Niccolò Vicentino was an Italian woodcutter and printer active during the Renaissance. He is known in particular for his chiaroscuro woodcuts, such as Christ Healing the Lepers (created ca. 1530–40; printed later), an excellent example of this technique. Chiaroscuro woodcuts can be made with just two blocks, but Vicentino used more than two, which required careful planning of color separations and meticulous registration in the printing. The Italian word chiaroscuro refers to contrasts of light and dark, which can be seen throughout this work.
This design is based after a work by the Italian Mannerist painter Parmigianino (1503–1540), whose work is characterized by elongation of form. The signature (two superimposed "A"s and the words "in mantoua 1608") on the bottom right of the woodcut is that of Italian printmaker Andrea Andreani (active in Mantua). Andreani acquired many of Vicentino's original blocks, reprinting them in 1608; he would often insert his own signature after effacing that of the real engraver.
This engraving depicts the New Testament miracle of Christ healing the lepers (Luke 17:11–19). The story goes that while on his way to Jerusalem, Christ was met by ten lepers, saying "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." He told them to go to the priests, and as they went they were healed. Only one, a Samaritan, turned back and praised God, giving thanks to Jesus. The exact moment depicted here is of Jesus telling the lepers to go the priests. You can see how the artist has indicated the contagious skin condition of leprosy on the bare arms of the figure kneeling with his back toward the viewer. Scholars believe that this work was created around the time of the plague that was ravaging Northern Italy in 1528.
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Italian, ca. 1503–ca.1540/50
Christ Healing the Lepers
Chiaroscuro woodcut on paper, printed 1608
11.75 x 16.375 inches
Museum purchase with funds from the Jill Ford Murray Irrevocable Trust in memory of her parents, Carlotta Espy Ford and George Ross Ford, Jr., and her grandparents, Grace Miller Ford and George Ross Ford, 2012.31