Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
History of Art
Engravings attributed to the anonymous early sixteenth-century Netherlandish printmaker known as Monogrammist AC survive in collections worldwide, leading to their inclusion in seminal publications devoted to the history of European prints. Nevertheless, these rare prints remain understudied, due in large part to their frequently diminutive scale and relative invisibility. Extant impressions are often bound in collector’s albums or early modern manuscripts that lack adequate photography. Many are classified as ornament prints, a category of primarily decorative compositions that often lack the figurative or functional specificity that sustains extended inquiry. Other AC-monogrammed prints have been dismissed as derivative due to their reliance on models by other prominent early printmakers. Furthermore, many AC-attributed engravings are markedly dissimilar to one another, due to the variant appearances of their signatures (or lack thereof) and the uneven technical approach and proficiency of the printmaker(s) responsible for them. Over the centuries, the AC monogram has become a catchall for many sixteenth-century prints without another home.
This dissertation, the first comprehensive reassessment of the AC corpus, interrogates the validity of long-accepted attributions and introduces previously undescribed impressions to clarify our view of the monogram and its place in the history of early printmaking. In the process, it contends that a careful study of these sometimes small, disparate, and seemingly marginal prints offers fresh perspectives on bigger issues at the core of early modern print scholarship: such as the nature and function of copying in the sixteenth-century; the relationship between prints and other crafts, like metalwork; the tactics printmakers employed to appeal to specific markets and the business strategies necessary to keep those markets supplied; the activities of print workshops before the rise of professional print publishers; and the practices of early print collectors, to name a few large, interrelated themes. In excavating and examining the prints attributed to one anonymous monogrammist, it demonstrates how the activity of print collecting and the methods of print scholarship have limited the scope of inquiry to select, named figures. For this reason, the project also serves as a methodological case study in the challenges and rewards of an archaeological print research.
Rich, Brooks Howard, "The Mystery Of The Monogram Ac At The Margins Of Early Printmaking" (2018). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 2739.