Elizabeth Cropper on Felsina Pittrice

A contribution by
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Elizabeth Cropper
Dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


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Life of Marcantonio Raimondi and Critical Catalogue of Prints by or after Bolognese Masters


Carlo Cesare Malvasia’s Felsina pittrice  (Bologna, 1678) is a challenging and rich text. From the very beginning our plan has been to divide his two volumes into sixteen roughly monographic sections.  Each volume in this enormous task is a new adventure.

Volume 2 (2), technically dedicated to Marcantonio Raimondi, disengages surprisingly from the familiar biographical format.  It includes the most detailed catalogue of prints published in Europe before the eighteenth century. Following Malvasia’s descriptions, and hunting through many collections, Mattia Biffis and Naoko Takahatake have succeeded in identifying nearly 1000 prints by and after Bolognese artists, many of them little known and in rare states.  These are now reassembled in the volume of plates that accompanies Takahatake’s translation and notes, together with the critical edition by Lorenzo Pericolo and an essay on Roger De Piles by Carlo Alberto Girotto.  Only such an outstanding team could achieve this herculean task, and I am very excited indeed to present the Marcantonio volumes to everyone interested in the history of prints and the complexity of Malvasia’s role as a historian.

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In volume 1 (published in 2012), dedicated to the early Bolognese painters, Malvasia sets up his historiographical model of tradition against Vasari’s renaissance.  Volume 13 (2013) presents the unhappy career of  Domenichino, one of the four main pillars of the Carracci school, who died far from home in Naples.