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Woodcuts of The Frank V. de Bellis Collection

  • Mariotto Albertinelli: wood-engraving of Mariotto Albertinelli, made between 1550 and 1568. Used to illustrate Vasari’s 2nd edition Lives of the Painters (Plate 2, page 42 of Part III). The de Bellis Collection contains a copy of this book edition.
  • Licinius Gallienus: a black line engraving. Designed to be used as an inset within a decorative border similar to that used by Vasari in his work. It was probably used in a book similar to Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars. The likeness in this case is probably that of the Roman Emperor Licinius Gallienus. This tentative identification was derived from two old numismatic books which are part of The Frank V. de Bellis Collection: Imp. Romanorum Numismatum and Vaillant Numismat Imperator.
  • Virgin and Child &
  • Saint George, protector: ca. 1700. From popular religious prints. These two cuts are considered together because of their similarity. The Virgin and Child cut includes the inscription Baeta Vergine del Buon Consiglio (Blessed Virgin of the Good Counsel). These woodcuts are in nearly the same condition. They are both somewhat worm-eaten, with a few wormholes perforating the image area of each of the cuts. Both are well worn and that of the Blessed Virgin of the Good Counsel shows much greater use. The decorative scrolls at the top and bottom are identical in design. The technique of shading is also very similar. In addition, examination under magnification indicates that they were cut from the same wood stock and by the same hand. Due to similar, significant markings on their edges, they may also have been used in the same place on the same press.
  • Official Seal of the Cisalpine Republic: The Cisalpine Republic was created by Napoleon in 1797 and existed for only a few years. It is made from a crude, rectangular, end-cut block, and is classified as a black line engraving. The block is severely warped, but the image is in excellent condition. This piece is dated between 1797 and 1800.
  • Artisans: This block produces what was a popular image of artisans. The aprons are pictured on both figures while the costumes indicate that one of these is the overseer while the other is a workman. All the carpenter’s tools are present: the adze, axe, bucksaw, and mallet. The overseer seems to be holding either a cane or, more probably, a measuring instrument. A heavy plank, or workbench, on sawhorses is shown in the background. This block-cut produces a black line engraving. It has been broken and was repaired with two forged iron straps (gussets). This wood-cut shows little use and is in remarkably good condition. It was probably used in a book about the artisans of the period.
  • Roundel: The roundel forms an imperfect circle. The block is reinforced by means of a hardwood insert which has been dove-tailed across the grain into the block with the obvious purpose of preventing warping. This addition served its purpose well, in spite of shrinkage, in that the relief surface of the block is still perfectly level and shows no evidence of the cracks common to wood blocks of this age and size. Though the image area is perforated with wormholes, there is no other damage and no indication of heavy usage. The general design and layout of this woodcut is done in the Florentine style of the late 15th century. Yet, the costume and weapon of the hunter would tend to date this woodcut at about the end of the 18th century. It may have been used as an Ex Libris or as a frontispiece in a book of Florentine origin. It may also have been used to emboss the cover of a book.
  • Gargoyle and Eagles: Used as decorative filler at the end of a book chapter and/or as head or tail pieces in such books. Arabesque designed around a gargoyle flanked by two eagles holding branches. This block is in excellent condition except for the lower edge which appears to have been crushed.
  • Arabesque: Used as decorative filler at the end of a book chapter and/or as head or tail pieces in such books. Scrollwork design. The woodcut is badly worn and can be described only as being in fair condition.
  • Eagle: Used as decorative filler at the end of a book chapter and/or as head or tail pieces in such books. This woodcut shows an eagle holding a palm frond in one talon and a branch in the other. It shows evidence of much usage, is badly cracked and shows signs of crushing at the upper and lower edges. It might well be an early printer’s mark.
  • Small Arabesque: Used as decorative filler at the end of a book chapter and/or as head or tail pieces in such books. Image consists of symbolic foliage combined with flowers. This particular woodcut is badly worm-eaten.
  • Small Arabesque: Used as decorative filler at the end of a book chapter and/or as head or tail pieces in such books. Image consists of a human face set in a decorative background. Well-worn, but in excellent condition.
  • Vase and Doves: A wood-engraving rather than a woodcut. Image consists of an urn upon a pedestal flanked on both sides by doves, with the whole being surrounded by a decorative design. In the lower left and right hand corners, the decorative outline has been filled in the manner which came into being toward the end of the 15th century. The wood-engraving was made from end-cut box wood in the shape of an irregular rectangle. There is one small crack which does not reduce printability and the engraving is in otherwise excellent condition.
