Prints in Translation, 1450-1750, is a wide-ranging volume that aims to mark a fundamental shift in print scholarship. Edited by Suzanne Karr Schmidt and Edward H. Wouk, the volume grew out of a two-part panel at the 2014 College Art Association conference in Chicago. Wouk’s first chapter, “Toward an anthropology of print,” provides a learned survey of print scholarship that departs from the old standards of the field – connoisseurship, iconography, and “reproductivity.” It carefully presents a case for the methodological shift of the following essays. Using a broad set of citations, beginning with Henri Zerner’s 1983 volume on the early reception of printed images , Wouk analyzes literature on prints from the sixteenth century to the present, from Vasari through modern landmark studies (Momigliano, Benjamin, Ivins, McLuhan, Eisenstein, Chartier, as well as Christopher Wood and Homi Bhabha).
The ten other essays in the volume focus almost entirely on northern European prints, with the exception of Patricia Simons, who presents a study of Mantegna’s impact at the intersection of printmaking and sculpture. This northern concentration, which mirrors the interests of the volume’s editors, is amplified, however, by three chapters that animate how northern European prints traveled around the globe: to early modern Italy (Arthur Difuria); colonial Peru (Stephanie Porras); and Mughal India (Yael Rice). Most essays concentrate on the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but Simons begins in the fifteenth, and Pullins addresses the eighteenth, altogether providing coverage of printmaking’s earliest four centuries in Europe. The overarching theme throughout the volume is the notion that prints were not simple one-way communicators. Rather, each essay endeavors to complicate our notion of how prints inhabited, functioned in, and shaped their early modern worlds.
The volume boldly expands an existing dialogue in the field about the historical interchange between modern art-historical specializations, intersections between prints and other media: painting; decoration of luxury arms; scientific instrument designs – even their own literal transformation into such instruments. When printed imagery transfers to a different medium, here spatial or cultural shifts in meaning are emphasized. The flexible materiality of individual prints is also ranged widely – from paper designs used as actual instruments, as noted, to the addition of fabrics and other materials, to individual prints transformed into unique hybrid objects. In arguably the most unusual and unexpected approach, the aesthetics of traditional printmaking processes is highlighted, as the linear qualities of intaglios find new form in so-called pen paintings of marine subjects. Here the language of the print merged with the world of paintings, and also in Mughal manuscripts, where the visual idioms of black and white linear patterns in European prints led Islamic artists to borrow forms and figures, while displacing their original meanings. The book’s subtitle, “Image, Materiality, Space,” echoes its conceptual structure, as Wouk explains in his introduction. Here it should be noted that it would have been helpful to see this structure reflected in section headers in the table of contents.
The first four essays address the image itself by tracing paths across different media. Alexandra Onuf freshly recognizes the decades-long, back-and-forth borrowing by Antwerp painters Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Abel Grimmer from the renowned Small Landscape series of etchings. Onuf moves productively away from the focus on authorship and originality in previous scholarship, as she demonstrates how the painters selectively adapted motifs from the prints into their paintings, which in turn informed later editions of the prints. The idiosyncratic mid-seventeenth century “pen paintings” by Willem van de Velde the Elder and his followers provide an alternative focus for Leila Packard, who discusses Van de Velde’s transfer of the linear language of engraving onto a painter’s prepared panel and canvas. While the result has the scale and presence of a painting along with the clarity and detail of a print, she also argues that the documentary value already associated with prints was transferred to this new hybrid object type.
Freyda Spira and Jonathan Tavares both discuss the impact of printed imagery on luxury weapons. Spira examines one particular artist, Daniel Hopfer, a formative example both because of his technical innovation of adapting the etching technique from armor production to the printshop, and because of his new, entrepreneurial model for the print trade. Her case study shows him adapting his own printed imagery to a rare existing example of his metalwork. Taveras details a more classic example of borrowing: a rifle decorated with imagery engraved on inlaid stag horn and based on a variety of print sources, united by their erotic content for the masculine hunt setting.
