Giulio Bonasone

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Giulio Bonasone (c. 1498 – after 1574) (or Giulio de Antonio Buonasone or Julio Bonoso) was an Italian painter and engraver. He was born at Bologna, where he worked mainly from 1521 to 1574. He possibly studied painting under Lorenzo Sabbatini. Nonetheless, analysis about the style of painting is impossible since all his paintings have been lost. He painted a Purgatory for the church of San Stefano. He is better known as an engraver and is believed to have undergone training with Marcantonio Raimondi. He worked mainly in Mantua, Rome and Venice and with great success, producing etchings and engravings after the old masters and his own designs. He signed his plates B., I.B., Julio Bonaso, Julio Bonasone, Juli Bonasonis, Julio Bolognese Bonahso.

He has been regarded an engraver with extraordinary skills in reproducing, as he could accurately convey the sources' compositions, colours and essence. Moreover, he expressed his understanding about the controversies about religion and culture in his time through his prints. His paintings were not as well-known as his engraving, but are commendable in the sense that it incorporates elements of traditional artistic practices with Bonasone's originality.

His name is often mentioned by art historians who write about engraving. Nonetheless, different art historians treat him with different significance. In general, it is agreed that he is among the most important and productive engravers of sixteenth century.


There are debates about the birth date of Giulio Bonasone due to the lack of documentation. Theories are formed based on his dated work to trace his birthday. Since he was known for sure to be active during 1931 to 1971. If engraving was a part of his formal education, his birthday could be placed to be around 1512 to 1513, or else he was born in 1510 or earlier. One popular reason to believe that he was still a student in 1931 was that, the very work dated to 1931 lacked craftsman ship and familiarity with anatomy, which are both artistic prerequisites.[1]

There is few document depicting the life of Giulio Bonasone so his life remains mystic. His work does not appear in published collection of documents nor in the state archives of Bologna. In one document, Bonasone is related to Compagnia dello Quattro Arte and is mentioned to be an auditor of the Guild. Nonetheless, no first name was given and his name was not found in the very few extant name list of the Compagnia.[1]

Artistic Features[edit]

General Descriptions about His Work[edit]

Giulio Bonasone produced both engravings and etchings, and frequently a combination of both in a single work. His works include religious, secular as well as erotic content. The breadth and flexibility in subject matters will often lead people to think that his career as engraver is reflective of his generation of printmakers. A total of 357 prints are attributed to Bonasone. Of all, approximately 200 could be dated with some sort of certainty. Bonasone executed prints on a variety of subject matters: 9 Old Testament Scenes, 35 New Testament Scenes, 25 about the Virgin, 8 concerning the Saints, 5 regarding historical events, 150 about parables, 85 dealing with mythology, 5 fantasies, 6 portraits and 6 about architecture. His prints usually come as series. For instance, he dedicated 22 to Loves of the Gods, 26 recounting the Life of Juno and a series of 22 prints about the Passion of Christ.[citation needed]

Originality in His Work[edit]

According to Giulio Bonasone's own claim, more than 114 prints, not counting the ones he produced for Bocchi are his original works. In fact, many of the one hundred and fifty illustrative prints for Bocchi are his own designs as well. His own creations are usually labelled with "Giulio Bonasone Inventore" or something like that. His engravings after other artist's designs can be categorized into two groups: those who trace the original work as much as possible, such as the Creation of Eva after Michelangelo, and those incorporating changes at Bonasone's will, such as Clelia Crossing the Tiber after Polidoro. The later were often labelled by him as "imitations".[citation needed]


Bonasone is actually quite selective in choosing the artists after whom to work. He favoured the great masters of the sixteenth century. He made 18 prints for the works of Raphael and his school, 11 prints for Michelangelo, 14 for Giulio Romano and 1o for Parmigianino. Primaticcio and Jacopino del Conte inspired 1 engraving work, Perino del Vaga inspired 5, Poliodoro da Caravaggio was the source of 2 and Titian was the source for more than 5. Antique sculpture, especially reliefs, was also a great source of inspiration for him. He modelled 16 prints after classical sources and specific models can be found for at least 5[citation needed]

Artistic Development[edit]

Early Period (1530s )[edit]

It seemed that Bonasone started his career during the 1530s , to when the earliest group of engravings could be dated. Among one of his earliest prints is The St Cecilia (1531), which is a rough attempt in reproducing Raphael's work.

