A very fine, sharp impression, of this rare print, with distinct wiping lines, the platemark with traces of ink, printed on paper with watermark three mounts, very similar to Briquet n.11.920 (Vicenza 1426). In pristine condition, apart a light trace of vertical fold in the center, visible on the verso but unobtrusive on the recto; narrow margins on three side, margin of 7 mm at the bottom.
The attribution and the iconographical meaning of this print have been discussed by many scholars since Malvasia, who believed that the engraver was Giulio Bonasone after a design by Amico Aspertini. Although Bartsch rejected the Bonasone attribution, other scholars have not. Recently Massari reaffirmed that attribution, claiming stylistic analogies with Bonasone’s oeuvre. Bartsch believed it entirely possible that Aspertini engraved the plate himself. Schmidt (1878) agreed. Oberhuber (1966) supported that possibility.
The title given to this print by Bartsch, The Sacrifice of Cain, is inadequate. As Oberhuber noted, the sacrifice burning on the altar is a lamb and in the background appears the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Paradise; to their left the Tree of Knowledge. Therefore Oberhuber suggested that the composition represents an allegory of the Fall and Redemption, with the sacrificial lamb symbolizing Christ. Marzia Faietti (1993) believes the engraver to be Agostino Veneziano. About the subject, Faietti suggests that the complicated iconography could summarize the history of mankind from the original sin to the Redemption. The editor of the Illustrated Bartsch (vol. 28. Commentary, 1995), Cirillo Archer, agrees with Bartsch’s attribution to Aspertini himself. According my opinion the attribution of this engraving to Aspertini is correct, as I stated in the catalogue Da Dürer a Morandi, Incisioni dal XV al XX secolo, Stanza del Borgo 2003, cat. no. 10. The unusual subject of this enigmatic print was reproduced with some frequency in other media, as maiolica dishes and Limoges enamels.
C. C. Malvasia (1841), Felsina Pittrice: Vite de’ pittori bolognesi, ed. G. Zanotti, 2 vols., Bologna, p. 62; Bartsch XV, 8, 3; K. Oberhuber, Graphishe Sammlung Albertina, Renaissance in Italien: 16 Jahrhundert exh. cat. Wien 1966, p. 171; S. Massari, Giulio Bonasone, exh. catalogue, 2 vols., Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica, Rome, 1983, vol. 1, p. 87; M. Faietti in M. Faietti – D. Scaglietti, Amico Aspertini, Modena 1995, IV 3, pp. 332-3; M. Cirillo Archer, The Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 28, Commentary, New York 1995, no. 2801.003, p.6.