  • Decorative Border: Woodcuts such as this one were commonly used either as decorative borders for pictorial woodcuts and, less frequently, as chapter tail pieces. This woodcut was either badly crushed at the ends or, more likely, has simply shrunken from its original configuration as a result of its age and small size. The relief area, which is still intact, indicates that this particular fragment was little used. In taking an impression with such a block, one would normally expect that burnishing would produce the best print. Better results were obtained, however, by stamping with a rolling motion on top quality newsprint against a rubber blanket.
  • Sunburst and Scroll: Wood-engraving partly surrounded by a scroll. Lettered upon the scroll is the inscription: “Non Mutata Luce”, which translates literally into “I have not changed light”. No firm date or place of origin can be established at this time. Part of the border area is crushed and the image area is perforated with wormholes. This shape of this cut is identical to that of its image area and its appearance gives the impression that it was probably used as an insert within a larger wood block. Classified as a black line engraving done in the fine manner which is ordinarily associated only with metal engravings.
  • Image of Christ &
  • Christ Seated at Table: White line woodcuts which can be tentatively dated as being from the last quarter of the 15th century to the early 16th century. They are cut in the Niello manner and are representative of typical white line on a dark ground. #17: It will be noted that the features of Christ’s face is of a black line representation, while the remainder of the cut is typical of white line on a black ground. This decorative print of the head of Christ was probably used as the head or tail piece for a religious book or tract. The cut itself is slightly worn and has crushed and slightly cracked borders. It is in excellent condition otherwise. #18: This unusual cut represents Christ seated at a table with two other persons. The features of the figures and the shading on the garments are examples of black line against a dark background while the remainder of the woodcut is typical of white line. Therefore, as in #17, we have a combination of both white and black line woodcut. From the size, composition, and subject, it is believed that this cut was probably used to illustrate a bible, religious book or tract. The cut is in excellent condition, except for badly crushed borders and one wormhole that perforates the image area.
  • Guardian Angel: Guardian Angel standing on a pedestal while holding a wreath in one hand and palm frond in the other. From the subject and style, it is believed that his woodcut originated in Northern Italy or Southern Germany. It displays evidence of long and hard usage. It was cut on the plank on gnarled hardwood which is badly cracked from the shrinkage.
  • Youth and Old Age: An allegorical representation of Youth and Old Age. Note Cupid striking Youth with his arrow while Death similarly strikes Old Age. All four figures are presented against a pastoral background. This woodcut is badly worm-eaten and the image area is perforated with many wormholes. Approximately fifty percent of the cloud background for the figures of Cupid and Death has been lost due to shrinkage over a long period of time, while about twenty-five percent of the shading on the pastoral background behind the figures of Youth and Old Age has been lost for the same reason. This woodcut is in fair condition. There is a remote possibility that the image which forms the left elbow of Youth is also the identifying mark of the engraver who cut the block. In spite of its condition, there is no evidence of heavy usage in this case.
  • Kneeling Angel: Woodcut believed to be of Venetian origin. The woodcut is in excellent condition in spite of ample evidence of very heavy usage.
  • Saint Andrew: This particular woodcut has deteriorated , unfortunately, to the point of giving very little detail when used to make a modern impression. The inscription at the bottom identifies it as a representation of Saint Andrew. The lettering spells the words Andrew A. The cut represents a priest, assumed to be St. Andrew, and an acolyte before an altar, while the lower portion appears to depict two figures against a fiery background. Ink, interspersed with other material, is so heavily caked on the image that it appears to have become fused with the wood. In order to preserve what little remains of the image area of this woodcut, no serious attempt at cleaning or other restoration has been made.
  • Priest and Acolytes: Used for a popular religious print. The costume of the central figure and the costumes of the flanking figures together with their books indicate identification of the figures as this of a priest flanked by acolytes. This conclusion is supported by the presence of the letters I H S in the upper left-hand corner against a column. This seems to indicate or denote a nearby altar. This woodcut is another example of the black and white line wood-cutting technique. There is much worm damage, with many wormholes perforating the image area of the cut, and thus is classified as being in very poor condition.
  • Nativity Scene: This woodcut depicts the birth of Christ. In this instance, having just given birth to the Infant, Mary is shown lying upon a couch in the background while being cared for by two attendants. IN the foreground can be seen the three midwives. The Infant Child is held by the central figure which is flanked by a midwife holding a cloth on the left, while the one on the right holds a kettle. The original woodcut was made in the shape of an oval which was later mailed upon a soft wood block. It is thought that this cut may have been prepared originally for use in printing in combination with type. This may also have been true of the previously described woodcuts and wood-engravings mentioned as being formed of two blocks. This woodcut is badly cracked and is perforated in several places by wormholes. Other than this damage, it is in excellent condition.
