Friday, 23 June 2017

Francesco Villamena’s engraving (1603) after Michelangelo’s fresco, “The Last Judgement” (1535–41)


Francesco Villamena (1564–1624)
“The Last Judgement”, 1603, after Michelangelo’s (1475–1564) fresco in the Sistine Chapel.
Engraving on laid paper.

Size: (sheet) 27.4 x 22.3 cm; (plate) 22.4 x 17.3 cm
Inscribed within the image borderline at lower left: “Mich.Ang. / bonarota inué.”
Lettered below the image borderline: “Videbύt filium hominis uenientem in nubibus cœli cύ uirtute multa et maiestate. Matth.xxiiij.” (See the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew [24:30])

Nagler 48 (G K Nagler 1858, “Die Monogrammisten”, 5 vols, Munich)

Condition: strong impression and based on the crisp quality of the lines it is most likely a lifetime impression with relatively wide margins varying in size from 1.7 cm on the left to 3.5 cm on the right side. The image area is almost perfect with only minor (i.e. nearly invisible) stains and the margins show only light signs of handling and two small worm holes (at lower left) that are well away from the image.

I am selling this remarkable document of how Michelangelo’s masterpiece was perceived by a well-known engraver in 1603 for AU$252 (currently US$190.09/EUR170.30/GBP150.17 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this very early graphic translation of the famous fresco in the Sistine Chapel, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


This is the second interpretative print of Michelangelo’s famous painting that I am showing (see my earlier discussion of Léonard Gaultier’s print: http://www.printsandprinciples.com/2016/10/leonard-gaultiers-17th-century.html) and in my next listing I will show a third version. What I find fascinating about each artist’s attempt to use only black lines to reproduce the huge colour fresco is not just that the painting looks very different in the copies—I would be very disappointed if they all looked identical!—but rather that the mindset of each artist is so accessible by studying their interpretations.

In Villamena’s copy, for example, the comparatively wide gaps between lines and the insensitivity in the modelling of the figures—a value judgement based solely on my personal opinion—suggests that this artist was geared to create his plate in a hurry for the ready market of folk interested in Michelangelo’s painting at the time. My reading of the artist’s mindset to use the print for monetary gain is arguably supported by the decorative frame of egg-and-dart ornamentation that Villamena has added to the image to make Michelangelo’s painting more attractive—at least to Villamena’s way of thinking.

Of course, just because an artist may have the mission to make money out of a print does not mean that the artwork is handled in a completely perfunctory way. Certainly, in the case of this print the aesthetic mindset that crafted the image is clear. Note, for example, how Villamena understood Michelangelo’s notion of compositional flow so that the groupings of figures create interlocking rhythms giving visual coherence to the image—a clarity in Villamena’s articulation of rhythms that is not so apparent in Léonard Gaultier’s version. Note also how Villamena has consciously used light and shade to simplify what may otherwise have been a complicated seething mass of figures into groups modelled with tone like a bas-relief.






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