Vasari's Lives of the Artists

Marc' Antonio, having considered what honor and profit might be acquired by one who should apply himself to that art in Italy, formed the determination to give his attention to it with all possible assiduity and diligence. He thus began to copy those engravings by Albrecht DŸrer, studying the manner of each stroke and every other detail of the prints that he had bought, which were held in such estimation on account of their novelty and their beauty, that everyone sought to have some. Having then counterfeited on copper, with engraving as strong as that of the woodcuts that Albrecht had executed, the whole of the said Life and Passion of Christ in thirty-six parts, he added to these the signature that Albrecht used for all his works, which was "A.D.," and they proved to be so similar in manner, that, no one knowing that they had been executed by Marc' Antonio, they were ascribed to Albrecht, and were bought and sold as works by his hand. News of this was sent in writing to Albrecht, who was in Flanders, together with one of the counterfeit Passions executed by Marc' Antonio; at which he flew into such a rage that he left Flanders and went to Venice, where he appeared before the Signoria and laid a complaint against Marc' Antonio. But he could obtain no other satisfaction but this, that Marc' Antonio should no longer use the name or the above-mentioned signature of Albrecht on his works.

After this affair, Marc' Antonio went off to Rome, where he gave his whole attention to design; and Albrecht returned to Flanders, where he found that another rival had already begun to execute many most delicate engravings in competition with him. This was Lucas of Holland, who, although he was not as fine a master of design as Albrecht, was yet in many respects his equal with the burin. Among the many large and beautiful works that Lucas executed, the first were two in 1509, round in shape, in one of which is Christ bearing the Cross, and in the other His Crucifixion. Afterwards he published a Samson, a David on horseback, and a S. Peter Martyr, with his tormentors; and then he made a copper plate engraving of Saul seated with the young David playing in his presence. And not long after, having made a great advance, he executed a very large plate with the most delicate engraving, of Virgil suspended from the window in the basket, with some heads and figures so marvellous, that they were the reason that Albrecht, growing more subtle in power through this competition, produced some printed sheets of such excellence, that nothing better could be done. In these, wishing to display his ability, Albrecht made an armed man on horseback, representing Human Strength, which is so well finished, that one can see the lustre of the arms and of the black horse's coat, which is a difficult thing to reproduce in design. This stalwart horseman had Death, hour-glass in hand, beside him, and the Devil behind. There was also a long-haired dog, executed with the most subtle delicacy that can possibly be achieved in engraving. In the year 1512 there issued from the hand of the same master sixteen little scenes of the Passion of Jesus Christ, engraved so well on copper, that there are no little figures to be seen that are more beautiful, sweet, and graceful, nor any that are stronger in relief.

Spurred likewise by rivalry, the same Lucas of Holland executed twelve similar plates, very beautiful, and yet not so perfect in engraving and design; and, in addition to these, a S. George who is comforting the Maiden, who is weeping because she is destined to be devoured by the Dragon; and also a Solomon, who is worshipping idols; the Baptism of Christ; Pyramus and Thisbe; and Ahasuerus with Queen Esther kneeling before him. Albrecht, on his part, not wishing to be surpassed by Lucas either in the number or in the excellence of his works, engraved a nude figure on some clouds, and a Temperance with marvellous wings, holding a cup of gold and a bridle, with a most delicate little landscape; and then a S. Eustachio kneeling before the stag, which has the Crucifix between its horns, a sheet which is amazing, and particularly for the beauty of some dogs in various attitudes, which could not be more perfect. Among the many children of various kinds that he made for the decoration of arms and devices, he engraved some who are holding a shield, wherein is a Death with a cock for crest, the feathers of which are rendered in such detail, that it would be impossible to execute anything more delicate with the burin.

Finally, he published the sheet with S. Jerome in the habit of a Cardinal, writing, with the Lion sleeping at his feet. In this work Albrecht represented a room with windows of glass, through which stream the rays of the sun, falling on the place where the Saint sits writing, with an effect so natural, that it is a marvel; besides which, there are books, timepieces, writings, and so many other things, that nothing more and nothing better could be done in this field of art. Not long afterwards, in the year 1523, he executed a Christ with the twelve Apostles, in little figures, which was almost the last of his works. There may also be seen prints of many heads taken from life by him, such as that of Erasmus of Rotterdam, that of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, Elector of the Empire, and also his own. Nor, with all the engravings that he produced, did he ever abandon painting; nay, he was always executing panels, canvases, and other paintings, all excellent, and, what is more, he left many writings on matters connected with engraving, painting, perspective, and architecture.

