Procaccini belongs to a family of artists originating from Bologna. Along with his younger brothers, Carlantonio and Giulio Cesare, Camillo Procaccini received some training from his father Ercole before heading to Rome to further his artistic studies. On his return to Bologna in the early 1580s he worked on a number of important commissions for fresco decorations and altarpieces. He also travelled to Parma to study Correggio’s work, whose influence he temporarily assimilated.
A contemporary of the Carracci, Procaccini was one of the dominant painters in Bologna during Annibale Carracci’s youth. However, with the establishment of the Carracci and their art academy, Procaccini moved to Milan with his father and the rest of the family. Here he headed an influential school, established his reputation and worked more or less continually until his death.
It was during his early Milanese years that Procaccini worked as a printmaker, but although he was a prolific painter and draughtsman, he appears to have produced no more than half-a-dozen etchings, all of which treat religious themes. The Transfiguration, his largest and most famous, is generally thought to date between his arrival in Milan in 1587 and 1590. It is signed ‘Percacino’, the Bolognese spelling of his name.
The print, in fact, repeats the composition of Procaccini’s altarpiece – known to have been painted by 1590 – for the church of San Fedele in Milan. Perhaps it was made both as a demonstration of the artist’s abilities as a printmaker and as an advertisement of his capabilities as a designer of altarpieces. Interestingly, the subject was recast yet a third time in 1595 when Procaccini was commissioned to paint the organ shutters in Milan Cathedral, now introducing into the Transfiguration a fourth apostle, shown kneeling on the ground. When closed, the organ shows the Triumph of David; opened it displays the Resurrection and Transfiguration.
The episode of the Transfiguration is recounted in Matthew’s Gospel (17:2) when the apostles Peter, John and James witness Christ, ‘transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as light’. The prophets Moses and Elijah also appeared and talked with Jesus during this profoundly mystical event. Then, hearing the voice of God, the disciples fell down from fear. When they looked up the vision had vanished and Jesus rejoined them, forbidding any mention of what the disciples had seen. The Transfiguration marked the culmination of the public life of Jesus and was viewed as a prefiguration of the Resurrection.
Procaccini drew the figure of Christ with short stippled marks, remarkably unlike the heavier, continuous outlines and cross-hatchings used to describe the other figures in the print. The resultant paleness suggests mystical radiance and the inner shining of Christ’s divinity; it confers an incorporeal, almost hallucinatory, quality to the representation of this most miraculous occurrence.
Peter Raissis, Prints & drawings Europe 1500–1900, 2014
i of 2 states
57.0 x 34.0 cm trimmed to platemark
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Not on display
Shown in 5 exhibitions
The Bitten Image: European etchings from the collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 Jul 1980–14 Sep 1980
Piety and Paganism, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Jul 1991–29 Sep 1991
Mantegna to Piranesi - Italian Old Master Prints from the Collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 Jun 1998–20 Sep 1998
Old Europe: Prints & drawings from the collection 1500-1800, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 03 Jun 2006–06 Aug 2006
European prints and drawings 1500-1900, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 30 Aug 2014–02 Nov 2014
Referenced in 7 publications
Nicolas Draffin, Piety and Paganism, 'Introduction', pg. 3-5, Sydney, 1991, p 4, p 9. no catalogue numbers
Adam von Bartsch, Le peintre graveur [21 vols], Vienna, 1803-1821, vol XVIII, p 20. no 4
The bitten image: European etchings from the collection, Sydney, 1980, p 3. no catalogue numbers
Mantegna to Piranesi - Italian old master prints from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1998, p 4, p 8. no catalogue numbers
The print in Italy 1550–1620, London, 2001, pp 36-37. no 19
Prints & drawings Europe 1500-1900, Sydney, 2014, p 36, col illus p 37.