Saint Cecilia standing in the centre accompanied by Saint Paul, the Magdalene, Saint John the Evangelist, and Saint Augustine MET DP812434.jpg

The pervasive use of straight hatching lines, a indication of his awkward technique, is the evidence supporting it be Giulio Bonasone's early work. Another work of Giulio Bonasone, Adam and Eva Toiling, also demonstrates a clumsiness in skills.

Triumph of Bacchus who is seated on a carriage at left MET DP812467.jpg

The Triumph of Bacchus was executed at a slightly later time. This etching presents more advanced skills and clearer lines, but the presence of straight hatching lines is still a major problem in Giulio Bonasone's techniques. This absence of contouring lines lead to a lack of depth in figures and makes the figures less real. In the Triumph of Bacchus, one could finding contrasting tones what resembles the use of light and shades in painting. This later became a identifying feature of Bonasone's printings.[1]

At about the same time of The Triumph of Bucchus, Giulio Bonasone produced 7 prints after Giulio Romano, which are: The Birth and Apotheosis of Caesar, The Wreath, Saturn and His Three Sons, The Division of the Universe, Neptune Takes Possession of the Sea, Pluto Takes Possession of Hell as well as Jupiter and Juno Take Possession of Heaven. The last four were probably created as a series of works of similar subjects an d themes. These seven prints can show a greater consistency in the artist's skills and the artist's recognition of what engraving, as a medium, could and could not achieve.[1] In fact, Bonasone's technique of tight systems of lines precisely captured both the forms and the contrast in light in Romano's work. While Bonasone's early technique fitted Romano's work particularly well, he stopped using Romano's work after he developed more gentle ways of building up tonal contrast later.

These paintings display uniform, short, curved, hatching marks employed to delineate human bodies. The lines are closely arranged and connected to short flicks and dots. However, the muscles are not carefully depicted and muscles at different body parts or under different motion are treated indistinguishably. A similar technique is observed in Marcantonio Raimondi's printings. It is possible that Bonasone was influenced by Raimondi. [1]

At the same time, this technique may also imply a connection between Giulio Bonasone and Giovanni Battista Scultori. Similar skills and forms are found in Bonasone's and Scultori's engravings after Giulio Romano. Since Scultori was engraving in Mantua in the early 1540s and most of his prints date from around 1543, it is likely that Bonasone paid a trip to Mantua and learnt from Scultori. The short distance between Bologna and Mantua, one of the most impotant art center in Italy, added to the likelihood of this trip. Another important evidence is that seven prints done during this period were done after designs by Ramano, who was in Mantua at that time. Noneless, no documentation about such a trip could be found. It is also possible that the Bonasone learnt of designs of Romano through prints and drawings instead of going to Mantua. The particular technique shared by Bonasone and Scultori could also be developed by each of the two artists indepedently, since this technique is obtained by formalizing the popularizing the innovations in Marcantonio Raimondi's prints. [1]

Roman Period (1540s)[edit]

Since many of Giulio Bonasone's works during the 1540s are reproductive works of the Roman frescos. Those works could not be possibly created without Bonasone's close observation to the originals. Given the accuracy of his works in translating the paintings, one could reasonably guess that Bonasone moved to Rome for an extended period of time instead of paying short visits occasionally. This was the period that witnessed great increase in Giulio Bonasone's display of draftsmanship.[1]

Many of his prints from the 1540s are dated and the techniques were somewhat similar. Bonasone started to create longer curved hatching lines and arrange the curved hatching lines so closely that, with the vertical cross-hatchings, the lines look like patches of black. Such dark patches form a contrast with areas of white and display a painting-like quality of great strength. Prints that illustrate this technique mostly clearly are those done after Michelangelo, such as the Creation of Eve, Judith and Holofernes and Clelia Crossing the Tiber after Polidoro da Caravaggio.[1]

