The Lament of the Art of Painting
Cornelis Cort Netherlandish
After Federico Zuccaro (Zuccari) Italian
Not on view
This most ambitious allegory of the art of painting is also a highly personal work: it is generally accepted that the print was prompted by the criticism the Italian painter Federico Zuccaro endured after he finished the decoration of the dome of the Florence Cathedral in 1574. In the upper half of the composition, which had to be printed from two separate plates because of its size, Jupiter is seen in the skies presiding over the assembly of the gods. Before him the three Graces and Amor lead the weeping personification of Painting and the nine Muses. Minerva draws Jupiter's attention to a picture explaining the nature of Painting's complaint: assaulted by Calumny and at the mercy of the vacillating Fortune, the Virtues, which inspire the true artist, are in danger. Jupiter's protection of the threatened arts can be inferred from the section of the painting on which Zuccaro, seen at lower left, is working in his studio-Jupiter's thunderbolt. The artist does not fear the dogs attacking him from behind. He is inspired by a radiant woman representing Wisdom, pointing to the gods and triumphing over Envy, who lies defeated under ground. The allegory is explained in a long poem that usually accompanies the print but is absent in the Museum's impression. This masterpiece of engraving was published in Florence one year after the death of Cort, who worked for more than a decade in Italy.