Author: Pietro Aretino (1492–1556)
Venice: Francesco Marcolini, January 23, 1537
Printed book with frontispiece printed as a chiaroscuro woodcut from two blocks
7 5/8 x 5 13/16 x 5/16 in. (19.4 x 14.7 x 8 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1937 (37.37.2)
The design of this illustration, printed as a chiaroscuro woodcut, has often been attributed to Titianpartly on the basis of the dedicatory letter, which opens with praise of the painterwhile the cutting has been tentatively ascribed to Ugo da Carpi (ca. 14801532). Ugo was the first Italian to practice the art of the chiaroscuro and is known to have designed book illustrations in his native city of Venice. Moreover, his first woodcut was based on a small drawing by Titian of Saint Jerome. Mitigating against the attribution to Ugo is the late date of this woodcut and the fact that the tone block is not as skillfully cut as the block that carries the outlines of the composition. This line block was later printed alone in I Mondi of Anton Francesco Doni, published by Marcolini in 1552 (37.37.4).
The woodcut perfectly illustrates the conceit of the poem, depicting the poet Aretino as a rustic shepherd, singing to his love, Angela Sirena, who appears as a winged siren in the heavens. These poems of praise were not well received by the husband and family of the woman Aretino admired. Her death in 1540 has been attributed to the troubles she experienced after being singled out in this way by the notorious Aretino.