Judith Passing the head of Holoferns
Judith passing the head of Holofernes to her maidservant by Giulio Bonasone
The creation of Eve who emerges from behind Adam
The creation of Eve who emerges from behind Adam by Giulio Bonasone
Clelia Crossing the Tiber
Clelia Crossing the Tiber by Giulio Bonasone

When Giulio Bonasone produced prints after the Roman frescos, he demonstrated astonishing capabilities to understand and represent the colour and the taste of masterpieces. As a result, Cumberland suggested that Bonasone used different skills for different artworks. [2] In fact, the truth is that the technique of Giulio Bonasone was so consistent during the 1540s that it is impossible to to break down that period and analyze the changes in technique. What changed was not technique, but the way in which Bonasone dealt with light and form. His engravings, viewed from a distance, are like black-and-white paintings. By executing his engravings in such a painterly manner, Bonasone excelled as a reproductive engraver. His engravings resembled the masterpieces to a superb degree without the common problem of triteness.

The prints during this period may lead viewers to conclude that the draftsmanship of Giulio Bonasone was limited by that of the art pieces he was referring to. He seems to inherit the excellences of Michelangelo, Raphael or Parmigianio but also the defects of the archaic works. When he was making original designs, his forms became distinguishably awkward with rare exceptions. The Elysium of Lovers, created in 1545, was marked as his own invention. The ungainly draftsmanship displayed in this work should not be relegated as the effect to be achieved by a mannerist. Instead, it is a prime example of a mannerist attempting come up with some original ideas after being trained to model after other people's works. In contrast, the forms in the Couple Embracing by the Seashore are significantly more elegant. To produce this painting, Giulio Bonasone probably drew inspirations from different models and put it together.

In summary, the 1540s was a particularly productive period of Giulio Bonasone. The prints were too many to be chronologically catalogued. Nonetheless, his technique did not undergo rapid growth and there is fluctuation in the quality of his engravings.

The Bologna Period and the New Technique (the 1550s-1560s)[edit]

In 1555, Achiliuls Bocchi first published a book of symbols in Bologna.[3] Giulio Bonasone made small engravings to 150 of the verses in this book. Even though some of the engravings in the book are better than the others, it is doubtless that a considerable amount of time must have been spent on such a large number of paintings. Therefore, it is likely that composing and executing these engravings costed Bonasone a few years in the 1550s. Moreover, there was no work dated to the 1550's that had Roman styles. This further reinforce the theory that Bonasone spend at least a part of the decade working in Bologna to produce the illustrations for Bocchi and a couple of other works at the same time.

The small size of these engravings constrains the amount of details and the room for innovation. Moreover, many of these illustrative engravings do not have a high quality. The lines and hatchings are usually systemized and cursory. It appears that Bonasone believed the nature of his project be illustrative and prioritize the clarity of iconography over the style.

One interesting debate revolved Bonasone's the Passion of Christ, which had been dated by certain art historians at the fledging stage of Bonasone's career. Nevertheless, the crudeness in skill might also be explained by the limitations imposed by the small size of the print. In fact, the brightness and colour scheme is more similar to other works of Bonasone in the 1560s than those in the 1530s or the 1540s. The composition, though not perfect, was more advanced than what this artist was capable of during his early stage. Moreover, Bonasone was not quite interested in attempting original prints like this during the 1530s. Hence, the Passion of Christ was probably conceived and executed when Bonasone resided in Bologna during the 1560s.

This decade also witnessed changes in Bonasone's technique, which was to become more tactual and more unusual in atmosphere. The Judgement of Paris produced during this decade is probably Bonasone's magum opus that marks the apex of his technical development. What special about this work, or other works at that time, is that it illustrates Bonasone's use of a mixed intaglio medium. Initially, Bonasone did not mix the media. He developed his engraving technique to an extraordinarily fine and revealing standard. He used small flicks achieve tonal gradation, the technique of transiting one colour hue to another, and a tangible sense of form. Contour shading lines were lengthened and became softened. The contrast between brightness and darkness became less obvious but still possessed a painting-like quality. In fact, the lighting and texture became closer to venetian painting than Roman painting. Human faces became more vivid after Bonasone reduced the use of linear burin. For instance, in his print after Raphael's The Pietà Near the Cave, Bonasone successfully portrayed The Modonna's sorrow with his new technique, a great breakthrough since the 1540s.

