Transalpine Exchange, Size XXXL

[Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian- Catalogue Review]

Acclaim for exhibition Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian reached my ears shortly after it debuted last March at The Davis Museum of Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA), when a generous curator friend of mine arranged for its catalogue to simultaneously reach my hands, gratis. Ever since I have been looking forward to the moment when I can finally encounter a complete version of Albrecht Dürer’s 1515 print, Triumphal Arch of Maximilian I, resplendent with a quality of Habsburgery I find irresistible. The catalogue offers a tantalizing glimpse of what’s in store for me when I visit the show, a collaboration between Larry Silver of the University of Pennsylvania and David Mickenberg, Director of the Davis Museum, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art next month.

Essays by Larry Silver, Suzanne Boorsch, Lilian Armstrong, Alison Stewart, Stephen Goddard populate the first section of the book, covering topics as various as the sixteenth-century modular print, the erotic wallpaper of Hans Sebald Beham, city views of early modern Northern Italy, and magisterial depictions of triumphal processions, ancient and modern. An extensive and highly useful bibliography accompanies the essays and images. Every work represented in the exhibition is illustrated in the catalogue in rich detail, augmented by additional images attendant to the essays. Nevertheless, one of the challenges of publishing a catalogue on the subject of monumental works is the inherent unsuitability of the art to this format. The publishers allay this issue by including enlarged images of the most interesting passages of certain prints, and by binding the book in a size I could barely squeeze into carry-on luggage earlier today.

Though not addressed directly in the catalogue’s introduction, an interest in transalpine exchange works to connect the book’s assorted voices. Instances like the collaboration between Benedetto Bordon and Jacob of Strasbourg and Albrecht Dürer’s emulation of Antonio Pollaiuolo punctuate the connoisseurial tone of the work , keeping the issues at hand as fresh, palpable, and present as the larger-than-life prints themselves.

The Specifics:

Silver, Larry (ed.); Wykoff, Elizabeth (ed.). Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian. New Haven & London: Yale UP, 2008.

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