Center Art Gallery | A Prodigal Story for the Marketplace

Remondini Banner

An important fixture in the eighteenth-century publishing industry, t­he Remondini produced prints and books on a massive scale, marketing these paper commodities not only across Europe but also in the American colonies and parts of Asia. Founded in the mid-seventeenth century, in Bassano, Italy (45 miles northwest of Venice), the firm printed and sold thousands of pictures and books for almost two centuries. The Remondini business strategy 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, 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, 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 mirrorsoptical pillar machines, or (most commonly today) zograscopes.

The exhibition is accompanied by an online component, including essays, a catalogue of works, and useful links for further study. To explore, please visit

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