Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Chiaroscuro Woodcut Image Map

Image map of a Zanetti Chiaroscuro Woodcut
Antonio Maria Zanetti Italian (1680-1757)
Young Man Standing, after Parmigianino, not dated
Chiaroscuro Woodcut
Image size: 162 mm x 88 mm.
Museum Purchase: The Letha Churchill Walker Memorial Art Fund, 1990.0089
View full record What to Look for: Chiaroscuro (literally, in Italian, "light-dark") woodcut is a form of color woodcut that makes clever use of the color of the paper. The medium was developed to emulate drawings done with a wash tone, dark outlines, and highlights. To accomplish this, the artist carves one or more "tone blocks" and a line block. The tone blocks generally print large areas of light tone, however, the artist carves some marks into the tone block that will allow the color of the paper to show through, thus creating highlights. This can be seen in Zanetti's print in the folds in the man's garment. These appear to be white highlights, when actually there is no pigment or ink involved at all, it is simply the light beige paper showing through. This print makes use of four blocks. The primary tone block prints the overall light blue-green background that also serves as one of the colors in the garment. It is primarily this block that has been carved to allow the paper to show through. The other tone blocks are beige and ochre; and a dark olive has been used for the line block. The line block has been mostly carved away, leaving only the narrow ridges needed to print lines and other dark passages. These narrow ridges have heavily embossed the paper. This three-dimensional quality is a hallmark of chiaroscuro woodcuts, especially when they are in excellent condition. Embossing can be seen in many passages in this print, especially in the fingers of the man's raised hand. All four colors can be seen at the bottom left corner of the print (note the actual corners of the four blocks, which are not in perfect registration or alignment.