The exhibtion presents the seven so-called »Mantegna master engravings«: »The Entombment of Christ«, »The Risen Christ with Saints Andrew and Longinus«, »Virgin and Child«, »Battle of the Sea Gods« (left and right half), »Bacchanal with a Wine Vat« and »Bacchanal with Silenus«. These are predominantly attributed to the artist’s own hand: According to other viewpoints, however, Mantegna merely supplied the designs in the form of drawings for realization in the printmaking medium by his employees. Particularly the technical and qualitative perfection of the seven »master engravings« seems to point as strongly as ever to the correctness of their attribution to Mantegna himself. He is a painter known for his love for experimentation, so that it appears quite reasonable to imagine that, at least in seven cases, he took the print reproduction of his drawings into his own hand – still a relatively young medium at the time. What is more, perhaps he used precisely these engravings as a means of instructing other engravers to make prints after his drawings in the style he had developed. Mantegna was the first artist in Italy to operate an engraving workshop on such a major scale.
Apart from works by Mantegna himself, the exhibition will present three series of prints after his paintings and frescoes. Andrea Andreani’s (1558/9–1629) chiaroscuro woodcuts of 1598/99 as well as the engravings of 1692 by Robert van Audenaerde (1663–1743) were both made after Mantegna’s cycle on the »Triumphs of Caesar«. The artist executed the nine paintings for Giovanni Francesco II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, between 1486 and 1492. When the Gonzaga collection was sold in 1629 they came into the possession of the English Royal Family and are today located in Hampton Court. What is especially alluring about the comparison of the two print series to one another is the fact that Andreani saw Mantegna’s paintings when they were still in Mantua, whereas Audenaerde was not familiar with the originals and carried out his engravings after Andreani’s woodcuts.
A further exhibition highlight will be the series of five etchings of 1776 by Giovanni David (1743–1790) with the »History of Saints James the Great and Christopher« after frescoes by Mantegna in the Ovetari Chapel of the Eremetani Church in Padua. The chapel was destroyed on 11 March 1944; the few surviving frescoes were restored and made accessible to the public only very recently. David’s series is to be found in the Stuttgart collection in three versions. Apart from the first state – in outline etchings – and the second hatched one, it is above all the third state, hand-coloured by David, which is absolutely unique. This last-named version was executed for the patron who had commissioned the series, Count Jacopo Durazzo of Genoa (1717–1794). His collection was auctioned off at H. G. Gutekunst’s in Stuttgart on 19 November 1872, on which occasion the curator of the Königliches Kupferstichkabinett Stuttgart, Karl Ludwig Weisser, succeeded in acquiring the prints under discussion – along with numerous others – with financial support from Queen Olga.
A catalogue (48 pages) has been published in conjunction with the exhibition.