Declaration on original engraving, (Milan, 1994)
engraving is considered "original" when it fulfills these characteristics:
Drawing made on a hard surface, either by hand using a sharp tool
or chemically, using corrosives» (dictionary). The matrix must
be engraved only by the artist's hand, with the exclusion of any photomechanical
The print is made using a hand printing press.
Each printed work is signed and numbered (numerator and denominator)
by the artist's hand in pencil on a sheet of paper.
The number of printed copies, for technical reasons of value, must
never exceed a limited number.
The print and the artist's proofs are always numbered.
After the edition is finished the matrix must be slashed, in order
to prevent the printing of other copies. The slashed matrices are
kept at the publisher's.
Every engraving bears the stamp of the publisher and is accompanied
by a certificate of guarantee.
The significance of the Art of Engraving |
art of engraving owes its origin and success to its ability to duplicate
images. The main elements in this art, besides the matrices and the
means used to print them, are: paper and ink, that is black and white.
Both have the same relevance; they are inseparable, interacting together.
The black gives body to the image, the white breath and vital vibration.
engraving is not a drawing transferred onto wood, metal or stone; it
is conceived in consideration of the material which is used to make
it, its nature, resources and potentialities; this is the essential
starting point for achieving a style. Because it is on the matrix and
not on the paper that the artist puts his creative stamp, which will
be revealed in the finished print.
engraver, as opposed to the painter or sculptor, does not have constant
control and a vision of his work, because he works in reverse order,
at a close distance and in difficult and deceptive viewing conditions,
proceeding amongst doubts and risks.
thorough technical experience, although subordinate to the creative
act, is the basis for visualizing the effect of each single phase in
the preparation of the finished product.
is an art in itself and has the same expressive force as painting. It
is said to be original when creator and engraver are the same person.
is the only criterion that really matters and has always yielded works
of art of remarkable strength.
A short history of engraving |
engraving technique was used especially in prehistoric times, either
on stone (rock engravings) or on pottery (dry or raw engravings); in
classical times it appeared on Greek black figure pottery and in the
decoration of metals (Etruscan and Greek mirrors) and walls (the graffiti
in Pompei and Ercolano). It has been largely employed through the centuries
till now especially in the decoration of artistic works and in architecture
applied to the most diverse materials, sometimes mixed with other techniques.
these general decorative uses, since the Renaissance engraving has acquired
even more importance because it became the method for preparing the
matrix for printing.
European engraving from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries |
matrices are carved either in relief (xylography or wood engraving,
linocut or linoleum engraving) or intaglio (on a metal plate, copper,
steel, zinc), depending on the method used to reproduce the image, either
spreading the ink on the parts in relief or filling in the depressions.
engravings can be incised directly by hand using various instruments
(burin, drypoint, black manner or mezzotint); or indirectly when the
plate used is prepared and treated with an acid solution, called "biting"
(etching, aquatint, soft-ground etching or vernis mou). Finally there
are techniques based on electrolysis and on a combination of techniques.
All the different types of engraving share the "industrial" character
of the technical procedure; based on the distinction between the moment
of creation and the preparation of the matrix on one hand and the execution,
that is the printing of copies in a limited series on the other, engraving
is the first successful attempt to apply an industrial procedure to
is the most ancient engraving technique, probably derived from printing
on fabrics; examples from the fourteenth century are very rare, while
the technique was largely applied in German and Italian book illustration
in the following century.
on a metal surface, especially on a copper plate (chalcography), was
perfected in the middle of the fifteenth century, in Italy and in Germany
at the same time. As Vasari points out, the inventor of the technique
was Maso Finiguerra from Florence, and although his theory is not completely
reliable, certainly the engravers of metals with burin and niello were
the first to develop the copperplate technique. Pollaiolo ("Fighting
Nudes") and Mantegna ("Bacchanals") used this technique, and achieved
remarkable results, exploring all the possibilities of an art that has
been preferred over the centuries by great artists for its ductility
and at the same time rigorousness. Beside the Italian experiences, the
German painters Master E.S., M. Shoangauer and U. Graff used this technique,
although only Durer investigated thoroughly the intrinsic descriptive
potentialities of engraving and woodcuts.
the sixteenth century etching spread throughout Europe, and its great
variety of effects was experimented by artists like Parmigianino and
Barocci, followed by Reni, Guercino and S. Della Bella in the seventeenth
century, to reach its height with Rembrandt.
the end of the fifteenth and the early sixteenth century, one of the
main uses of the engraver's art emerged in the work of Marcantonio Raimondi.
The reproduction of paintings by the great masters is due to the great
number of copies that can be produced from one matrix; the great paintings
became the visual property of the vast public. Engraving lost its role
of populariser of art when the photomechanical technique of reproduction
was invented and, in turn, became the basis for the revival of the art
of original engraving in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
the second half of the XVI century, Bologna and the Barraccesca Academy
played a leading role in improving the engraving technique in Italy.
