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A Master Collection: Noted scholar's gift of 3,200 prints enriches the Blanton Museum

Highlights from the Leo Steinberg Collection

The Witches' Procession by Agostino Veneziano
Agostino Veneziano
Italian, 1490 - 1540
Lo Stregozzo [The Witches' Procession] 1520s,
after Giulio Romano (?)
Engraving, Bartsch 426, first state of two
The Leo Steinberg Collection spans the history of printmaking and is consistent in quality across the range of works it represents. Most of the prints are of exceptional quality, and many are the only impressions known in this country. The collection’s core is its especially deep holdings of 16th- through 18th-century works, although it also includes important groups of prints from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection’s greatest value is its comprehensive representation of the print medium, including rare working proofs and multiple impressions in different states of completion by artists both known and unknown to contemporary scholars.

"Leo has been very generous to the Blanton, and this gift will ensure that this aspect of his scholarship will be preserved and transmitted to future generations of students and scholars," said Jonathan Bober, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Paintings at the Blanton Museum of Art. "This collection is extraordinarily rich and, in exploring it, we continue a dialogue with one of the great art-historical scholars in the country. Representing six centuries of printmaking in unique depth, this gift, in conjunction with the Blanton’s existing collections, will result in a wealth of important research, exhibitions and publications."

Among the most significant groups of works in the Leo Steinberg Collection are:

Early reproductive prints of masterpieces by Michelangelo. Among the highlights from this strong area of the collection are engravings by Giorgio Ghisi, including superb impressions of the Prophets and Sibyls after Michelangelo’s frescoes on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The collection also includes numerous prints that represent the best surviving record of works by Michelangelo that have been destroyed or lost.

The Blind Minotaur by Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Spanish, 1881 - 1973
The Blind Minotaur, 1934, from the Vollard Suite
Etching and aquatint, Block 225, Baer 437, edition of circa 310
16th-century Italian and French prints. Including some of the earliest and most influential reproductive engravings in history, the collection features distinctive prints by Marcantonio Raimondi and his immediate circle and followers, including Agostino Veneziano and Marco Dente. One of the largest and most fantastic of all early 16th-century engravings, Veneziano’s so-called Stregozzo, or The Witches’ Sabbath, an impression once owned by the 17th-century English artist and collector Sir Philip Lely, is of particular note.

The collection also includes excellent impressions of many significant 16th-century etchings. These include a landscape by Domenico Campagnola that is believed to be unique, as well as etchings by Andrea Schiavone and Federico Barocci’s Saint Francis in the Chapel at Assisi. Rare works from the related school of etching at Francis I’s showplace villa at Fontainebleau, including Antonio Fantuzzi’s Jupiter and Antiope, the finest impression known, and three very rare nudes by Juste de Juste, are complemented by works from artists such as Léon Davent, among others. Finally, the collection features fine groups of chiaroscuro woodcuts and woodcuts after Titian.

Ale Cans by Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns
American, born 1930
Ale Cans, 1964
Color lithograph, 28/31
16th-century German, Flemish, and Dutch artists. The art historical representation of 16th-century prints is further broadened with engravings created in early 16th-century Nuremberg by the so-called “Little Masters,” including Hans Sebald Beham, Heinrich Aldegrever, and Georg Pencz. Also, an exceptionally strong series of engravings by Cornelis Cort showcases the flourishing of pictorial values and differentiation of mark that occurred during the next stage of reproductive engraving. Among these are Cort’s two versions of the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, after Titian. Other major strengths lie in Dutch Mannerist engravings by Hendrik Goltzius, Jacques de Gheyn, Jacob Matham, and Jan Saenredam, including Goltzius’s three Antique Roman Statues, the set of the Roman Heroes, and de Gheyn’s Bodyguard of Rudolf II.

The 17th – 19th centuries. The acquisition encompasses most of the major masters of 17th-century Italian etching, including significant groups by Stefano della Bella and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and extraordinary impressions of Claude Lorrain’s landscapes created in 17th-century Rome. The full scope of 17th-century Dutch etchings is also represented, including not only etchings by Rembrandt, but also numerous landscape and genre scenes and rare prints by many of the subtlest masters of the period. The collection also contains exceptional engravings by the circle of printmakers formed by Rubens and a rich array of French prints from Jacques Callot to the masters of portrait engraving. Among Steinberg’s favorites are such little-known works as the etchings of Giuseppe Caletti and the woodcuts of Pieter Kints after Anthonius Sallaert.

The 18th century is represented with works by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, including the full set of the Jeux de satyres, and with a series of French portrait engravings. Also strong are the collection’s 18th-century British etchings, including the prints of Alexander Runciman, John Clerk of Eldin and a unique proof of William Blake’s early portrait of Lavater. Etchings by 19th-century British artist Samuel Palmer, including a rare trial proof of his masterpiece, The Morning of Life, and 19th-century French etchings by major masters round out the prints from these centuries.

Modern and contemporary prints. Among the contemporary prints in the collection are eight Picassos, including the 1925 lithograph Tête de femme and Blind Minotaur from the Vollard Suite; five Matisses, including a 1914 monotype Portrait of Mme. Derain and the Nu assis of 1931; three very rare proofs of George Grosz drypoints from 1914; and an impression of Jasper Johns’ Ale Cans, which is considered by many to be the artist’s first great print. This print was made as a cover for Steinberg’s pioneering essay Jasper Johns, 1963.

Nicole Chism Griffin

Images courtesy Blanton Musuem of Art

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  Updated 2014 October 13
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