in unity and interaction with the light and air environment. But especially this demand was made at the very beginning of the 16th century in the north of Italy and mainly in Venice, most clearly manifested in the work of Giorgione. However, the solution of this problem in the graph was not easy. All means were mobilized – wooden engraving, engraving on metal. For many years, diligent searches in this direction were conducted, which were accompanied by many technical and artistic findings, the main of them being the kyaoroscuro technique and etching.
Engraver Giulio Campagnola, not knowing any other technique than the cutter, like Jacopo di Barbari, tried to get soft transitions of the tonal fusion of the figure with the landscape within the incisive engraving – the effect that in painting was achieved in the art of Giorgione. On the verge of solving this problem, Campagnola invented a new original technique, combining the contour pattern established in the Italian engraving with a number of incisal points scattered inside it.
The inventor of kyaoroscuro is Ugo da Carpi. In 1516, he received from the Venetian Senate the privilege of printing color engraving in a way invented by him, which he called “a chiaroscuro”.
Hugo da Carpi is undoubtedly the largest master of the kyaroskuro, and his “Diogenes” (after 1527), created after the motifs of Parmigianino, is considered a classic example of new technology. The philosopher is pictured in front of the barrel, in which, according to legend, he lived, contented in his everyday life with the smallest. Immersed in reading, he rests his right hand on a pointer aimed at the signature: “Franciscus Parmen per Ugo Carp.”. On the right in the depth of the image runs a plucked cock. According to legend, Diogenes ridiculed Plato’s saying: “Man is a biped without feathers,” releasing a plucked cock before the Academy students and exclaiming: “Here is the man of Plato!”
Everything stood firmly on the ground in the works of the Renaissance. But already in the engravings of Scolari, the movement of the central figure justified by the plot is passed on to the environment. In the “Diogenes” of Ugo da Carpie, this trend reaches its apogee: the rave clothes, complex views of the figure are drawn into a whirling, spirally twisted motion, capturing in its orbit all that meets in its path. The contour of the figure of Diogenes dissolves in the air; Black board marks only the strongest places of the line. Tone boards with thin gradations of aperture of the same color in turn level the boundaries of forms, forming the unity of the medium and the figure. In the embodiment of the image, outwardly so “Michelangelo”, one can see the uniqueness of the artistic processes that arose in the north of Italy in the 16th century. In the naked muscular figure is no longer a hero, but a philosopher in moments of ironic and bitter meditations about what man is. It is no longer clumps of matter, extremely saturated, extremely compressed and at the same time seeking to invade the free space of the environment, but the energy itself, the sipes of nature, the motion of unsteady matter in infinite space. Everything moves, everything changes. In the beginning, this energy began to be felt, which was destined in the future to take the leading place in the doctrine of the universe.
Goethe, who saw Raphael’s cardboard, noticed that the artist avoided the danger of competition with the powerful pathos of Michelangelo, limiting himself to a picture of calm beauty. However, in comparison with kyaroskuro the original Raphael seems verbose: water birds and plants decorate the bottom of the cardboard, break the smooth surface of the lake and take a look away from the main actors of the legend. In kyaroskuro, the lines of the hilly shore are calmer, its outlines are more total, the protagonists chain their gaze: the Christ and the Apostle Peter calling to him.
In addition to Ugo da Carpi in the 16th century, his contemporaries worked in the chiaroscuro technique: Nicolo Vicentino, Antonio da Trento and the already mentioned Andrea Andreani.
Antonio da Trento, a pupil of Francesco Parmigianino, usually printed his ciaroscuro from two boards: first a colored lining with places left for the glare of light, and then a black contouring board. It is this board that carries most of the image, so it is much more elaborate than the black boards of Ugo da Carpi. The elegant contour is a continuous line, the inner hatching, parallel to the shape, is crossed in deep shaded places. The glare of light is scattered freely. The decorative contours of the clouds are being stopped.
All these techniques are particularly pronounced in the most famous engraving by Antonio da Trento “Sibylla Tiburin and Emperor Augustus.” Freedom and elegance of the stroke, this technique is reminiscent of etching, which Antonio da Trento could learn while working at Parmigianino.
