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Chiaroscuro woodcuts

The printmaking technique of chiaroscuro woodcut was first developed in Germany and Italy in the early sixteenth century. It entailed the cutting of several woodblocks that were printed from different inks onto the same sheet, creating prints with a range of tones and colours.

In the eighteenth century, printmakers in Venice played a key role in a revival of interest in making chiaroscuro woodcuts. The Venetian scholar and collector Anton Maria Zanetti the Elder began to experiment with the technique in the 1720s, reproducing drawings by Parmigianino that he had acquired during a visit to London. He shared the results with scholars and friends. The English printmaker John Baptist Jackson arrived in Venice in 1731. His skills attracted the notice of Joseph Smith, who recruited him to work on an ambitious project to reproduce Venetian paintings, published by the Pasquali press in 1745.