It is well know that Francesco Mazzola, named as Parmigianino, was among the first to use the techinique of etching on copper plate (previously used on iron plate by Daniel Hopfer), main technique for the entire baroque during the seventeenth century. Before the middle of the sixteenth century too, F. Mazzola was the author of a very few number of etchings, full of grace and spontaneity.
During the sixteenth century, the use of this technique was expanded in France by the school of Fontainebleau engravers’, including Antonio Fantuzzi from Trento and Lèon Davent.
In the first part of the seventeenth century also others famous artists in Italy like Annibale and Ludovico Carracci, Federico Barocci, Guido Reni, José de Ribera or later Salvator Rosa, produced copper etching masterpieces.
In addition to painters-engravers (better known as “peintre-graveur”) that left us beautiful etchings, also some “pure” engravers like Jacques Callot and Stefano Della Bella (the first was born in France, but active mainly in Florence and Rome, the second insteat, was born in Florence, but for long time active in Paris) engraved masterpieces of unmatched technical skill and imagination about the subjects.
In detail, Della Bella is considered by the studious, the most representative and prolific Italian engraver of the seventeenth century. He was a skilled artist and his work-subjects moved from seascapes to the shows and parties of the Medici court, including also hunting scenes or grotesque decorations.
The etchings of Castiglione Genovese, named also “Grechetto”, are full of contrasts, reach in feeling and brightness. Probably, he was the most gifted engraver as the most characteristic of all the Italian artists during the seventeenth century. Inspired by Rembrandt work’s (as Rembrandt was influenced by the etchings style of Castiglione) he dealt with the most diverse subjects: biblical representations, landscapes, animals, oriental portraits and especially fantasy varieties that will be proposed again during in the eighteenth century in the works of Tiepolo.
All the lightness and airiness of the graphic style typical of the Baroque period can be see in the beautiful engravings by Simone Cantarini, named “il Pesarese”. He artistically developed himself in Bologna in the school of Guido Reni and he managed to develop a very personal technical language, characterized by the simplicity of composition and immediacy in expression.
The revival of classical themes was refreshed in Rome through the etchings of Pietro Testa, named the “Lucchesino”, characterized by a very refined and imaginative style. In his works, of high technical and compositional quality, exude the charm of classical culture, already resumed in the paintings of Poussin viewable in Rome.
In Naples, the printing of “invention” reached the highest levels with the exceptional works of Salvator Rosa, for him the technique of etching become the favourite means for his artistic expression. He was the undisputed protagonist of the Neapolitan engraving during the seventeenth century and he also was undoubtedly the “peintre-graveur” most imitated of all time.