The pioneering engraver’s work from circa 1508 features creatures from the deep, panicked stick men and a phallic bug
The sleeping women exposed to the psycho-sexual horrors crawling from the sea; the panic-stricken stick men in the burning building, hopelessly scrabbling up walls: this engraving is literally the stuff of nightmares.
Did Raphael have dreams like these? The title acknowledges the pioneering engraver Marcantonio Raimondi’s famous collaboration with the Renaissance star. Yet it’s thought to pre-date their work together in Rome.
While the engraving elicits timeless heebie jeebies, it’s thought to tap into a contemporary mood. It was made in an era when people thought the apocalypse was nigh and, in any case, there was plenty of plague and war.
One ambiguous image is the phallic bug. Insects were taken as portents of destruction, yet it also recalls flying cock charms from ancient Rome. By the 15th century, these winged willies had been associated with creativity.
In the mix
Dürer is one possible influence for this work – likely created in Venice – as are Giorgione’s reclining nudes.
Part of Marcantonio Raimondi And Raphael, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, to 23 Apr