The middle of the book focuses on materiality in three essays that explore prints’ objectness. Patricia Simons examines Andrea Mantegna’s two-plate engraving, the Battle of the Sea Gods, viewing the print’s widespread artistic reception, not only through the visible sculptural qualities of the engraving and the ancient sculptural precedents that informed it, but also, critically, on the influence of the print on subsequent sculptural projects. She notes the lack of compartmentalization between media at the time and cites sculpture as a theme of the print, tied to Renaissance theories of disegno and ingenio.
The materiality of individual impressions of prints is specifically addressed in essays by Suzanne Karr Schmidt, co-editor of the volume, and David Pullins. Karr Schmidt has already contributed to seeing prints as manipulable, utilitarian objects.  Her essay compares two producers of scientific instrument prints and draws on the history of collecting such prints, on their physical and archival remains, and also on the two printers’ distinct modes of presentation and marketing, concluding that these prints served as utilitarian objects as well as collectibles.
David Pullins has identified a nearly half-century gap in the production of prints that promoted the latest fashions in early eighteenth-century France. The physical remains of so-called “dressed prints” – impressions of fashion plates decorated with painted additions as well as textiles – reveal a dearth of new fashion plates between the 1720s and the 1760s, leading to contemporary proliferation of earlier prints “updated” with new fabrics and other decoration in order to fill that void.
Wouk describes the focus of the third section of the book as “space, mobility and cultural encounter.” Arthur DiFuria’s studies the use of Maarten van Heemskerck’s Victories of Charles V for an elaborate piece of furniture in Naples. That translation of printed imagery across time and space necessarily results in new meanings far removed from original context. While DiFuria traverses the European continent from north to south, the final two essays jump from northern Europe to South America and South Asia, respectively. Stephanie Porras starts with the familiar: a painting by Maerten de Vos, St. Michael the Archangel, and the engraving after it by Hieronymus Wierix, published in Antwerp by Adriaen Huybrechts. She claims that this may have been the first print to circumnavigate the globe, and her essay delivers amply on the image’s mobility and adaptability, as it tracks its multifarious migratory paths from the Netherlands to southern Europe and colonial Peru as well as the fluid religious boundaries between Catholic Spain, the Protestant-leaning audience in Antwerp, and indigenous peoples in colonial Peru.
Yael Rice examines how German and Netherlandish prints received an “ardent welcome” at the Mughal court in India in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Departing from previous scholarly focus on courtly collecting at the Mughal court, she argues that the formal qualities of line and contour in engravings resonated closely with the formal qualities of Persian visual culture. Thus engravings were sympathetically adopted by the artists at the Mughal court who assimilated these images into their work while stripping them of their Euro-centric content.
Although each essay has its own merits, together they present a compelling case for future print scholarship. I could temper Wouk’s overly bold claim for the volume as a herald of wholly new material in the field, when he claims (p. 3; belied by his own citations) that the book turns away “from examining the printed image as an index for an absent invention in another medium – a painting, sculpture, or drawing….” Moreover, recent print studies have broken down the term “reproductive” productively. Despite such rhetoric, the larger point of these essays is that a fulsome set of approaches to the history of prints is well underway – in the studies that acknowledge the materiality of prints, on the one hand, and in the wide-ranging exchange between prints and other media, on the other. Certainly, this volume offers a broad and productive statement that will fuel continued generative debates.
Saint Louis Art Museum
 Henri Zerner, ed. Le Stampe e la diffusione delle immagini e degli stili (Bologna: CLUEB, 1983).
 Susan Dackerman et al, Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 2011); Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2011); and Karr Schmidt, Interactive and Sculptural Printmaking in the Renaissance (Brill, 2017), see: HNA Reviews: https://hnanews.org/hnar/reviews/interactive-and-sculptural-printmaking-in-the-renaissance/.