But to return to the subject of engraving: the works of Albrecht Duerer induced Lucas of Holland to follow in his steps to the best of his power. After the works already mentioned, Lucas engraved on copper four scenes from the life of Joseph, and also the four Evangelists, the three Angels who appeared to Abraham in the Valley of Mamre, Susannah in the Bath, David praying, Mordecai riding in Triumph on Horseback, Lot made drunk by his Daughters, the Creation of Adam and Eve, God commanding them that they shall not eat of the Fruit from the Tree that He points out to them, and Cain killing his brother Abel; all which sheets were published in the year 1529. But that which did more than anything else to bring renown and fame to Lucas, was a large sheet in which he represented the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ; with another wherein Pilate is showing Him to the people, saying, "Ecce Homo!" These sheets, which are large, and contain a great number of figures, are held to be excellent; as are, likewise, one with a Conversion of S. Paul, and another showing him being led, blind, into Damascus. And let these works suffice to prove that Lucas may be numbered among those who have handled the burin with ability.

The scenes of Lucas are very happy in composition, being executed with such clearness and so free from confusion, that it seems certain that the action represented could not have taken place in any other way; and they are arranged more in accordance with the rules of art than those of Albrecht. Besides this, it is evident that he used a wise discretion in the engraving of his works, for the reason that all those parts which recede little by little into the distance are less strongly defined in proportion as they are lost to view, even as natural objects become less clear to the eye when seen from afar. Indeed, he executed them with such thoughtful care, and made them so soft and well blended, that they would not be better in colour; and his judicious methods have opened the eyes of many painters. The same master engraved many little plates: various figures of Our Lady, the twelve Apostles with Christ, many Saints, both male and female; arms and helmet crests, and other suchlike things. Very beautiful is a peasant who is having a tooth drawn, and is feeling such pain, that he does not notice that meanwhile a woman is robbing his purse. All these works of Albrecht and Lucas have brought it about that many other Flemings and Germans after them have printed similar sheets of great beauty.

But returning to Marc' Antonio: having arrived in Rome, he engraved on copper a most lovely drawing by Raffaello da Urbino, wherein was the Roman Lucretia killing herself, which he executed with such diligence and in so beautiful a manner, that Raffaello, to whom it was straightway carried by some friends, began to think of publishing in engravings some designs of works by his hand, and then a drawing that he had formerly made of the Judgment of Paris, wherein, to please himself, he had drawn the Chariot of the Sun, the nymphs of the woods, those of the fountains, and those of the rivers, with vases, the helms of ships, and other beautiful things of fancy all around; and when he had made up his mind, these were engraved by Marc' Antonio in such a manner as amazed all Rome. After them was engraved the drawing of the Massacre of the Innocents, with most beautiful nudes, women and children, which was a rare work; and then the Neptune, with little stories of ®neas around it, the beautiful Rape of Helen, also after a drawing by Raffaello, and another design in which may be seen the death of S. Felicita, who is being boiled in oil, while her sons are beheaded. These works acquired such fame for Marc' Antonio, that his engravings were held in much higher estimation, on account of their good design, than those of the Flemings; and the merchants made very large profits out of them.

Raffaello had kept an assistant called Baviera for many years to grind his colors; and since this Baviera had a certain ability, Raffaello ordained that he should attend to the printing of the engravings executed by Marc' Antonio, to the end that all his compositions might thus be finished, and then sold in gross and in detail to all who desired them. And so, having set to work, they printed a vast number, which brought very great profit to Raffaello; and all the plates were signed by Marc' Antonio with the following signatures, "R.S." for the name of Raffaello Sanzio of Urbino, and "M.F." for that of Marc' Antonio. Among these works were a Venus embraced by Love, after a drawing by Raffaello, and a scene in which God the Father is blessing the seed of Abraham, with the handmaiden and two children. Next were engraved all the round pictures that Raffaello had painted in the apartments of the Papal Palace, such as the Universal Knowledge, Calliope with the musical instrument in her hand, Foresight, and Justice; and then, after a small drawing, the scene which Raffaello had painted in the same apartment, of Mount Parnassus, with Apollo, the Muses, and the Poets; and also that of ®neas carrying Anchises on his back while Troy is burning, of which Raffaello had made the drawing in order to paint a little picture. After this they engraved and printed another work of Raffaello, Galatea in a car drawn over the sea by Dolphins, with some Tritons who are carrying off a Nymph.

