Saturday, December 6, 2014

Engravings That Allude to Intellectuality

            Engraving is an art form that requires a large amount of time, precision, and attention to detail. The artists that choose to create them put a lot of thought into the placement of each small mark. Engraving is more precise than other art forms because it requires complete accuracy-mistakes that are made on engravings are more difficult to hide than mistakes made with another art forms, such as painting. There is already a large amount of thought being put into these artworks, so it is easy to see how an artist would make the transition from creating an engraving, to creating an engraving with an intellectual focus. Putting as much time and attention into the symbolic details of an engraving as the technical details requires even more precision, and the result is an amazingly complex work of art. Renaissance artists captured the idea of including intellectuality into artwork very well; however, there are several other artists throughout art history who have also created engravings that exemplify this ideal. All of these works are full of rich symbolism, and the art itself is symbolic of the intellectuality of the artist. Not only does it show the amount of thought that was put into each work, but a few of these works are a direct window into the artist’s personal views and mindset.

Albrecht Dürer , Melencolia I, 1514 

Engraving, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 43.106.1

        Melencolia I is the perfect example of an engraving that incorporates a representation of intellectual thought. The main subject in this engraving is the “Melencolia”, who has a very pensive look on her face. The Melencolia figure is meant to be representational of the melancholic humor, which was a state of being that was looked down upon in Greek philosophy (many believe that it was also representational of Dürer’s intellectual and spiritual state). One of the only good qualities that a melancholic possessed was an affinity towards quiet study. This is supported by the mathematical tool in her lap, as well as by the surrounding objects that pertain to mathematics and other intellectual pursuits. There is also a small cherub-like figure beside her, who is writing and pondering. 
The technical side of this engraving is extremely intricate. Small markings make up the larger images, and it contains an incredible amount of detail.

Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in His Study, 1514

Engraving, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 19.73.68.

       Saint Jerome in His Study supports the concept of engravings alluding to intellectuality because it is a depiction of a holy man engrossed in his work. Saint Jerome is shown sitting at a desk surrounded by a halo of light. The combination of intellectual study and holiness is supported by various symbols. Surrounding Saint Jerome are a crucifix, various instruments, and a human skull. The crucifix alludes to Christianity, the instruments on the wall, such as the hourglass and the scissors, reference timeliness and craft, and the skull could be a reference to the brevity of life and spiritual reality of death.
This engraving displays a very precise use of lines and points. A close look reveals the intricate etchings that were made to create larger shapes and patterns. From far away the work appears to contain a lot of shading, but in reality, no space is completely filled in.

Jan Collaert I (After Jan van der Straet)New Inventions of Modern Times [Nova Reperta], The Invention of the Clockwork, plate 5 ca. 1600

 Engraving, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 34.30(6)

     Jan Collaert I created this engraving to show the production of the clock. The setting is a
workshop in which several men are working together to assemble needed parts. The assembly-line nature of the workshop shows industrialization, which was brought about by the intellectuality of innovative individuals. This clearly involves time and precision, considering the fact that eight people are working and there is only one almost complete clock to show for their labor. Each worker appears to be extremely focused, and is clearly putting a lot of thought into his task. The clock itself is intricate, and shows a high level of craft.
Like Dürer’s engravings, Collaert utilizes miniscule lines and dots to create the larger image. Also similar to Dürer’s engravings, Collaert has included many tools that relate to craft.

Antonio Tempesta, Plan of the City of Rome. Part 8 with the Castel Sant'Angelo, 1645 

Etching with some engraving, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 1983.1027(8))

         The content of Plan of the City of Rome is evident from the title. It displays an urban side of Rome, with a map of buildings surrounding the Castel Sant’Angelo and a river. It can be assumed from the title that not all of these buildings were in existence during the time of the engraving, but the layout shown was an ideal. Regardless of the existence of these buildings, this depiction of them shows the incredible amount of thought that went into the layout of the city. This intellectual thought is manifested through architecture, including building and spatial design. This displays the industrialization of Rome, though it is on a much grander scale than Collaert’s depiction of a workshop.
The craft of this work is slightly different because it is a mixed media of an engraving with some etching. However, it still contains as much detail as the previous works. 

After George Frederic Watts, "The School of Legislation" in Lincoln's-Inn Hall (from the "Illustrated London News"  February 4, 1860

 Wood engraving, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 2014.545.3)

This engraving depicts students in law school. They are shown on steps, and they seem to be concentrating on different activities such as writing, reading, and deep conversation. Many appear to be in deep thought. In the center of the image is what appears to be a royal couple with the queen resting on the king’s shoulder. She appears to be asleep, while he condescendingly gazes downward. The image of these law students is interesting because while they are at a place of higher learning, not all of them appear to be engaging in intellectual activities. To reflect back on Saint Jerome in His Study, this engraving appears to display a mix of spirituality and intellectuality, which is shown by the presence of a priest in the school.
The technical side of this engraving is slightly different because it is an engraving on wood, unlike the previously mentioned works.

Etienne Carteron, Blackwork Print with a Bezel Supporting Grotesques Above Three Smaller Bezels, from a Series of Blackwork Prints for Goldsmiths' Work, 1615

Blackwork engraving, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 24.100.8

        This is a print that is a design for a goldsmith’s work. It is essentially a blueprint for an item that the goldsmith will create, or a design that the goldsmith will inscribe. This image isn’t as obviously intellectually based as some of the previous images. However, it shows the more artistic side of intellect. The goldsmith is an artistic craftsman, and his future work was planned with precision and attention to detail. Similar to the Plan of the City of Rome, there is a mathematical element that went into this design. The symmetry is incredible and it is doubtful that this was created without mathematical instruments such as rulers and protractors.
This print is a Blackwork engraving with a much different style than the other works. The design is mostly solid, instead of a larger image created from smaller markings. However, the intricate detail in this engraving is still present.

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