Andrea Andreani in his kyaroskuro as it seeks to give a synthesis of both manners. A continuous rigid contour is as if superimposed on an image obtained from three tonal boards. But thus the artist violates the softness and fusion of tonal transitions, which are so significant in the Chiaroscuro Hugo da Carpi and Nicolo Vicentino. Andrea Andreani in his most famous engraving “The Position in the Coffin” (1585) with the composition of Raffaello and da Reggio anticipates the effect of combining etching with chiaroscuro.
The seventeenth century was given only by one master kiaoroscuro – Bartolomeo Coriolano, engraved mainly from paintings by Guido Reni.
In the 18th century, the technique of chiaroscuro tried to revive Antonio Maria Zanetti, using the scientific discoveries of Huygens and Newton in the field of the nature of light and color.
Of all the searches and finds of the 16th century, the most fruitful is the invention of etching, which is attributed, and it seems, to Francesco Parmigianino. The advantages that an etching gives to an engraver that does not cut the cutters on a copper or wooden board, but freely draws a needle along the lacquer, perfectly meets the drawing style of Parmigianino, the sketchiness and incompleteness of his drawings, which inspire the viewer with a non-existent continuation of the stroke. “Holy Thida” (about 1524) is one of the most famous and characteristic etchings of Parmigianino. Trembling strokes, intermittent and uneven, create the impression of mobility, illusory, weightlessness of the central image – immersed in the deep melancholy of Thailand. The vague outlines of her figure dissolve in a vibrating twilight medium. Only the free technique of etching could convey intangible forms of the “internal drawing” of the Mannerist. This small masterpiece clearly indicates the depth of the divergence of the worldview of the era of the Catholic reaction, full of twilight mystery, with perfect clarity of the Renaissance ideals, for all the significance of the shifts in art that occurred during this time.
The top of the art of Italian etching in
The 16th century deservedly is the achievements of Federico Barocci. In the four compositions awarded to him, the artist not only discovered the zealous temperament of the ophotist, but also the greater orotornity of the techniques. The problem of light in unity with the problem of motion is one of the main artistic problems of the century, put in its etchings with all the acuity. In the “Holy Francis of Assisi” (1581) and especially the small sheet “Annunciation”, it serves as the basis for the composition, and the justification of the plot – the miracle of the phenomenon of the radiant messenger. In “Annunciation” the figures of the angel and Mary are fabulously illuminated by a fantastic light, pouring from above because of the fluttering curtain. Behind him moves, the transparent twilight penumbra sways. The span of the window deepens the space, connecting a simple room comfort with a large urban landscape. To achieve such subtle and strong contrasts of light and shade, to show the penetration of the mysterious light emanating from the figures of the Annunciation through the transparent twilight to all corners of the room, Barocci needed a whole arsenal of various techniques: he works with etching, and a chisel, and a dry needle, and re-etching . The gradation of the shade of light and shade from a barely noticeable light modeling on the face and neck of the Madonna to the dusky, luminous in the corners of the room, as if anticipating the 18th century and the appearance of mezzotinto.
The main artistic ideas of the era determined the content of the Italian engraving of the 17th century, which constituted an extensive panorama that was marked by great diversity. A significant place in it is occupied by the activities of the Carracci family, each member of which actively worked in the field of engraving. Considering engraving as the most important field of artistic experiment and search, Carracci greatly contributed to the development of reproduction engraving, mastering with its help the classical heritage of the 16th century. They made an attempt to highlight the engraving, give it a clear stroke and a beautiful outline. A system of uniform, clearly arranged hatches, developed by Bolognese craftsmen, found wide
application in the field of reproductive technology. At the same time, the engraving for Carracci, especially Annibale and Agostino, became an independent type of creativity. The most significant representative of the Bologna traditions of academism, Annibale Carracci, as an engraver is best known for the composition “Pieta” (1597). Annibale does not return to the classical incisor, but engraves with a cutter and etching on a silver board. Perhaps the very material of the board helped the softness of the forms and the delicate delicacy of the stroke. Silver board
is erased rather than brass, and, oddly enough, a somewhat erased impression belonging to the Pushkin Museum. Alexander Pushkin in Moscow, it seems even more tender, even airier.