These works finished, Marc' Antonio engraved many separate figures, likewise on copper, and after drawings by Raffaello; an Apollo with a lyre in his hand; a figure of Peace, to whom Love is offering an olive branch; the three Theological and the four Moral Virtues, and a Jesus Christ with the twelve Apostles, of the same size; a half-folio plate of the Madonna that Raffaello had painted in the altarpiece of the Araceli, and likewise one of that which went to S. Domenico in Naples, with Our Lady, S. Jerome, the Angel Raphael, and Tobias; and a little plate of Our Lady seated on a chair and embracing the Infant Christ, who is half clothed, with many other figures of the Madonna copied from the pictures which Raffaello had painted for various persons. After these he engraved a young S. John the Baptist, seated in the desert, and then the picture which Raffaello executed for S. Giovanni in Monte, of S. Cecilia with other Saints, which was held to be a most beautiful sheet. When Raffaello had finished all the cartoons of the tapestries for the Papal Chapel, which were afterwards woven in silk and gold, with stories of S. Paul, S. Peter, and S. Stephen, Marc' Antonio engraved the Preaching of S. Paul, the Stoning of S. Stephen, and the Blind Man receiving his Sight; which plates, what with the invention of Raffaello, the grace of the design, and the diligent engraving of Marc' Antonio, were so beautiful, that there was nothing better to be seen. He then engraved, after the invention of the same Raffaello, a most beautiful Deposition from the Cross, with a Madonna in a swoon, who is marvellous; and not long afterwards a plate, which is very beautiful, of that picture by Raffaello which went to Palermo, of a Christ who is bearing the Cross, and also one of a drawing that Raffaello had executed of a Christ in the air, with Our Lady, S. John the Baptist, and S. Catharine kneeling on the ground, and S. Paul the Apostle standing, which was a large and very lovely engraving. This and the others, after becoming spoiled and almost worn out through being too much used, were carried away by Germans and others in the sack of Rome.

The same Marc' Antonio engraved the portrait of Pope Clement VII in profile, with the face shaved, in the form of a medallion; one of the Emperor Charles V at the time when he was a young man, and another of him at a riper age; and also one of Ferdinand, King of the Romans, who afterwards succeeded Charles V as Emperor. He also made in Rome a portrait from life of Messer Pietro Aretino, a very famous poet, which was the most beautiful that Marc' Antonio ever executed; and, not long afterwards, portraits of the twelve ancient Emperors in medallions. Of these sheets Raffaello sent some into Flanders to Albrecht Duerer, who praised Marc' Antonio highly, and sent in return to Raffaello, in addition to many other sheets, his own portrait, which was held to be a miracle of beauty.

Now, the fame of Marc' Antonio having grown very great, and the art of engraving having come into credit and repute, many disciples had placed themselves under him in order to learn it. And of their number, two who made great proficience were Marco da Ravenna, who signed his plates with the signature of Raffaello, "R.S.," and Agostino Veneziano, who signed his works in the following manner: "A.V." These two engraved and printed many designs by Raffaello, such as one of Our Lady with Christ lying dead at full length, and at His feet S. John, the Magdalene, Nicodemus, and the other Maries; and they engraved another plate of greater size, in which is a Madonna, with the arms outstretched and the eyes raised towards Heaven, in an attitude of supreme pity and sorrow, with Christ, in like manner, lying dead at full length.

Agostino afterwards engraved a large plate of the Nativity, with the Shepherds and Angels about the hut, and God the Father above; and he executed many vases, both ancient and modern, and also a censer, or rather, two women with a vase perforated at the top. He engraved a plate with a man transformed into a wolf, who is stealing towards a bed in order to kill one who is sleeping in it. And he also executed one of Alexander with Roxana, to whom that Prince is presenting a royal crown, while some Loves are hovering about her and adorning her head, and others are playing with the arms of Alexander.