  • Lombardian Drummers: Woodcut of two Lombardian soldier-drummers. The woodcut in this case is almost certainly of Venetian design and origin. The helmets and uniforms are almost identical to those shown in many illustrations contained in an edition of Ovid’s Heroides Epistole cum Omnibus Commentaris published in Venice by Scotus in 1543 (6:Various). This would date the woodcut to a period of 1540-1550. The block is split laterally beneath the image, with the result that the printing surface is very badly warped. There are a few wormholes but the image remains almost entirely intact. There has been some shrinkage due to age and the border is slightly crushed but otherwise the cut is in excellent condition.
  • Venetian Noble: A young noble surrounded by lions. Again, the design, style and costume indicate Venetian origin. The fine parallel shading and the method of showing folds in the costume, as well as other factors, tend to date this woodcut as being from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. The image was cut in extremely high relief, with the non-image areas being cut to a depth of one-quarter of an inch on either side of the head. The bottom of the cut is honeycombed with wormholes, some of which penetrate through the image area. The border at the top has crumbled away as a result of undercutting by worm activity. The cut itself shows almost no evidence of usage. The image areas which remain undamaged show the sharp, clean lines as they were originally cut. In spite of the worm damage, this cut is considered to be in excellent condition.
  • Nativity Scene (Adoration of the Magi): Believed to be of Venetian origin and to date from the mid-sixteenth century. Mary is shown holding the Child for adoration as one of the kings kneels to offer gifts while the other two stand waiting in the background. It is composed if two different kinds of wood. The image was cut into a hardwood block which was, in turn, mounted by an undetermined method upon a block of softer wood. This may be another example of a woodcut which was altered after its initial use for later printing in conjunction with movable type. The worn condition of the relief image is indicative of long and hard usage, with many of the finer details of shading having been lost. As opposed to all the other woodcuts of this collection, save one, there is no evidence of worm damage.
  • Man and Two Women: This particular cut could have been used for the illustration of any number of a wide variety of subjects. The man’s hat, the coiffure of the female figure at the right and the headdress of the woman at the left, as well as the costumes, tend to date this woodcut of Venetian origin to the period of about 1540-1550. (6: Various) With the exception of the relief image alone, the cut is so badly worm-eaten as to resemble a sponge. Part of the border has crumbled away as a result of the worm damage but the lines comprising the image remain as sharp and clearly defined as when first cut. A close examination of the woodcut creates the impression that, except for he ink which was left on its surface, this cut might never have been used at all.
  • Death of Saint Claire: A deathbed scene which is believed to represent the death of Saint Claire. The woodcut appears to be of North Italian origin and to date from the second half of the fifteenth century. It is particularly interesting for several reasons. Saint Claire lies upon the bed surrounded by six persons. All are superimposed on a vertically shaded background upon which appears the cross at the upper left center, a small shrine (or painting) at the upper right center, while in the lower foreground beneath the bed, space has even been found to depict the ordinary equipment of the sickroom. The handling of these additional touches against the background is noteworthy in that here again is an example of a combination of both black and white line wood-cutting techniques. The image area has suffered serious worm damage, with two of the corners having been crumbled away. This woodcut shows evidence of moderate use and has a small nail driven into the bottom for some unknown reason.
  • Saint Peter: A small roundel woodcut of Saint Peter. The figure is identified in this case by two keys held in the right hand. These keys are the traditional symbol of Saint Peter and represent the keys to heaven. There seems to be no indication as to the place of origin and the date can be estimated no closer than the middle or late fifteen hundreds. This roundel was cut upon a rectangular block. The image area of this woodcut is so badly worn or crushed that only the keys could provide a clue as to the identification of the figure.
  • Saint Bernard: Saint Bernard of this woodcut can be identified by the emblem in the upper left-hand corner. This emblem, or symbol, is almost associated with Saint Bernard. This woodcut may date from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century and was no doubt used in connection with printed prayers or tracts relating to Saint Bernard as a patron saint. This is a typical broad outline cut which appears to have been only slightly used. It is in very poor condition because of extreme worm damage.
