Founded in the mid-seventeenth century, the Remondini publishing firm produced prints and books on a massive scale for nearly two hundred years, marketing their paper commodities not only across Europe but also in the American colonies and parts of Asia. Based in Bassano, Italy (45 miles northwest of Venice), the firm targeted a large, popular audience. By offering a wide array of printed materials, ranging from religious pictures and texts, to genre scenes, to sweeping landscape views (often copying the works of others without permission), the firm appealed to the interests—and budgets—of an emerging middle class audience.
Highlighting Calvin College’s own Prodigal Son series of six etchings produced by the Remondini firm in the 1780s—copies after a series first published by Georg Balthasar Probst around 1770—this exhibition situates the prints within the visual culture of the period. While there is a tendency to address eighteenth-century prints as ‘art’ simply because of their age, exploration of the original publishing context allows us to see these pictures as both belonging within and contributing to an expanding popular culture that conflated entertainment, religion, and the marketplace. Most of the items included in the exhibition were never intended to be framed (much less hung on a gallery wall) but were instead expected to be handled and seen through perspective-enhancing viewing devices—variously described as diagonal mirrors, optical pillar machines, or (most commonly today) zograscopes.
Above right: Zograscope, Collection of Jack and Beverly Wilgus and used with permission.