Chiaroscuro woodcut (in black and gray)
Support: Beige(1) laid paper
Sheet: 29.5 x 22.5 cm (11 5/8 x 8 7/8 in.)
Gift of Ralph King 1925.443
Catalogue raisonné: Bartsch 12 (XII.133)
There are two versions of the Hercules Driving Envy from the Temple of the Muses composition. The CMA chiaroscuro woodcut corresponds to version B, in which figures are modeled using less cross-hatching and more highlights in tone blocks.
The term chiaroscuro combines the Italian words chiaro (light) and scuro (dark). Invented to emulate drawings with light and dark pigments on tinted paper, the printing technique uses multiple woodblocks to layer different tones of color. Here, Ugo da Carpi—the progenitor of the chiaroscuro woodcut in Italy—used two blocks in black and gray on a beige paper.
In this allegory, not linked to a particular myth, Hercules applies his brute force in the service of art and knowledge. Pointing toward the archway, Apollo banishes the vice of Avarice from the Temple of the Muses. A personification of greed, Avarice carries a hoard of treasure in her arms as Hercules, a character of virtuous strength, chases her out. Apollo sits next to the war goddess Athena, identified by her helmet, shield, and spear. Here she represents wisdom, and fulfills a civilizing role as patroness of the arts.
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