  • Old Man and Attendant: An old man, perhaps a traveler, seated and looking back over his right shoulder, while having his feet washed, or otherwise cared for, by an attendant. From the design, style, and method of shading, this woodcut is believed to be of Venetian origin. It appears to be a remnant or segment of a larger block. There is a vertical crack in the upper left-hand corner and irregularity of the edge. Close examination of this side of the block shows a very old and slightly irregular break which follows the grain of the wood from top to bottom to the level of the waistline of the seated figure. It is pure coincidence that the break occurred in a straight line at this point. The wood-cut is badly worm-eaten, but the image it produces remains almost intact, with worm damage penetrating the surface only along the border at the lower edge of the cut. In spite of the worm damage, what is left of the original woodcut is considered to be in excellent condition.
  • Washing of the Feet by Mary Magdalene: This cut may have been used as a biblical illustration, in a small breviary, or in a variety of other ways. This is another woodcut which is believed to be from the Venetian school. The “42” was cut into one edge of the block at the time the block was made. The digits were cut in the stile of the fifteenth century. This is indicated by the extremely long vertical stem on the “4” and the comparatively small size and shape of the “2”. The base of the cut has been split and is very uneven but the image area is in excellent condition.
  • Man Falling from Tree: This woodcut appears to be a product of the Venetian school from the late fifteenth or sixteenth century but most likely from the period of 1490 - 1500. It is interesting to note that the tree foliage, even in the foreground, was depicted by a series of scallops - or in a scalloped manner - as opposed to the usual method of showing foliage by cutting it as shown on the single plant stem located between the tree trunks in the right foreground. The cut is rectangular in shape and shows no evidence of worm damage. It is very badly warped and, as evidenced by the print it creates, the wood fibers are separating along the grain.
  • Pope or Saint: A Pope or Saint in robes seated upon a throne, with a miter and a crook. It is believed that this woodcut probably originated in Northern Italy, possibly Bologna. This woodcut shows that it was subjected to hard usage but it is still in good condition.
  • Virgin and Child: This woodcut is believed to be from the small city of Belluno, in the Province of Veneto, Italy. The major consideration in this case is the semicircular shape of the lower half of the cut. This peculiarity of design was associated with the city of Belluno. The engraving was done on an end-cut, rectangular piece of boxwood.
  • Saint John the Baptist (?): Woodcut of possible Viennese origin. It is believed to be a popular religious image, possibly of Saint John the Baptist. The block is very unusual. Although the surface of the image is level and the base of the block is level, the two surfaces are not parallel with each other. This cut is of unusual thickness and is bears remnants of rubber, which suggests its use for printing. The block is slightly worm-eaten, with several wormholes perforating the image, but the cut is in good condition and shows few signs of wear.
  • Kneeling Figure: A kneeling figure surrounded by an outer frame of flowing drapes supported by spiral columns with square capitals and plinths. This may have been used as an illustration or as a front or tail piece for a book. Date and place of origin are undetermined at this time. This cut appears to be a second state woodcut. In all probability, the original depiction was that of a Saint, since there is evidence that a halo had once surrounded the head and has since been cut away. In its place, a nail has been driven into the block at the peak of the turban in such a way as to seem to represent a large jewel or other decoration at that point. Perhaps this woodcut was altered in its second state to represent a middle eastern noble or potentate. In addition, this is an example of a block of unusual thickness which appears to have been intended for printing by the rubber. This block is very badly worm-eaten and the inscription at the bottom which might have provided an identification has almost completely crumbled away.
  • Venetian Scene: A large oval of Venetian design which produces an image of unusual architecture, Roman arches combined with Grecian lines. There is ornamentation at the top of the building at the upper right, as well as repeating the outside oval in the gable of the building in the foreground. The oval image was cut upon a rectangular wood block. The image area has suffered severe worm damage and shows evidence of considerable usage. The unusual thinness of the block raises questions as to the method used in reproduction.
  • Saint Isidore: A representation of St. Isidore, the Patron Saint of Agriculture. The inscription in the lower right hand corner reads: “In Siena, Per Vittorio Serena”, translated as “Made in Siena by Vittorio Serena”. There is an engraver’s mark in the lower right foreground between the feet of St. Isidore. The first of the three letters appears to be a V combined with the letter F in the manner which was common in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The letters which follow are the V and F repeated separately. The fact these are not the same as the initials of Serena’s name seems to indicate that the design was by Serena and that the wood-cutting was done by a second person. Yet, this is not conclusive since a number of cases are known wherein the designer-engraver’s mark did not match the initials of his name. Isidore was canonized in 1622. According to the custom of the time, it is very likely that books, tracts and other pieces were printed in that year and in those immediately following to commemorate his canonization. It is likely that this woodcut was used to illustrate one of these printed pieces. Therefore, it is almost certain that this woodcut was made circa 1622-1625.