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Western art

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Landscape with the parable of the blind leading the blind



Giovanni Battista Fontana


(1541) - 25 Sep 1587


Fontana was born in Verona and formed his style on the example of the Venetian masters – Titian, Veronese, and Giulio and Domenico Campagnola. He worked mainly in Austria (with his artist brother Giulio Fontana) executing frescos, altarpieces, drawings and prints, the last of which helped to spread an awareness of the Venetian landscape tradition across Europe. Fontana was also one of the early practitioners of etching before the technique became more widespread with creative printmakers in the following century.

Landscape with the parable of the blind leading the blind is one of a series of eight landscapes depicting the life and parables of Christ. This parable, which is mentioned in brief passages in the gospels of Luke (6:39–40) and Matthew (15:13–14), is illustrated in the foreground of the print, where two men are shown tumbling into a ditch. Despite the large walled town with a clearly defined church tower, and windows like hundreds of eyes, and notwithstanding the clear path, the allegorical blind cannot find their way. By contrast, a man leads two horses taking timber from an orderly stack.

The allegorical meaning of the print is, however, secondary to Fontana’s interest in evoking a humanistic vision of nature, which appears to have existed since time immemorial and to have sustained its human inhabitants through the centuries. Our eye is drawn into a sweeping vista replete with buildings and bridges, meandering roads, waterways, hillocks and distant mountains.

Peter Raissis, Prints & drawings Europe 1500–1900, 2014




Media category


Materials used



only state


19.0 x 31.0 cm platemark; 26.6 x 34.2 cm sheet

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.r., [incised plate] "Battista fon/ tana. 1573".


Purchased 1995


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Giovanni Battista Fontana

Works in the collection


Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 3 publications


Peter Raissis, Mantegna to Piranesi - Italian old master prints from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1998, p 8. no catalogue numbers

Peter Raissis, Prints & drawings Europe 1500-1900, Sydney, 2014, col illus p 31.

Adam von Bartsch, Le peintre graveur [21 vols], Vienna, 1803-1821, vol XVI, p 218. no 9