Is it not in Rome that Christ was born?

Architecture in The Adoration of the Shepherds by Cornelis Cort (1567), private collection.


Cornelis Cort (1533, Hoorn, Holland 03.17.1578, Rome) was a prominent Dutch art engraver and draughtsman whose creative activity signifies cultural links between the Netherlands and Italy in the 16th century. He might have been taught by Dirck Volkertsz, along with Philips Galle. Cornelis Cort lived in the Netherlands till 1565. From 1560 until 1565, he worked for the well-known publisher Hieronymus Cock in Antwerp. Corts prints after the compositions by the Netherlands artists, i. e. Rogier van der Weyden, Marten van Heemskerck, Michael van Coxie, Pieter Brueghel, and many others, date from that time. Besides, he used to replicate his own drawings. In 1565, Cornelis Cort came to live in Italy where he made engravings after Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Giulio Romano, Polidoro da Caravaggio, and other Italian masters of the High Renaissance and Mannerism. From 1566 already, in Rome, Cornelis Cort cooperated actively with some publishers, Antonio Lafreri and Lorenzo Vaccari of Bologna among them. From 1572 till his death that befell him in March of 1578 he was staying in the Eternal City. Thereby, the Netherlands artist who created altogether 292 engravings entered his name in the history of Italian art, too. The creative activity of Cornelis Cort marked the whole history in the European art. His skill of producing utterly exact engraving lines, conveying the volume of objects through cross-hatching, gaining the illusion of deep shadow and bright light through the difference of tone, conveying the subtle gradations of tone with the help of the most thin hyphens and points, at same time keeping the sensation of white tone of the paper. His work influenced the style of such famous Netherlandish engravers as Hendrick Goltzius, Jan Muller, and that of distinguished Italian masters who engraved with chisel, Lodovico, Agostino and Annibale Carracci.


Is it not in Rome that Christ was born?


   The prints by Cornelis Cort, who reproduced the compositions of both the Netherlandish and Italian artists, not only had an impact on engraving styles, but acquainted the public with the creative achievements of great painters, and thus turned out to be an indispensable link between the painting schools of the North and South. At the same time, the most valuable aspect of Corts engravings is something extraordinary a spirit of genuine poetry. Modeling the objects in space with the help of cross-hatching and, thereby, creating an impression of light and air surrounding them, he magically conveyed, without colour but with the thinnest lines, not only what was available to the eye, but the greatness of the spirit itself.
Cornelis Cort worked a great deal after the drawings by the Zuccari brothers, Taddeo (1529, S. Agnolo in Vado, near Urbino 1566, Rome) and Federico (1540 (?), S. Agnolo in Vado, near Urbino 07. 20. 1609, Ancona). One must speak of creative activity of two brothers at the same time since, as fate would have it, their lives and work were entangled. Toddeo, more talented of the two, came to the Eternal City in his early youth; Federico, who followed his elder brother in 1550, was taught by him, and later, after Toddeos death, he completed the monumental paintings started by him. Both Zuccaris belong to the number of the great masters of the 16th century. These painters are considered by convention in the school of Giorgio Vasari.

The intaglio entitled The Adoration of the Shepherds (1567) after the composition by Taddeo Zuccaro (The New Hollstein, 8996, No 30) is one of the best works by Cornelis Cort. His famous sheet, 428 х 288, underwent many replicas which caused the print block wear and necessitated correcting the strokes of the author. The lower margins got inscriptions, printed in addition from supplementary sheet blocks, explaining the subject, as well as new dedications to noble persons, and their armorial bearings, too. In short, the given engraving by Cornelis Cort is known in VII states! And what is more, when the original of The Adoration of the Shepherds was being published again and again at the end of the 16th century, it was, at the same time, copied more than ten times by other engravers, mainly Italian (The New Hollstein, 91, No 30 copies a-k). We will note that among those who replicated the print by Cornelis Cort was even the famous Dutch master Philips Galle. The composition was reproduced both directly, the way it had been made, and reversed, with its size enlarged or diminished. Engravers replicated not only prints by Cornelis Cort, but produced copies after copies, as well. The Department of prints at the State Hermitage Museum, containing no off-print from the original work by Cornelis Cort, lets us have a more complete idea of the copies of it. The case in point here is The Adoration of the Shepherds sheet (253 х 201); the right lower corner bears an inscription: Tadeus Zuccaro / Vrbin In[], that is Tadeus Zuccaro / of Urbino invented, and then an engraver monogram that is difficult to read, and two minute zeros above it that may be a date indication: [16]00 (inv. No 160219, acq. before 1832). This copy sheet was exhibited in the Hermitage (2000) and in the Museum of Arts in Lahti, Finland (2003). While describing this engraving after Taddeo Zuccaro for the first time the Hermitage research officer Arkady. V. Ippolitov committed a number of unfortunate errors which need to be pointed out (The Christ Child. West European print of the 1518th centuries from the collection of the State Hermitage Museum. St. Petersburg, 2000. P. 2425, cat. No 19, in Russian). The print not as a copy but as the original work is attributed by him to the unknown master of the circle of Cherubino Alberti (1553, Borgo in Sansepolcro 1615, Rome). The comparison of the Hermitage print which seems to have been produced in Italian style of engraving about 1600, with the opus by Cornelis Cort dating from 1567 causes the only possible conclusion: the off-print from the Hermitage collection (inv. No 160219) does not appear to be an original engraving work in which the drawings by Taddeo Zuccaro are interpreted in a personal way. This is an exact replicating and, in some degree, diminished copy, directed the same way, from the great engraving by Cornelis Cort. The Hermitage off-print is likely to be unique. In the next editions of The New Hollstein, the given sheet should be added to the list of numerous anonymous copies from The Adoration of the Shepherds by Cornelis Cort in it under the rubric copy l.



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