Treasures of The Marian Library
July 1 - August 27, 1999
Although the process of producing copies of texts, drawings and paintings by various means is very ancient, the art form of engraving as exemplified in the works exhibited developed with the rapid and cheap production of paper derived from linen by the end of the fourteenth century. Production of paper parallels a period of advancing technical skills in the graphic arts. The demand for inexpensive religious images (and for playing cards) gave rise to a widespread market for the printed, re-produced image.
According to Carolo Alberto Petrucci, Encyclopedia of World Art: "The earliest dated print seems to be that of The Virgin, of 1418, preserved in Brussels". (Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliothèque Royale) The early engravings were made on woodcut and on metal. The artist carved the reverse of what the engraving has meant to portray.
The work of the two major artists exhibited here represent the peak of the arts of engraving and became the norm for ensuing centuries. Martin Schongauer (ca. 1450-1491), the most noted of the early printmakers, was also known as a painter. According to R. J. Verostko, New Catholic Encyclopedia, Schongauer's "work stands out for its precision and inventiveness" among the engravers of the Upper Rhine region. Verostko states, "He brought to engraving a painter's ability to articulate tone and spatial depth. With the burin he introduced multiple tones and textures to the print by varying the mode, frequency, and kind of incision employed on the plate. He treated religious subjects, particularly the life of Mary and the Passion of Christ; there are about 115 plates signed with his monogram.
N. K. Smith, New Catholic Encyclopedia, speaks of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528)as a man of a deeply religious spirit and admirable character. "In his early years he was affected by the apocalyptic and millenarianistic fever that attended the famines, plagues, and social upheavals that shook Europe in the 1490s." Dürer is noted mainly for his woodcuts and engravings. More than three-hundred of his prints found a ready market.
The engravings of The Marian Library were produced mainly during a revival of the art in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the development of facsimile engraving in imitation of the Masters. The engravings are not for sale.
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