In France, after a hesitant beginning, engraving reached its height
in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with the works of the great
Jacques Callot and portraits done with a burin by Gerard Audran.
Italy, in the seventeenth century, besides works of art such as
those by Tiepolo (Caprices, Divertissements, Fantasies) the genre of
the engraved view flourished in Rome (Vasi) and in Venice (Canaletto,
Bellotto, Ricci). Fantasy views reached an unsurpassed height with Piranesi
( Prisons). In England original engraving had its major representatives
in Hogarth, Rolandson and Blake while Bewick revived the woodcut technique
by inventing wood-engraving, which used a block of wood sawn across
the grain, giving a harder and smoother surface that yielded finer-detailed
results. The prevalent technique used by the English school in the eighteenth
century was mezzotint.
and aquatint were used by the great painter Goya at the end of the eighteenth
century. Later etching became the technique used by nineteenth century
artists for preparing matrices, when the original etching, considered
an artistic expression in its own right, experienced a revival.
maintain the engraving's commercial value for collectors, limited editions
and numbered copies were made and the matrix slashed afterwards to prevent
all the great modern and contemporary artists experimented with this
technique; from Chagal, Dérain, Léger and Nolde to Kokoschka
; from Picasso, Mirò and Dalì to Carrà, Morandi,
Campigli, Guttuso. Thus it is impossible to separate the history of
etching from its cultural period and from the overall activity of the
artist who practiced it.
Contemporary Italian engravers |
Italian engravers are among the best known in the world. Historically,
the art of original engraving has (with a few notable exception : Boccioni,
Martini, Viani, Severini) taken on new characteristics since the second
world war ; during the first half of the century it was still bound
to the rigid conventions of nineteenth century reproduction. At the
same time it was not able to conform to the new ideals of European avant-garde
painting, except in the most superficial ways, as in the case of engraving
for illustrations, which was influenced by Art Nouveau.
the end of the second world war, original engraving has become an academic
subject. The great masters of the art, appointed to teach it in Italy's
art academics, gave rise to schools distinguished by their particular
style and technique.
spread of this neo-Renaissance phenomenon of schools brought about a
differentiation between schools characterized by regional aspects, while
maintaining the tradition established by the Master engravers. Several
schools that acquired their own style are worthy of note, such as the Piemontese school, working according to the rules of the
Academia Albertina in Turin and referring to the artistic ideals of
such teachers as Marcello Boglioni and Mario Calandri. Characterized
by strict respect for tradition, this school fostered the development
of the contemporary masters of pure etching VincenzoGatti and Daniele Gay, and the leading mezzotint artist Alberto Rocco.
Venetian school, on the other hand, is characterized by engravings
of landscape; its major teachers are Lino Bianchi Barriviera and Giovanni
Barbisan. The school of Bologna had its forerunner and point of reference
in the great Morandi; it developed a more intellectual ideal of original
engraving, creating more surreal and contemplative atmospheres; Paolo
Manaresi and Gino Gandini represent the school at its best. The
Scuola del Libro in Urbino and the Istituto d 'Arte in Florence are historically very important, because they addressed their teaching
attention to the development and spread of the art of original engraving,
under the direction of Masters such as Luigi Servolini and Leandro Castellani
in Urbino and Francesco Chiappelli in Florence. They also pointed the
way to artists such as Arnoldo Ciarrocchi, Nunzio Gulino, Renato
Bruscaglia, Walter Piacesi and Alberico Morena in
Urbino, and Pietro Parigi, Renato Alessandrini, Mario Fallani, Enzo
Faraoni in Florence.
the Istituto d'Arte in Florence, the Accademia has played an Important
role since the earliest years of our century. After the initial boost
given by the famous twentieth century engraver Giovanni Fattori and
the guidance of Celestino Celestini, this school encouraged the development
of many great artists, including Vairo Mongatti and Gianni
Cacciarini. Together with Gabriele Orselli and Maurizio
Mariani they founded a group called ACADEMIA NOVA, supporting
the revival of the purity of classical lines.
the Italian Academies where renowned contemporary engravers developed
their art, Brera Academy in Milan (Lombard school) should
be mentioned, where Paolo Petrò studied, and the Academy
of Genoa (Ligurian School), where Mario Chianese teaches.
This last artist is included not only in our catalogue, but also in
the most famous international catalogues.
is today a country where the art of original engraving is flourishing
and spreading. The contemporary Italian "Maestri" are in the most important
catalogues of the world, together with the greater engravers of the
past, as practitioners of an art quite autonomous from painting, and
certainly not inferior to it.