Within the bounds of a short essay, an analysis of the Italian engraving of the 17th century presents certain difficulties. If in the previous century the development of this art was concentrated in two main art centers – Rome and Venice, then in a new historical setting, masters of different local schools addressed the engraving. In Bologna, alongside Carracci worked Guido Reni and Simone Cantarini. A number of engravers, led by Stefano della Bella, worked in Florence. Among the artists of Rome, the most significant was Pietro Testa, closely associated with the classicism of Poussin.
In Venice, Giulio Carpione is considered the leading figure in the field of engraving art. An interesting engraving school is formed in Naples: Giuseppe Ribera, Salvator Rosa, Luca Giordano.
The most characteristic phenomenon in the chart
century, organically related to the world outlook of the era, it is necessary to consider the etchings of the Genoese engraver Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. His characteristic passion for etching by Rembrandt is characteristic of him. But he did not imitate them, but created his own manner of chiaroscuro and his technique of finishing technique. For engravings, he chose scenes mysterious and strange: from the dark entrance to the cave, overgrown with wild grasses and shrubs, penetrate some people, they light their way with torches, light falls on the monument, and with trembling they read the inscription: “Eternitas” (” Eternity”). In another etching, frightened, waiting for something terrible characters crowded one after another and suddenly illuminate the unburied bodies of the martyrs. The streaming light of torches breaks through the darkness, and twilight moves, crouching, retreating to the furthest corners. The darkness of Castiglione is not so dark and the light is not as dazzling as Rembrandt’s. Castiglione is not a master at night, but twilight engravings, which corresponds to the general grayish tone of his etchings. The effect of moving twilight Castiglione reaches small angular strokes, which the French call “sen” (“1e foin”). Indeed, they resemble haymaking trash. By chasing away the darkness, the artist cuts these strokes, where, in the same place, where it should thicken, he, like F. Barocchi, draws long straight or flexible and rounded strokes on top of the fine lines. With these techniques, Castiglione develops the entire sheet, almost without lumens, which is the result of extremely complex factors. Archaic, supported by the Catholic reaction, fear of empty space (horor vacui) joined with the spread throughout Italy influence of “tenebrosi” (dark, gloomy), as the followers of Caravaggio, who adopted from his work “black” painting with effects of artificial light, partly inherited from the Mannerist, but, mainly, this desire to fill the space is the echo of the philosophical ideas of the era, more precisely, Descartes’ idea of ​​the structure of the world. Descartes argued that there is no emptiness in nature, because “extension is the essence of matter”. The matter filling the whole space consists of particles driven into motion, having the most diverse forms. In this case, an innumerable circular motion of these particles, whirlpools or vortices, varying in magnitude and speed, in the fineness and density involved in the vortex motion of matter, must form.
Creativity Castiglione is dual. He also has other etchings, more joyful and bright. They include etching “The Feast of Pan” imbued with idyllic hedonism. In this and similar engravings, the shading no longer occupies the entire sheet. Anticipating the artistic ideas of the 18th century, Castiglione opens a large gap between the trees; Daylight, though not bright, floods the proscenium. New methods have been introduced: there is almost no “hay”, the predominant place is occupied by parallel lines, the strokes are almost not crossed. All this makes the etchings transparent and light grayish. In them, Castiglione anticipates certain traits of Tiepolo’s etchings.
The highest achievements of Italian engraving in the 18th century are connected with Venice, the art of which reaches its heyday, almost equal in brilliancy to the artistic culture of the 16th century.
In Venice, there is a broad cultural movement, fine arts, theater, music and literature flourish. The Newtonian doctrine of free world space, the nature of light, its decomposition into complementary colors is widely spread.
In the plafonds of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, an immense luminous space with free-floating figures in it opened. Light and air filled his paintings, drawings, etchings. The primacy in the art of etching goes to Venice, and she owns it throughout the whole
18 century.
