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Marcantonio Raimondi 1475/80-1527/34 1746-1828
The dream of Raphael
Engraving, 1507-8
Bought 1824

Marcantonio is best-known for his collaboration with Raphael (1483-1520) to produce prints after his designs. This engraving, however, has little to do with Raphael despite its traditional title, and is thought to reproduce the work of another, unidentified artist. Some of the elements of the image are certainly reminiscent of painters working in Venice during this period, where Marcantonio is known to have visited around 1506-8. The female figures look like those of Giorgione (1477-1510), and the hellish creatures on the shore are similar to those by the Netherlandish artist Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), whose work could be seen in Venetian collections at this time. The fact that Marcantonio has tried to achieve different textures with varying combinations of length, thickness and density of burin strokes, have been taken as further evidence that he was trying to imitate the tonal effects of a painting.

The subject of the print also remains a mystery. One theory is that the scene illustrates a part of the story of Hecuba, who, when pregnant with Paris, dreamed that she would give birth to a torch that would burn down the city of Troy (see Innis H. Shoemaker, The Engravings of Marcantonio Raimondi, Spencer Museum of Art, 1981, p.74). Another theory rejects the idea that Marcantonio was copying a painting, and suggests that the print is 'a demonstration of Marcantonio's inventive abilities': it is a composite image, rather like the strange creatures in the foreground composed of assorted fish and mammal body parts, which demands to be read as a dream rather than a pre-existing narrative (Maria Ruvoldt, The Italian Renaissance Imagery of Inspiration, CUP, 2004, p.139).


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