The Resurrection by Giulio Bonasone, 1561

Engravings done with this technique started in the late 1550s but concentrated in the early 1560s. After that, this tonal engraving skill was combined with etching to achieve great beauty and depth. The first dated print that contains both media is the Resurrection produced in 1561.

Bonasone's choice of different media to achieve varied effects is the most noteworthy aspect of his technique. Though human body was still engraved with burin, landscapes and backgrounds started to be rendered with etching. This forms the effect of having human forms of engraved tonality glowing on a deep and rich etched background. Meanwhile, The Judgement of Paris, which would be discussed later in greater detail, stands out from other prints due to the draftsmanship it possesses.

This technique highlighted the merits of Bonasone's skills in each medium and achieved good effects. While Bonasone's earlier engravings reflected his weakness in representing landscapes in that medium, his pure etchings revealed his lack of confidence in dealing with figures. Using etching for background and engraving for human forms worked pretty well to circumvent this problem.

Viewing the Judgement of Paris at a short distance, one would find it reflective of light. In fact, the tonal gradations of the nude forms, the body of Mercury in particular, are extremely delicate and minimal lines are employed without obscuring the outlines of human bodies. Since tones, not lines, are the primary way of defining figures, this print looks light a monochromatic painting. Bonasone then used etching to show the details of flora and fauna surrounding the nudes. The artist made no particular attempt to integrate the two media and he meant to juxtapose them to achieve the unique visual effects.

Bonasone's blending of two media, featuring the subtleness of etching and the atmospheric use of engraving is a perfect match of Titian's paintings, especially Titian's the Rest on the Flight to Egypt. He is probably the artist who best capture the essence, sfumato, colour and quality that belong uniquely to Venetian paintings.

Evidence shows that Bonasone developed another technique later in his life but it was unclear whether he continued engraving by mixing the media. Around 1572-1574, the engraving lines in Bonasone's work started to become broader. The contour lines also became longer, swelling, and more sinuous as the lines moved around the forms. Lines became less densely spaced, less deeply cut and displayed greater consistency in their depth. Overall, this style bore similarities with some works by Giovanni Jacopo Caraglio and the usual technique of Cornelius Cort, [4][5]a Dutch artist. In turn, this technique was also observed in later works by Agostino Carracci, implying the influences from Cort to Bonasone to Carracci. In Bonasone's original design, the Incarnarion, one would find the composition properly conceived but the technique distinct from that of the Judgement of Paris. The tiny flicks and subtle lines are replaced by broad contours of non-constant thickness. Although Bonasone did not adopt the method of varying a single line's depth to create the effect for shadows, he connect the deeper lines to the shallower ones to attain the same goal. Several other prints such as The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John, the Holy family with St John, could also be included in this category. However, Bonasone did not apply this technique uniformly across all his engravings. He made variation to his technique to achieve different effects, sometimes imitating the Style of Giulio Romano sometimes approximating the style of Parmigiano.

It is difficult to determine whether Bonasone returned to Rome after working for Bocchi since his work after this period of time was based more on designs or panel paintings instead of Roman frescos. However, he probably returned to Rome to work on prints such Raphael's as Qua Vadis, the Virgin and Child with a bird, and Michelangelo's the Nude Carrying the Cross.

Artistic Achievements[edit]

The Creation of Eve
The creation of Eve who emerges from behind Adam by Giulio Bonasone
The creation of Eve
The Creation of Eve by Michelangelo

As a reproductive engraver[edit]

The Creation of Eve after Michelangelo[edit]

Many of Bonasone's work attained an astounding level of loyalty to the original work. One could analyze his work after Michelangelo, such as the Creation of Eve.

