Tuesday, 19 July 2016

John Raphael Smith’s 1802 mezzotint, “Rosalind”


John Raphael Smith (1751–1812)
“Rosalind”, 1802, published by Rudolph Ackermann in 1813. The British Museum’s curator advises that this print is one “of six large portraits of women thought to be actresses (D'Oench 329, 337, 371, 373, 381, 382)”.

Mezzotint with hand-colouring in watercolour on laid paper attached to a conservator’s support sheet.
The hand-colouring may have been executed by the Ackermann publishing house as they manufactured “Ackermann's Superfine Water Colours” and advertised their skill at finishing prints and other artworks in the “neatest manner”.

Size: (sheet) 54.6 x 41.2 cm; (image) 51.3 x 40.5 cm
Lettered below the image with the title, and "Engraved by J (I?).R. Smith & Published 1802 by R. Ackermann, No. 101, Strand, London".
Chaloner Smith 1883 191; Frankau 1902 294; D'Oench 1999 371

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Portrait of a young woman, almost life-size, half-length, dressed as an Elizabethan page, with a pointed lace collar, a soft hat with a toggle hanging over on the right, grasping a spear in her right hand. 1802” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1614303&partId=1&searchText=Rosalind&page=1)

Condition: the original mezzotint may have wear but the watercolour conceals any thinness. There are numerous repairs to the sheet that a conservator has disguised well and the delicate state of the sheet is supported by a conservator on fine, millennium quality washi, paper.

I am selling this huge hand-coloured mezzontint engraved by one of the major printmakers of the late 18th and early 19th centuries— John Raphael Smith—for the total cost of AU$140 (currently US$104.93/EUR95.12/GBP79.81 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this magnificent print from the nineteenth century, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


My interest in acquiring this mezzotint by one of the truly great printmakers, who is famous for his skill in using this technically and time demanding medium was originally driven by the eye-catching hand-colouring of the print. After receiving the print through the mail I hadn’t fully appreciated that it was so large and the colour addition made it seem even more monumental.

What is now fascinating to me is that the rich colour may not have been an incidental feature. My research shows that the publisher, Rudolph Ackermann, was also a manufacturer of “Ackermann's Superfine Water Colours.” Moreover, in one of the many advertisements for his publishing company and its subsidiaries, he expresses pride in his workshop’s skills in varnishing, polishing and generally “finishing” paintings, prints and other artworks. Although I cannot be certain that this print was “finished” with watercolour by the Ackermann publishers, I have little doubt about the reason that the print was hand-coloured: the procedure of colouring prints was undertaken when a mezzotint plate began to wear down and the addition of colour was employed to disguise the plate wear.

Regardless, who or why this print is coloured, the effect is magnificent. For those interested in the title of this print, the subject is an actress performing in the role of Rosalind from Shakespeare's “As you like it.”






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