Hercules Chasing Avarice from the Temple of the Muses

Ugo da Carpi (Italian, Carpi ca. 1480–1532 Bologna)

After Baldassare Tommaso Peruzzi (Italian, Ancaiano 1481–1536 Rome)
ca. 1518 (?)
Chiaroscuro woodcut from two blocks
11 15/16 × 9 1/4 in. (30.3 × 23.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1920
Accession Number:
  • Description

    In Renaissance Italy, artists and patrons alike were fascinated by the tales of classical mythology, which were revived in new Latin editions as well as translations into the Italian. Frequently, the gods and heroes of the ancient texts were adapted to symbolic purposes and used to convey moral or political ideas. Here Hercules stands for virtuous strength, who drives the vice of avarice, weighed down by money bags and other possessions, from the haven of arts and sciences presided over by Apollo, god of poetry and music, and Minerva (the Greek Athena), patron of arts and crafts. The nine muses, of which eight are visible here, were also associated with learning, particularly with poetic inspiration. The message, which may have had topical significance, is that avarice undermines the cultivation of the arts-and perhaps that someone powerful has recently rectified the situation.

    Ugo da Carpi was an important early practitioner of the multiblock colored woodcut, a technique known as chiaroscuro (literally, "light-dark"), which he falsely claimed to have invented. This method of printmaking requires the successive printing of two or more blocks. In this case, the line block-a block of wood from which everything has been cut away except the lines to be printed-prints the lines and areas of darkest shadow, and a second block prints the areas of midtone. The unprinted areas, where the white of the paper is visible, read as highlights in an image that resembles a wash drawing.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: [in block]: [lower left]: .BAL.SEN.; [lower right]: PERVGO

  • Provenance

    Vendor: Colnaghi and Obach (London)

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History