It is definitely difficult to find a more accurate production of this fresco, and the Bonasone successfully achieve the painterly effect by underscoring the contrast between the bright and dark. Even the awkwardness of the right leg of Adam is translated to the engraving without being modified. The only visible difference in the figures is that Bonasone depicts God the Father to be shorter and more sturdy. Moreover, more space is left at the bottom and top of Bonasone's engraving.

Judith with the Head of Holoferns[edit]

Original work and the engraving of Judith with the Head of Holofernes
Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Michelangelo
Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Michelangelo
Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Giulio Bonasone
Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Giulio Bonasone

Bonasone's Judith with the Head of Holofernes, though containing many different details compared to Michelangelo's fresco in the Sistine Chapel, is still similar to the original work in its form. Bonasone almost translated line-by-line the central part of the fresco, which shows the action of the three figures. The artist employed the trick of highlighting the contrast between light and dark, as he did for the Creation of Eve, to achieve the visual impact of coloured painting.

"I. BONASO IMITADO" is found on this print to show changes are made by Giulio Bonasone on the original composition. In this particular work, changes are insignificant: Bonasone enlarge the background, landscape and surroundings to accommodate the change in shape from triangle to rectangle. These changes are executed with such carefulness that they match the original design.

Original work and the engraving of the Last Judgement
The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
The Last Judgement by Michelangelo
The Last Judgement by Giulio Bonasone
The Last Judgement by Giulio Bonasone After Michelangelo

The Last Judgement[edit]

There are times when Giulio Bonasone indeed fails to accurately reproduce the original design. Nonetheless, the primary reason for such a downfall is that the model was to complicated for such a translation and The Last Judgement illustrates this point. Though Bonasone's rendition of The Last Judgement excels from all the other contemporary prints of this giant fresco, it is far from being as good as the previously mentioned prints. Even with the large scale that engraving could possibly achieve, each individual figure in the painting had to be shrunk to a tiny size. As a result, most of the winding contour lines had to be removed. Similar problems are observed in Bonasone's other small-scaled prints such as the Juno series, The Passion of Christ and the Bocchi illustrations.

Original work and the engraving of the Pietà
The Pietà by Michelangelo
The Pietà by Michelangelo
The Pietà by Giulio Bonasone after Michelangelo's sculpture
The Pietà by Giulio Bonasone after Michelangelo's sculpture
The Mystical Marriage or St Catherine by Giulio Bonasone after Parmigianino

The Pietà after Michelangelo[edit]

When trying to produce the print for Michelangelo's sculpture Pietà, Giulio Bonasone faced a different problem. While the Virgin is quite well handled, the form of Christ, especially his head and upper body is far from being accurate. Since the work is dated 1547, such problems could hardly be explained by the lack of advancement in the artist's skills. An explanation to this mystery offered by Cumberland is that Bonasone could not see the statue at eye level, since it was placed high above the ground at Cumberland's time. However, Tolnay contends that the statue was not in such a position when Bonasone was trying to make an engraving of it. The foreshortening of the upper body of the dead Christ's body must have posed great challenge to Bonasone to copy accurately. Despite this problem, Tolnay still thinks Bonasone's print is better than that of all other engraver's.

The Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine: after Parmigianino[edit]

When reproducing Parmigianino's work, Bonasone used longer contour lines and bigger spacing between the lines in order to best capture the style of the artist. When he engraved after Parmigianino's the Mystical Marriage of St. Catherine, he produced a composition that was very similar to the source except that he took away the window and elongate the entire work in order to lengthen the man in the lower right corner. By using big patches of white and dark, Bonasone highlights the linear beauty of the Virgin's hair and reflects the tonal beauty of Parmigianino's painting.

The Disembarkation from the Ark

The Disembarkation from the Ark after Raphael[edit]

It is challenging to evaluate the prints of Bonasone after Raphael's paintings due to the loss of many original paintings. Nonetheless, in general, many more modifications in composition are made compared to Bonasone's reproductive work after Michelangelo or Parmigianino. One possible explanation is that the alterations to made by Marcantonio Raimondi when he was engraving after Raphael's paintings inspired later engravers to do the same. For instance, in his engraving the Disembarkation from the Ark after Raphale's fresco the Vatican Loggie[6], he tried to make layout more compact.

