Ugo da Carpi (Italian, flourished ca. 1502–32); Designed by Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi (Italian, 1481–1536)
Chiaroscuro woodcut from two blocks
11 3/4 x 9 in. (29.8 x 22.9 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1920 (20.24.76)
Here, Hercules, symbolizing virtuous strength, drives Avaricea woman holding a hoard of precious objectsfrom the temple of the arts. The traditional protectors of artistic pursuits, Apollo and Minerva, look on with satisfaction, surrounded by the Muses. The nine muses, of which eight are visible here, were also associated with learning, particularly with poetic inspiration. The message, which may have had topical significance, is that avarice undermines the cultivation of the artsand perhaps that someone powerful has recently rectified the situation.
In Renaissance Italy, artists and patrons alike were fascinated by the tales of classical mythology, which were revived in new Latin editions as well as translations into Italian. Frequently, the gods and heroes of the ancient texts were adapted to symbolic purposes and used to convey moral or political ideas.
The drawings of Peruzzi were often engraved by the Master of the Die. In this case, he collaborated with Ugo da Carpi, the first Italian to create the colored prints known as chiaroscuri. Ugo da Carpi was an important early practitioner of the multiblock colored woodcut, a technique known as chiaroscuro (literally, "light-dark"), which he falsely claimed to have invented. This method of printmaking requires the successive printing of two or more blocks. In this case, the line blocka block of wood from which everything has been cut away except the lines to be printedprints the lines and areas of darkest shadow, and a second block prints the areas of midtone. The unprinted areas, where the white of the paper is visible, read as highlights in an image that resembles a wash drawing.