In the exhilarating flow of the sparkling colors of Tiepolo’s work, his etchings emerge with strange unsolved visions. Their two suites are “Vari capricci” (“Various capricci”) and “Scherzi di fantasia” (“Fads of fantasy”). The imaginary world of Tiepolo etchings is like a dream, and at the same time they are stronger and more vital than reality itself. They appear before us, flicker, vibrate, then permeated with silvery light, then as if melting in the hot air of the Italian half-day. They are monotonous and at the same time unique, and each time unique and different from each other, like an insistent and constantly sounding leitmotif, harmonizing everything in new and new combinations. Everything is incomprehensible and mysterious in the images of etchings. The same mountain landscape in insignificant variants persistently arises in the creative visions of Tiepolo. The bearded magicians, with a sly grin of thin lips, are so strangely similar to the semi-human half-animal masks on antique vessels, the young men with the alarming gaze of huge transparent eyes; timidly looking children; resting fauns; soldiers in armor; shepherdesses and characters of the Venetian carnival and a whole range of mysterious props – snakes, hourglasses, skulls of people and animals, ribbons with rings at the ends and, finally, owls. Owls, apparently, play a special role in the second suite, they are present in many of its sheets, and the series is not accidentally long since called “the owl”.
Until now, no one has guessed the contents of Tiepolo’s etched suites. No one has learned what place they occupied in his work, whether any particular philosophical or illustrative meaning is hidden in them, or “a rogue cunning is trapped in them everywhere, and all attempts to enclose deep meaning in the sheets and extract from them a mysterious connection of ideas will prove to be in vain “. Perhaps this is an authentic “capricci”, or perhaps simply a “test of the pen” of the ingenious master in art, widespread in Venice of his time.
Tiepolo achieves extraordinary accuracy in these etchings. It’s enough to have a few stingy strokes to make out the boundless distances: the valley seen from the mountain platform, and the clouds above it. They activate a simple white paper, and it fills with air and shines with sunlight. The strokes in the second suite of etchings almost never cross, short, they break off and start again, but a little to the left or to the right. This device creates a vibration of the atmosphere penetrated by the sun and shaky, transparent shadows, in which, according to the brothers Gonkurov, “the light is hidden”.
Several attempts have been made to unravel the concrete content of etchings (if it exists?). Most often they were compared to the Fijabs of Carlo Gozzi. Indeed, in Gozzi there are images related to the images of etchings (sorcerers, living statues). But it was impossible to find a truly illustrative connection between them. Deserves attention VMNevezhina’s attempt to find the plots of the second suite in the “Gospel of Thomas.” It tells that the little Christ in Egypt learned the wisdom of the magicians. Thus, indeed, some similarity in them is planned. Another apocrypha tells how an evil spirit inhabited a woman, she wandered in ruins, she was chained in chains, but the Madonna took pity on her, and the evil spirit left her and retired in the form of a young man. The images of the etching of the first series “Woman with bound hands” really seem to be inspired by this story.
Interpretation of scenes of mysterious etchings a certain direction can give the image of an owl, present in several etchings of the second “owl” series.
The eldest son of JB Tiepolo – Jan Domenico, an excellent painter who worked with his father, retained in his paintings and graphics his own special style and themes. Just like his father, Domenico Tiepolo worked in etching and created two suites: “The Procession” and “The Flight into Egypt.” Particularly interesting is the second. On the history of her there is a characteristic story: once Giovanni Battista began to banter about his son, throwing him something like a reproach to the youth: “Hey you! What are you standing there for? You do not have “invenzione” at all (ingenuity, creative imagination). In the special sense that was given to this word in Venice in the 18th century, it means the ability to infinitely vary one and the same plot, or rather, the same theme. And in fact, the theme with variations was common at this time in music and in the theater of masks. As if in response to this Domenico Tiepolo in his etchings gave twenty-five variations on the theme of “Flight into Egypt.” In the living and immediate scenes, Mary and the Child are depicted, Joseph and the donkey along with the angels guarding them on the way. They cross a dangerous bridge, stop under a tree to rest and have breakfast, enter the gates of a city, ask a shelter for the night at a village resident, go through the city park, where at the sight of the founder of the new religion the statues of the Hellenic gods crumble. Engraves Domenico completely differently than his father. With few exceptions, he seeks to fill the entire sheet, creating a picture, not a drawing, like Giovanni Battista. Domenico works in small strokes, crossing them in dark places. His shadows are deep and contrasting, the outline is stronger than that of his father, the details are legible, and all etching as a whole is stronger and more thorough.
