Sunday, March 3, 2013

Albrecht Altdorfer "Lamentation over Christ" pen and ink of woodblock 123 x 94 mm. Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich.   This block shows a complete composition.... including the artist's monogram and the date 1512.  --- Altdorfers's intricately finished design tells us a good deal about his procedure and the approach to cutting such a block. ( it is very clear if you look closely that some form of 'v' was used as well as a small 'u' gouge to do the clearing. j.c.) First the Lamentation is oriented parallel to the grain, as was technically preferable for woodcut compositions in vertical format.  When the fine, reliefed ridges of a woodblock are badly worn from printing, the fiber gradually breaks down in the softer wood between the striations of the grain leaving a jagged profile along the ridge of lines cut across the grain. (none of my editions were ever that large even the aga prop ones but many of the formschnider school blocks were printed for decades even centuries in Durer case).  This registers in late impressions as an irregular, dotted line where once a continuous, printed line appeared.  From the evidence of impressions taken from deterorated blocks, as well as from many actual sixteenth-century blocks, we can see the preference of woodcut designers for laying out compositions on an axis parallel to the grain.  This orientation tends to mean that the fewer lines are cut against the grain where they are more likely to splinter and become unstable over time.   THE RENAISSANCE PRINT  Landau/Parshall

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