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Ugo da Carpi
Diogenes
Theme: The Quest for Knowledge
About 1525
Italian, about 1480 - about 1525
Woodcut on wove paper
18 1/2 X 13 1/2 inches
SOTA Print Fund (1982.005)
 
Diagram/animation about chiaroscuro in woodcuts
Diagram/animation about chiaroscuro in woodcuts

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Diogenes was a Greek thinker who lived from 412 until 323 B.C. He believed in living life simply and worried that most people were selfish and dishonest. Diogenes heard a lecture by the great Greek philosopher Plato, in which Plato defined man as a featherless biped. Diogenes plucked all of the feathers from a rooster and delivered it to Plato's lecture hall, saying "Behold - Plato's man!" In this woodcut print, Ugo da Carpi shows Diogenes with a plucked rooster and a pile of feathers clasped to his chest. Such stories from ancient Greece were very popular during the Renaissance. As interest in philosophy, literature and science grew, people studied ancient Greek ideas about these subjects for inspiration.

Ugo da Carpi is considered one of the leaders in developing chiaroscuro (Italian, meaning light-dark) woodblock printing. This technique used different shades of ink to construct an image. Each tone or color was printed with a single wood block, carved to print only part of the image. When all blocks were printed, the image was complete. This method allowed printmakers to create prints with both light and dark colors, instead of traditional woodblock prints with one block printed in a single color.


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