The Holy Family with St. John after Titian[edit]

When Bonasone was working after Titian, the liberty he took in reproducing Raphael's paintings was hardly observable. In fact, most of his works after Titian was produced in the 1560s, when his main technique was combining etching and engraving to represent the background and foreground respectively. One representative work was his Holy Family with St. John. The soft quality in Venetian painting could not be possibly preserved if Bonasone did not use etching for the background.

The Judgement of Paris by Giulio Bonasone After Raphael

The Judgement of Paris[edit]

As one of the best reproductive engravings of Giulio Bonasone, this print is believed to be taken directly from an original sarcophagus relief in the Villa Medici in Rome. [7] The layout is closer to the original than to other drawings or engravings after the relief available to Giulio to study. [8] When the original relief was broken on the left and upper part, Bonasone has attempted to complete the layout by changing the spacial relationship. Moreover, in this engraving, Bonasone endowed the nudes with a sense of majesty. Edger Wind, though noticed a "touch of archaeological flatness in incidental parts of the engraving", commented that "Mars is designed with extraordinary power as the figure dominating the composition. Indeed the character is so well conceived, in his insidious readiness to release disaster, looking back at Venus while going off to war, that one wonders whether Bonasone did not have some sketch by Raphael to work on."[9]

Since no evidence ever suggests the possession of any Rapheal's sketch by Bonasone, this engraving actually seems to be the best representation of the Giulio's talent. In this work, he translate the great art piece of Renaissance with his technique of mixed media to demonstrate the co-existence of power and beauty.The adaptation from a relief to a painterly format is what makes this engraving the most successful among Bonasone's reproductive engravings.

While one could see that Giulio Bonasone employed different technique for the works of different artist, it is more likely that he changed his source as his technique developed. As his technique continuously advanced, he must have recognized the new areas of production opened and he would select the paintings that best match his skills. Bonasone made great endeavour to stay loyal to his sources and made little changes to the layout. He enjoyed greater liberty when he worked after antique, since he often had to translate the sculptural medium into engraving.

A list of known works by Giulio Bonasone
Name Category Source Year
Cardinal Pietro Bembo Portrait Titian Unknown
Pope Marcellus II Portrait Original Unknown
Philippus Hispaniarum princeps, Caroli V Portrait Original Unknown
Raphael d'Urbino and Michelangelo Buonarroti Portrait Original Unknown
Francisca Flori Antwerpiani inter Belgos pictoris Portrait Original Unknown
Cardinal Niccolò Ardinghelli. Portrait Original Unknown
Adam & EveAdam tilling & Eve spinning Engraving Original Unknown
Holy Family Engraving Original Unknown
Nativity Engraving Original Unknown
Resurrection Engraving Original Unknown
The Passion (29 plates) Engraving Original Unknown
Life of the Virgin (13 plates) Engraving Original Unknown
Adam & Eve driven from Paradise Engraving Amico Aspertini Unknown
St. George Engraving Giulio Romano Unknown
Holy family Engraving Giulio Romano Unknown
Nativity Engraving Giulio Romano Unknown
Solomon Engraving Sistine Chapel Unknown
David Engraving Sistine Chapel Unknown
Jesse Engraving Sistine Chapel Unknown
Last Judgement Engraving Sistine Chapel Unknown
Creation of Eve Engraving Sistine Chapel Unknown
Judith with her Servant coming out of the Tent of Holofernes Engraving Parmigianino Unknown
Miracle of the Manna Engraving Parmigianino Unknown
Moses striking rock Engraving Parmigianino Unknown
Nativity Engraving Parmigianino Unknown
Shipwreck of Aeneas; Engraving Parmigianino Unknown
Presentation of Virgin with Sts Joachim & Anne Engraving Perino del Vaga 1546
Sts Peter & John healing lame Engraving Perino del Vaga Unknown
Virgin & child above St. Paul preaching Engraving Perino del Vaga Unknown
Niobe & her Children Engraving Perino del Vaga 1541
Dead Christ seated on the Tomb Engraving Polidoro da Caravaggio. Unknown
Angels with Virgin Mary and St. John Engraving Polidoro da Caravaggio. Unknown
The Roman Charity Engraving Polidoro da Caravaggio Unknown
St. Cecilia Engraving Raphael Unknown
Christ meeting St. Peter Engraving Raphael Unknown
St. Peter made Head of Church Engraving Raphael Unknown
Noah coming out of Ark Engraving Raphael Unknown
Joseph sold by his Brethren Engraving Raphael Unknown
The cup found in Benjamin's sack  Engraving Raphael 1532
Entombment of Christ with Virgin Engraving Raphael Unknown
Rape of Europa and Venus attended by the Graces Engraving Raphael Unknown
Alexander with Bucephalus and Roxana Engraving Original Design Unknown
Apollo in his Car with Hours & Time walking on crutches Engraving Original Design Unknown
Triumph of Cupid & Psyche Engraving Original Design Unknown
Scipio Engraving Original Design Unknown
Nativity of John the Baptist Engraving Pontormo. Unknown
Entombment of Christ Engraving Titian Unknown
Twenty plates on the History of Juno Engraving Unknown Unknown
The Fall of Phaeton Engraving Michelangelo Unknown
Three female figures with Veils Engraving Michelangelo Unknown
Mars and Venus and Achilles dragging body of Hector Engraving Primaticcio Unknown
Sack of Troy Engraving Unknown 1545
Birth of Adonis Engraving Unknown 1586
A Triumph of Bacchus Engraving Illustrations Early 1550s

