This round portrait of a Roman or Holy Roman emperor is from Hubert Goltzius’s Leendige Bilder Garnach Aller Keysern. The work was published in Antwerp in 1557 by Gillis Coppens van Diest. This is from the rare first German edition of the book.
Each image of a Roman or Holy Roman Emperor is colored in sepia using the chiaroscuro printing technique. Chiaroscuro is the process used to print the portraits using wood blocks and etching to create an image similar to a hand-colored drawing. The etchings were completed by Joos Gietleughen after Goltzius’s original drawings. The work captured the emperors from Julius Caesar to Charles V. Goltzius extensively researched ancient and medieval coins and medals to produce the portraits.
Hubert Goltzius (1526-1583) was a Renaissanc painter, engraving, and printer from the Netherlands. This work was eventually published in five languages making him well known in Europe.
For Goltziuss Imperatorum imagines . . . Gietleughen cut two woodblocks per etched image . . . A darker tone provides the background for the effigy, a lighter tone the flesh-tone and the background for the inscription and the white of the paper the highlights . . . Goltziuss combination of etching and woodcut and the careful selection of tones yielded images that resembled in color and shape the coins and medals that were his sources. Yet, in their standardized and greatly enlarged size (nearly 18 cm. in diameter), uniform vertical orientation and high degree of completeness, they almost superseded their small referents, which were often degraded, damaged or mutilated. (Stijnman and Savage, eds., Printing Colour 1400-1700: History, Techniques, Functions and Receptions, pp. 154-155)
The chiaroscuro process, with its different shades of the same hue and white highlights, defines light and tone but not local color; it was thus especially appropriate for the reproduction of monochrome relief medals. One of the characteristics of Goltziuss work, the use of an etched plate for the black outlines and details, had earlier been invented by Parmagianino, but was not widely adopted by the practitioners of chiaroscuro active in the sixteenth century. (Friedman, Color Printing in England, no. 2, citing the 1557 Italian edition)