Saturday, 30 July 2016

Bernard Picart’s etching after Le Brun

Bernard Picart (1673–1733)
“Ligue de l'allemagne, de l'Espagne et de la Hollande contre la France en 1672: Plate 49“, c1724–25/33, after Charles Le Brun (1619–90), from the series, “Impostures innocentes, ou Recueil d'estampes d'après divers peintres illustres”, 1725.
Etching in brown ink with plate tone on wove paper
Size: (sheet) 27.8 x 42.9 cm; (plate) 21 x 41 cm
Lettered below image with production detail and title (Note: this impression is not lettered with the Plate number unlike the impression in the British Museum.)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “Plate 49: historical allegory, with, slightly to the left, the personifications of Spain, Holland and Germany joining hands to signify their alliance against France; after a preparatory drawing for the decoration of the Salon de la Paix, in Versailles. c.1724/33” (,0612.1397+&page=1)
Condition: crisp and impression with margins (as published) in excellent condition for its age. There are faint marks and the upper right corner is chipped.

I am selling this large etching by Picart for a total cost of AU$92 (currently US$69.90/EUR62.63/GBP52.86 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this finely executed print, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

One of the problems facing artists when they set out to portray a narrative with a cast of thousands is how they can sustain a viewer’s interest without overwhelming the brain with too much visual information.

Many of the old masters, like Titian, sustained the viewer’s interest by creating a grid-like pattern of lights and darks where attention is drawn to “important” areas of bright light where figures can be easily seen juxtaposed with areas of shadows where the visual engagement with the portrayed figures is minimised (i.e. “played down”).

In this image, Picart, in his translation of Le Brun’s composition, also employs such a formula. Picart, however, goes a stage further. He uses the format (i.e. the image’s shape) of a lunette to create a bridge-like tension to pictorially “hold” the mass of figures into an arrangement that is visually digestible.

In my reading of this image—and I need to stress that this is my personal reading that others may not share—I scan from the weighted mass of figures on the lower-left and then progress through the turmoil of figures along an arch-like rhythm passing through the centre of the image to the lower-right side. For viewers with a mindset to read from the opposite direction (i.e. from right-to-left), I can envisage that such a reading would lead along an even more interesting path where the eye is taken on an almost spiralling journey into the centre of the image following a pattern of lights and darks.

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