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John Baptist Jackson (1701-80)

The Rich Man and Lazarus printed 1743

Chiaroscuro woodcut | 58.4 x 39.3 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 831198.a

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The first of two sheets of a chiaroscuro woodcut print, illustrating the biblical parable of the rich man and Lazarus: an exterior scene in which two women stand at a table upon which poultry is being prepared; their attention is drawn to a man behind them who is in conversation with a woman holding a basin; with cooking utensils in the foreground. A group of figures in the background head towards a town, with hills beyond. Inscribed with a dedication to Robert Hoblyn, lower left.

The English printmaker and illustrator John Baptist Jackson travelled to Venice via Paris in 1731 where he began working for several Venetian presses. His work in chiaroscuro woodcut, a sixteenth-century technique undergoing a revival in Venice at the time, came to the attention of Joseph Smith. In 1739 Smith commissioned Jackson to work on an ambitious project to make chiaroscuro woodcuts after 17 paintings by Venetian masters, including Tintoretto, Titian and Veronese. Three paintings were in Smith's own collection.

The two prints that make up the Rich Man and Lazarus were the last to be completed in the series, and reproduce a painting by Jacopo Bassano that was not part of the sale to George III in 1762 and is no longer traced. In order to meet the costs of the project, Smith recruited two friends, Charles Frederick and Smart Lethieullier, and the three men hoped to had to the fund by subscription. The inscription on the print to the Cornish book collector Robert Hoblyn, who had visited Venice some years earlier, suggests he was among those who contributed. The prints were eventually published as a set by the Pasquali press in 1745. 

Chiaroscuro woodcut had rarely been used for the reproduction of paintings, and Jackson divided many of them into two or three parts. Jackson constructed his own roller press for printing the blocks, and the final impressions may also have been blind-stamped against an uninked block to enhance the indentations and tonal depth.