Marcantonio Raimondi ( Marc Antonio Raimondi ) was known as the Bolognese engraver,  and was quite active in the art scene in Rome. He engraved several works by Raphael and his pupils.  Raimondi was the first and perhaps the most prominent of engravers who reproduced artworks.  His engravings were instrumental in spreading Raphael's style throughout Europe, and his work helped Albrecht Dürer's work gain popularity throughout Italy. He trained and worked in Bologna, Italy as a goldsmith and engraver under Francesco Francia.  Raimondi moved to Rome in 1510 where he worked for Raphael.  His works included copies of Raphael's works, Giulio Romano's art, and Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper.  Marcantonio was a pioneer in the reproduction of artwork prints.  He based over three hundred prints on other artists' designs.

Marcantonio Raimondi was born in Bologna, Italy in 1475. He was skilled as a printmaker, draftsman, teacher, and engraver.  Raimondi studied under the goldsmith, niellist, and painter named Francesco Francia, and later often signed his work M-A. F., F paying homage to his teacher. In his earliest plate entitled "Pyramus and Thisbe", he used a goldsmith-like shading effect.

Raimondi would also give art lessons while living in Bologna. He trained artists such as Properzia de Rossi, who gained fame as a miniaturist among other well known achievements.

After studying with Francia, Raimondi moved to Venice in 1506.  His first artistic inspiration came from seeing plates by Albrecht Dürer, some of which he copied with such perfection that they sold as originals. Dürer, was very dipleased about this, so he filed a complaint with the Venetian Senate against Raimondi. Dürer successfully won the proceedings against Raimondi. When reprimanded by the Venetian Senate on Dürer's complaint, Raimondi started adding his own initials to Durer's on the works he reproduced. 

In 1508, while traveling to Rome, Marcantonio went to Florence to make sketches of  Michelangelo's cartoon "The Climbers", which he engraved in Rome in 1510. 

Raimondi  founded a school for engravers to learn how to accurately reproduce artworks. He would teach them his method of shading and highlighting, concentrating on essential areas of shadow that clearly defined forms. 

When Raphael saw a rough draft of the engraving Raimondi had made from the sketches of Michelangelo's  "The Climbers",  he exclaimed: "It is the finest I have ever seen and the finest that can be seen!"  Soon after that, Raphael and Marcantonio became friends.  Raimondi chose Raphael's "The Death of Lucretia" as the next peice of work that he would create.  This plate as well as other plates he made later, had a noticeable change. It started to show the darks getting less dramatic, and the engraving work more detailed.  Raphael would give him a pencil or ink drawing, and Marcantonio would use his own unique engraving style, which is why there is a marked difference between the oil painting by Raphael, and Raimondi's engraving of it.  By 1513 Raimondi focused on engraving Raphael's works, while Raphael's assistant would handle the printing and marketing.  After Raphael's death in 1520, Raimondi continued engraving works by artists who worked in the same style as Raphael, notably Giulio Romano.

In 1524 Raimondi was put in prison for a short time, he had made erotic engravings after Giulio's designs.  For this he was imprisoned by Pope Clement VII, who, freed him several months later at the solicitation of Cardinal de Medici.  Shortly after this disgrace, Marcantonio was forced to use all of his works as ransom to buy his freedom from the Spaniards during The Sack of Rome in 1527.  The Sack of Rome was an event of tragic and significant importance. It brought the Renaissance, the greatest period in Italian art and history, to its sudden and catastrophic end.   He left the city a beggar and fled back to Bologna.

Although the exact date of death is unknown, his works can not be dated after 1527, and it is presumed that his death probably happened soon after his return to Bologna.

His works are still displayed at many museums around the world, such as:

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
  • J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany
  • National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
  • Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

You can view images of some of his works here:

  • The Plague:
  • The Virgin with the Long Thigh:
  • Crouching Venus:

Source: 16th Century Art. 2nd ed. New York: Roland Publishers, 1964.
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