In a smoky atelier in Torino, Italy, Giuseppe Branchino works as one of the world’s last punch cutters. Cutting punches, the first step in traditional typesetting, is the meticulous craft of carving letterforms into small steel billets. Branchino was the former head of the engraving department of type foundry and printing press manufacturer Nebiolo, founded in Turin in 1852. Along with a few others scattered across the globe, he carries on a centuries-old practice that’s becoming obsolete in the age of digital type.
In the meditative short film “The Last Punchcutter,” by Giorgio Affanni and Gabriele Chiapparini, we watch Branchino create a punch. Drinking espresso and smoking a cigarette, he works silently and slowly, carving the letter “G” into a thin block of steel with awls and chisels, peering through a magnifying glass to inspect his handiwork. He spends nearly seven minutes on a single letter.
The film was created as part of “Griffo, the Great Gala of Letters,” a multidisciplinary project focusing on the life of Francesco Griffo, a 15th-century Venetian punch cutter and type designer. Born circa 1450 near Bologna, the son of the goldsmith and engraver Cesare Griffo, he went on to work for the house of Aldus Manutius of Venice, the most important publisher of the day. In 1501, for an edition of Virgil (the “Aldine Virgil”), he created what’s regarded as the first italic typeface. Though his typefaces are still widely used and inspire most contemporary type designers, details of his biography are murky and, as Joseph Blumenthal put it in The Art of the Printed Book 1455–1955, “Griffo has never received adequate recognition for his enormous contribution to type design.” Through videos, texts, and an upcoming exhibition, the “Great Gala of Letters” project aims to bring Griffo some long overdue recognition on the the 500th anniversary of his death.
They Managed to Mess Up an Art Heist Movie
There must be a lesson in Vasilis Katsoupis’s film Inside about the vacuousness of the art market or the claustrophobia of exhibition spaces — I just don’t care.
Ten Painful Stories of the Dutch Colonial Slave Trade
The Rijksmuseum’s traveling show strives to remind us that we are all, in some way, a part of this chapter of human history, whose legacy continues today.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Textured Histories at Shiprock Santa Fe
The Santa Fe gallery features Indigenous textiles and jewelry from the early 19th century to today.
Renaissance Portrait of “Ugly Duchess” Likely Depicts a Man
A curator at London’s National Gallery believes the subject of painter Quinten Massys’s painting “is most likely a he.”
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Hokusai’s “Great Wave” Makes a Splash at Auction
An edition of the iconic woodblock print broke records when it sold for $2.8M this week.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
Technology is what it is and its advancement cannot nor should it be discouraged nor lamented.
However, there is much to be said for the concept of craftsmanship and the presence of ‘the hand’ speaks of a direct engagement in the physical world sans the intercession and degrees of separation that technology imposes upon the act of making. Yes, technology is wonderful, but then again there is something magical about those imperfections and nuances of the handcrafted that declares the presence of the maker. In this regard each hand cut cast is indeed like a little self portrait.
Cool, but don’t knock my handcrafted artisanal web coding skills, made in Brooklyn, NY.
Oh Be still my beating heart!
In the course of my various artistic endeavors I have often wondered about this. How did they get the letters so perfect and to scale? Were there any secret techniques? It is impressive, though hardly encouraging, that it was done freehand, and backwards, too. Still, for the women, I’m sure they weren’t doing it in heels.
yea – way to go – bringing down a beautiful piece of film with irrellevant feminist bullsh*t. Please practice safe sex so you don’t reproduce.
It was a joke. Lighten up, take a pill, get over it!
Not a good joke.
Just stupid, indicating how a faux feminist thinks
You get over thinking you have a sense of humor
Oh, my, a little touchy, aren’t we?
Not in the least. I’m really fed up with 3rd wave feminists enjoying the benefits of what my Mom did, I did, and then thinking you have the right to open your mouth on the issue,
You are an embarrassment to actual feminists, and I bet you’ve never lifted a fingerm just flapped your gums
Oh, I meant to say, “Who cares?”
Technology destroys everything beautiful it touches, as well as millenia of human interaction.
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