Friday, 2 February 2018

Domenico Cunego’s engraving, “Head of a Youth, from Raphael's ‘School of Athens’", 1783


Domenico Cunego (1727–1794)

“Head of a Youth, from Raphael's ‘School of Athens’", 1783, plate 16 in the series of 52 plates after studies by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728–1779) of Raphael’s (1483–1520) fresco, “The School of Athens" (1509–11).

Note: This impression may be from an earlier publication than the print from the 1830 edition held by the Harvard Museum of Art (object number M25119) as this impression has the plate number (“16”) hand inscribed in ink at the upper right outside the image borderline rather than printed on the plate within the borderline on the left.

Engraving with etching on heavy laid paper with wide margins lined with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 59 x 44 cm; (plate) 49.5 x 35.3 cm; (image borderline) 42.3 x 30.1 cm
Lettered on plate below the image borderline: (left) “Eq. Ant. Raph. Mengs del.”;
(centre) “RAPH. SANCT. Vrb. pinxit in aed. Vatic.”; (right) “Dom. Cunego sculp. Rom. 1783.”
Inscribed in brown ink by an old hand at upper right: “16”
State i (of ii) (before the addition of the number “16” at upper left).
See the description of this print offered by the Harvard Museum of Art: https://www.harvardartmuseums.org/collections/object/148731?position=8
See also the explanation of the series of prints by Cunego offered by (Spanish) “Discover Art”: http://www.descubrirelarte.es/2015/09/27/rafael-visto-por-mengs.html

Condition: crisp impression with only minor traces of handling and a thin area at the back of the sheet (visible only when the print is held up to the light). These issues are addressed by the sheet having been laid on an archival support sheet. There are previous collector’s notes inscribed outside the image borderline in brown ink and pencil (recto).

I am selling this large and magnificently executed engraving for AU$152 (currently US$121.44/EUR97.22/GBP85.39 at the time of this listing). Postage for this print is extra and will be the actual/true cost of shipping.

If you are interested in purchasing this academic study after Mengs and Raphael, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


Following in the academic tradition of the famous Czech painter, Anton Raphael Mengs, who made the original study of this youth after Raphael, Cunego’s translation of Mengs' study into a highly disciplined and formulaic matrix of contour strokes and dots celebrates the pursuit of idealised beauty where pimples, scars and other adolescent blemishes are not to be found. By design, this print was created as a technical showpiece of the highest order for art students to copy. Although Cunego’s interest in representing notions of classical perfection is clear, there are a few features of this print that I find interesting to contemplate.

Note for instance how the use of dark cross-hatched lines interspersed with lighter strokes in the rendering of the face gives the illusion of translucence and softness to the youth’s skin. This luminous effect is quite different to the treatment of the hair rendered in shorter strokes of much the same strength that, to my eyes, makes the hair seem almost opaque. Note also the different type of marks used to render the youth’s garment. Here, short strokes are creatively arranged in a way that groups them to suggest large broad sketchy zig-zag return strokes designed to give the impression of a vignette (i.e. a softening of the study at the peripheral edges).








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