Super-Sized Prints From the 15th and 16th Centuries On Exhibit

Oversized prints — some over 10 feet high or over 16 feet wide — are featured in the next exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Titled “Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian,” the show features 47 rare mural-sized prints from Italy, Germany and the Netherlands that were created between the late 15th century to 1630. It will open on Tuesday, Sept. 9.

The exhibition - organized by the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College — is one of the first to explore the range of this genre in printmaking. The works on view are compiled from the collections of 15 institutions, including the Yale Art Gallery.

Surviving in far fewer numbers than their smaller counterparts, the oversized prints in the show were created for purposes that range from propaganda to simple adornment, being a less permanent and costly alternative to decorations such as painting, sculpture or tapestry. Printmakers used multiple woodblocks or engraving plates and joined sheets of paper to produce a single image. For example Jacopo de’ Barbari’s “View of Venice” (1500), which offers a detailed, bird’s eye view of the city, was printed from six large woodblocks on six sheets of paper that, when joined together, covered an area of nearly 43 square feet.

Some of the mural-scale woodcuts were produced following the designs of the celebrated German painter Albrecht Dürer and the Venetian master Titian. One of these is a print from Titian’s early years, “Submersion of Pharaoh’s Army in the Red Sea” (ca. 1513-1516), which measures four feet by seven feet. Dürer’s “The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian I,” designed about 1515, was printed using 192 woodblocks; the final composition is over 11 feet high.

The show explores the close relationship between printmaking and other media, such as painting, tapestry and sculpture. While woodcuts were sometimes used to reproduce painted designs, engraving was most often employed for this purpose because it could show more intricate detail. Among the examples on display are Giorgio Ghisi’s “Nativity” (1553) after Agnolo Bronzino, Hendrick Goltzius’ “Wedding of Cupid and Psyche” (1587) after Bartholomaeus Spranger and Agostino Carraci’s “Crucifixion” (1589) after Jacopo Tintoretto.

“All three works by these master engravers translated the designs of ambitious painters into an evolving syntax of line and tone that increasingly was shared across the Alps,” write Larry Silver and Elizabeth Wyckoff, editors of the fully illustrated exhibition catalogue, which was co-published by the Davis Museum and Cultural Center and Yale University Press.

The show also looks at the collaborative nature of such large-scale printmaking, which required the combined efforts of painters, draftsmen, engravers or woodcarvers, printers and businessmen to produce such monumental works.

Among the other artists whose works are on view in “Grand Scale” are Andrea Mantegna, Sandro Botticelli, Tintoretto, Federico Zuccaro and Peter Paul Rubens.

Several talks have been scheduled in conjunction with the show, which will continue through Nov. 30. See the Calendar of Events for details.

Support for the exhibition and its catalogue was provided by major gifts from the Marjorie and Gerald Bronfman Foundation, Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation and Wellesley College Friends of Art, with additional funds from the International Fine Print Dealers Association. The presentation at the Yale Art Gallery was organized by Suzanne Boorsch, the Robert L. Solley Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, and made possible by Mr. and Mrs. Frederic D. Wolfe, B.S. 1951, on behalf of The Wolfe Family Charitable Foundation.

The Yale University Art Gallery, located at the corner of Chapel and York streets, is open to the public free of charge Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday until 8 p.m. September-June; and Sunday 1-6 p.m. For further information, visit the website at http://artgallery.yale.edu or call (203) 432-0600.

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