 Art Historian's Perspectives[edit]

Despite the lack of documentation about Giulio Bonasone's life, for most of the time historians have recognized and commented upon his art. Together with Rota, Ghisi, the Scultori and Caraglio, he was among the leading figures of sixteen century school of engraving. Thus, he is mentioned even the most general histories of engravings.[10]

Giorgio Vasari[edit]

Given Bonasone's widely recognized importance, it is quite interesting to see that Vasari, who talked about the school of engraving o,ly mentioned that Bonasone worked after Raphael, Giulio Romano, Parmigiaino and other artists from whom Bonasone could possibly get his inspirations.[11] It might be explained by the theory that Vasari had believed that Bonasone worked out of Venice, since he discussed Venetian woodcuts after talking about Giulio's prints.[11] Apparently, Vasari did not have a detailed understanding of Giulio Bonasone's work, or delegate it to the margin of his story, to have spent so little writings on him without providing any reasons.

Carlo Cesare Malvasia[edit]

In the seventeenth century, Malvasia analyzed Giulio Bonasone's work in his writings. No additional documented information was provided after Malvasia's writings. His early summary of Bonasone's style was also definitive in many aspects. Though he considered Bonasone inferior to Raimondi, or even to Martino Rota and Agostino Veneziano, he still recommended him to his audience "for his knowledge of all the best manners; also the best works of the best masters; for his universal erudition; for the vast invention that we find in a;; his prints."[12] He mentioned the letter of one of the members of Marini family to his agent Ciotti in which Marini asked the latter to get hime some "good old prints of Giulio Bonasone, Marc Antonion or other great masters..."[12] He also quoted a letter from Count Fortunato which says "USe a little diligence to find some of the good prints of the able masters, such as Marc Antonio, Martino Rota, Giulio Bonasone, etc."[12] These letters are evidence indicting the popularity of Giulio Bonasone's prints among collectors in the seventeenth century.

Malvasia also pointed out Bonasone's weaknesses: "Although often great in execution of the principal parts of a composition," he wrote, Bonasone showed his lesser aptitude in the landscapes and the trees "which it is impossible to see worse executed."[12] The comments by other art historians of Malvasia's time also showed the same opinion.