The same masters together engraved the Last Supper of Christ with the twelve Apostles, on a plate of some size, and an Annunciation, all after the designs of Raffaello; and then two stories of the Marriage of Psyche, which had been painted by Raffaello not long before. In the end, Agostino and the above-mentioned Marco between them engraved almost all the works that Raffaello ever drew or painted, and made prints of them; and also many of the pictures painted by Giulio Romano, after copies drawn for that purpose. And to the end that there might remain scarcely a single work of Raffaello that had not been engraved by them, they finally made engravings of the scenes that Giulio had painted in the Loggie after the designs of Raffaello.

There may still be seen some of the first plates, with the signature "M.R." for Marco Ravignano, and others with the signature "A.V." for Agostino Veneziano, re-engraved by others after them, such as the Creation of the World, and God forming the Animals; the Sacrifices of Cain and Abel, and the Death of Abel; Abraham sacrificing Isaac; Noah's Ark, the Deluge, and the Animals afterwards issuing from the Ark; the Passage of the Red Sea; the Delivery of the Laws from Mount Sinai through Moses, and the Manna; David slaying Goliath, already engraved by Marc' Antonio; Solomon building the Temple; the Judgment of the same Solomon between the two women, and the Visit of the Queen of Sheba; and, from the New Testament, the Nativity and the Resurrection of Christ, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit. All these were engraved and printed during the lifetime of Raffaello.

After the death of Raffaello, Marco and Agostino separated, and Agostino was retained by Baccio Bandinelli, the Florentine sculptor, who caused him to engrave after his design an anatomical figure that he had formed out of lean bodies and dead men's bones; and then a Cleopatra. Both these were held to be very good plates. Whereupon, growing in courage, Baccio drew, and caused Agostino to engrave, a large plateÑone of the largest, indeed, that had ever been engraved up to that time--full of women clothed, and of naked men who are slaughtering the little innocents by command of King Herod.

Marc' Antonio, meanwhile, continuing to work at engraving, executed some plates with small figures of the twelve Apostles, in various manners, and many Saints, both male and female, to the end that the poor painters who were weak in design might be able to avail themselves of these in their need. He also engraved a nude young man, who has a lion at his feet, and is seeking to furl a large banner, which is swollen out by the wind in a direction contrary to his purpose; another who is carrying a pedestal on his back; and a little S. Jerome who is meditating on death, placing a finger in the hollow of a skull that he has in his hand, the invention and design of which were by Raffaello. Then he executed a figure of Justice, which he copied from the tapestries of the Chapel; and afterwards an Aurora, drawn by two horses, on which the Hours are placing bridles. He also copied the Three Graces from the antique; and he engraved a scene of Our Lady ascending the steps of the Temple.

After these things, Giulio Romano, who in his modesty would never have any of his works engraved during the lifetime of his master Raffaello, lest he should seem to wish to compete with him, caused Marc' Antonio, after the death of Raffaello, to engrave two most beautiful battles of horsemen on plates of some size, and all the stories of Venus, Apollo, and Hyacinthus, which he had painted in the bathroom that is at the villa of Messer Baldassarre Turini da Pescia. And he did the same with the four stories of the Magdalene and the four Evangelists that are in the vaulting of the chapel of the Trinita', which were executed for a courtezan, although the chapel now belongs to Messer Agnolo Massimi. By the same master was drawn and reproduced in engraving a very beautiful ancient sarcophagus containing a lion-hunt, which was formerly at Maiano, and is now in the court of S. Pietro; as well as one of the ancient scenes in marble that are under the Arch of Constantine; and, finally, many scenes that Raffaello had designed for the corridor and Loggie of the Palace, which have since been engraved once more by Tommaso Barlacchi, together with those of the tapestries that Raffaello executed for the public Consistory.

After this, Giulio Romano caused Marc' Antonio to engrave twenty plates showing all the various ways, attitudes, and positions in which licentious men have intercourse with women; and, what was worse, for each plate Messer Pietro Aretino wrote a most indecent sonnet, insomuch that I know not which was the greater, the offence to the eye from the drawings of Giulio, or the outrage to the ear from the words of Aretino. This work was much censured by Pope Clement; and if, when it was published, Giulio had not already left for Mantua, he would have been sharply punished for it by the anger of the Pope. And since some of these sheets were found in places where they were least expected, not only were they prohibited, but Marc' Antonio was taken and thrown into prison; and he would have fared very badly if Cardinal de' Medici and Baccio Bandinelli, who was then at Rome in the service of the Pope, had not obtained his release. Of a truth, the gifts of God should not be employed, as they very often are, in things wholly abominable, which are an outrage to the world.

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