The youngest son of Giovanni Battista – Lorenzo Tiepolo, engraved exclusively from the paintings of his father. He achieved true perfection in the transmission of his color and chiaroscuro. The black velvety of the darkened places of reproduced canvases is easily and harmoniously combined in its engravings with air-strewn, illuminated sections. His “Rinaldo and Armida” (1750 – 1755) – a masterpiece of reproduction engraving.
Antonio Canaletto, a painter and engraver, focused his attention in painting and graphics mainly on the transfer of urban landscapes of Venice and its environs, although they can not be named in the full sense of the word. The view of Piazzetta and Canaletto embankment connects with the scene of the celebration of the Doe’s betrothal with the sea, and it is difficult to say that it takes more of it – golden gondolas, masks of courtiers and senators, participants in a solemn departure to the sea, or buildings on the shore. Most etchings are small in size, engraved easily and modestly. But in their simplicity, and the main charm lies. He awarded thirty-two etchings with views of Venice and its environs and with fantastic urban views that are stylistically close to the buildings, bridges and monuments of Venice. Interest in the urban landscape, the kinds of small streets and suburbs – something new that made Canaletto his etchings in art. The realistic warehouse of the engraver also appears in the image of the figures with which he inhabits his landscapes: these fishermen, ox drivers, people crowding in the market, sometimes senators, ladies and street vendors. It engraves with thin parallel strokes, sometimes with semicircular brackets. Uneven palpitating strokes give his etchings a silvery and airy appearance. In the darkest places Canaletto engraves with small and crooked strokes, but they do not cross them, do not combine them, and from this even the darkest shadows are transparent. Gentle lighting, the wrong shadows of a cloudy day are characteristic of the humid air of Venice. Silent poetry of the landscape, romance of the ruins, a lonely traveler in the mountains create the charm of Canaletto’s chamber art.
The nephew and pupil of Canaletto Bernardo Belotto from young people, like many of his contemporaries, worked in foreign lands – Germany, Austria, England, Poland. Just like his peer Piranesi, and partly imitating Canaletto, Belotto created the kinds of cities in which he lived and worked. In his artistic heritage both in painting and in etching, the views of Dresden, Pirna and Warsaw. But, creating in the painting his leads, he could not abandon the blackish shadows and sharp precise contours, reminiscent of working with a camera obscura. His etchings are approaching in style to his painting. In size, in a manner of execution on a large scale without special detail, they clearly gravitate toward the picture, to the possibility of placing them on a wall and looking at them from afar. However, in an effort to create paintings Belotto loses some of the values ​​inherent in the specifics of engraving. Healel Canaletto, he could not reach his crystal transparency, his modest grace and light silvery tones. Shadows at Canaletto are unclear, the contours of the buildings are cutting. In his etchings there is no power of light, which he achieved in his picturesque guides. He lacked the genius power of the poetic rise of the great Venetian Piranesi.
What did not succeed in Belotto, Giovanni Battista Piranesi did. His powerful work sounded like a grand finale of the great Venetian culture on the eve of a new era, the main trends of which are classicism and romanticism, this artist anticipated in grandiose images of his etchings.
Piranesi has chosen the theme of his architectural architecture of ancient Rome. He reached unprecedented power of images and strong color, which he managed to extract from black and white, spreading them into many shades. From Tiepolo and Canaletto Piranesi inherited the Venetian style of etching. Transparent linearity, without intersecting strokes, was especially clearly manifested in his first suite: “The first part of architectural and perspective compositions …” (1743), where in search of new architectural forms and ensembles Piranesi created not existing real but always cleverly conceived “architectural fantasy “. It is easy and free to connect the elements of various famous buildings, creating an architecture unprecedented in grandeur worthy of the construction of Ancient Rome. As the engraver Piranesi stands in this suite at the beginning of its development. It seems that he himself realized the pictorial insufficiency, the dryness of the linear embodiment of his architectural fantasies.

Italian engraving of 15-18 centuries