Malvasia also analyzed Bonasone as a painter. He mentioned him with Lorenzo Sabbatini, who he considered to be Malvasia's teacher.[13] Nonetheless, this relationship could not be backed up by analyzing the styles of Bonasone's paintings, which have all been lost. At the same time, Lorenzo Sabbatini was believed to live from 1530 to 1576 by most historians and therefore was not experienced enough to teach Bonasone.[14] It is possible that Malvasia made a mistake about the relationship between the two artists but he still established the fact that Bonasone was a painter on top of his career as a engraver.

Adam von Bartsch[edit]

Giulio Bonasone was covered in Adam von Bartsch's comprehensive study of sixteen-century Italian engraving. Cumberland, in a second edition, accused Bartsch of stoling his earlier catalogue. However, a careful analysis of the two works would reveal enough differences to demonstrate that the two art historians probably compiled their catalogues independently. As Bartsch was able to point out certain things about Giulio's engraving, such as analyzing dated work to show chronological progression in Giulio's techniques, one could believe that Bartsch had a complete and detailed understanding of the artist's work.

Bartsch also pointed out the weaknesses of Giulio's skills which had been previously mentioned in Malvasia's and Cumberland's comments. He tried to find reasons for Giulio's shortcomings. According to Bartsch, Giulio had a greater passion in the content and compositions and did not care so much about his techniques. He wanted to be regarded more as an artist than a technician. Bartsch appeared to suggest than the influence of Bonasone on other artist was more significant than the value of Bonasone's prints themselves.

Other than the aforementioned points, what was said by Bartsch about Bonasone was not much different than the analysis of Malvasia and Cumberland. Since Bonasone created many original prints and paintings, Bartsch regarded him as a "peintre-graveur". [1]

Mary Pittaluga[edit]

Mary Pittaluga was the first twentieth-century art historian who conducted a valuable study of sixteenth-century Italian printmaking.[15] The very fact that her book on this topic is a benchmark on that period makes it necessary to examine the writer's preferences and biases which affect her contribution to the academia. Despite the merits and the comprehensiveness of her work, Mary was evaluating the sixteenth-century prints according to contemporary standard. She thought etchers were superior to printmakers since the former possessed freedom and originality lacked by the latter. Nonetheless, the pursuit for originality might not be as fashionable in the sixteenth century as in the twentieth century. Other than this, Pittagula usually analyzed the engravers reasonably. She isolated the elements related to painting in Bonasone's works, for example, the contrast of light and shades. She thought Bonasone was a mediocre artist and gave credit to his original works.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Cirillo, Madeline (1978). "one". Giulio Bonasone and Sixteen Century Italian Printmaking (Ph.D). The University of Wisconsin-Madison. 
  2. ^ Cumberland, George (1793). Some Anecdotes of the Life of Julio Bonasone. London. p. 285. 
  3. ^ Bocchii, Archillis (1555). Bonon Symbo Hearurn Quaestionum de Universo Genere Quas Serio Ludebat Libri Quinque. Bologna, Italy. 
  4. ^ Oberhuber, Konrad (1973). Early Italian Engravings from the National Gallery of Art. Washington , D.C: National Gallery of Art. p. 206. 
  5. ^ Servolini, Luigi (1932). Dedalo, XII. p. 768. 
  6. ^ "Raphael". Oxford Art Online. 
  7. ^ Bober, Phyllis (1957). Drawings after the Antique By Amico Aspertini. London. 
  8. ^ Canadey, Norman (1976). The Roman Sketchbook of Girolamo da Carpi. London. 
  9. ^ Wind, Edgar (1968). Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance. New York: Paperback ed. p. 1976. 
  10. ^ Hind, Arthur M (1963). A History of Engraving and Etching. London: Dover ed. pp. 132–133. 
  11. ^ a b Vasari, Giorgio (1878–80). Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori. G. Milanesi. p. 433. 
  12. ^ a b c d Malvasia. Felsina Pitterice I. p. 64. 
  13. ^ Malvasia. Felsina Pitterice I. p. 185. 
  14. ^ Freedberg. Paintings in Italy. pp. 556–557. 
  15. ^ Pittaluga, Mary (1928). L'incisione italiana nel Cinquecento. Milan.