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Pembroke Album of Chiaroscuro Woodcut Prints in the Library of Congress

This guide aids exploration of a Prints & Photographs Division album containing primarily 16th- and 17th-century chiaroscuro woodcuts by Italian printmakers. It includes tips for accessing the prints and points to related resources.


Print shows a seated woman holding a tablet and quill, conversing with a putto
Bartolomeo Coriolano and Guido Reni, artists. Sibyll. Between 1630 and 1655. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The Pembroke Album in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (P&P) consists of a collection of 91 images, primarily chiaroscuro woodcuts by Italian printmakers active in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The term chiaroscuro comes from the Italian words for light and dark. Chiaroscuro refers to a form of early color woodcut made by printing woodblocks in layers, often involving a linear "key" block and one or more color tone blocks.

Provenance and Preservation

English collectors Philip and Thomas Herbert, the 5th and 8th Earls of Pembroke, acquired these 90 prints and 1 drawing and later placed them in a sixteen-volume compendium, which was assembled between around 1683 and 1733 and is also known as the Wilton Collection. In 1918, the Library of Congress purchased a single Pembroke Album from the Maggs Brothers.

The Library conservators removed the prints from the album in the 1980s and matted the prints individually to aid their preservation. The album binding and pages, with descriptions of where each print appeared, is retained in the Prints & Photographs Division Supplemental Archive.