Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Picart's etchings, Plates 44 and 38


Bernard Picart (1673–1733)
“Plate 44”, 1730, after a drawing attributed to Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), from the series “Impostures Innocentes”
Etching in brown ink and plate tone on wove paper
Size: (sheet) 27.8 x 42.9 cm; (plate) 15.5 x 35.2 cm.
Inscribed (upper-right corner) “38”; (lower centre) “'Gravé par B. Picart d'aprés un dessein atribué au Poussin du cabinet de B. Picart.” The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “Plate 44: a nude male figure, seated, and looking to right, where stands a female figure with a twirling drapery; two other male figures flanking her; at far left a winged putto, and a small sketch of a seated figure; after a drawing attributed to Poussin. c.1724/33” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3155633&partId=1&people=111545&peoA=111545-2-60&page=3)
Condition: well-inked impression with generous margins. There is scattered, very light spotting and age tone showing in the outer edges of the margins; otherwise the sheet is in excellent condition for its age.

I am selling this masterful etching along with the Picart’s “Plate 38” shown further below (i.e. two etchings by Picart) for AU$210 in total (currently US$157.85/EUR134.06/GBP117.91 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this pair of lightly drawn etchings by one of the world’s master printmakers, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


Although not everyone may agree with my next comment, this print captures the essence of Poussin’s drawings: a gestalt view of the portrayed narrative where—if one were to slightly close one’s eyes—no feature is more important than the next.

In the case of this image, the easily read narrative of two mature-aged gents (i.e. chaps that are capable of growing a decent beard) engaged in looking at a standing figure with a loosely unravelling cloak while a cupid points at a fully unclothed lady in the distance is reduced to a pattern of lights and darks. This pattern in the play of light and shadow, in my opinion, is not really about rendering the superficial form of the figures. Instead, it is about creating an effect that at first excites the eye and then invites the viewer to look closely at what is presented.

Arguably, Titian took this patterning of light and shadow a stage further by creating an almost checkboard pattern in many of his mature works … a concept that even creeps into the works of artists like Brangwyn.





Bernard Picart (1673–1733)
“Plate 38: Glaucus et Scylla”, 1730, after Salvator Rosa (1615–73), from the series “Impostures Innocentes”
Etching in brown ink and plate tone on wove paper
Size: (sheet) 42.9 x 27.9 cm; (plate) 20.6 x 16.8 cm.
Inscribed (upper-right corner) “38”; (lower centre) “Glaucus & Scyla” / “Gravé par B. Picart d'aprés l'exquice de Salvator Rosa, du Cabinet de B. Picart.” The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “Plate 38: Scylla running away and Glaucus, standing in a river up to his mid-thighs, trying to hold her back; after a drawing by Rosa. c.1724/33” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3151625&partId=1&people=111545&peoA=111545-2-60&page=3)

Condition: well-inked impression with generous margins. There is scattered spotting and age tone showing in the outer edges of the margins; otherwise the sheet is in good condition.


Interestingly, Picart owned Salvator Rosa’s drawing that this etching reproduces. What is especially interesting for me, is that Picart uses the comparatively crude technique of adding additional small strokes to a line when he wishes to thicken it. I mention this clumsy technique as I am certain that he would have been aware of the échoppe etching tool developed by Jacques Callot (c.1592–1635) especially for the purpose of varying the thickness of a line to make it swell and narrow “naturally.”

The idea of trying to duplicate the natural hand gestures of artists when they draw has been an ongoing fascination for printmakers. Even in the 15th century, the famous Pollaiuolo (1431–98) devised a tricky technique designed to emulate a draughtsman’s return stroke that he employed in his only print, "The Battle of the Nudes." Pollaiuolo’s use of this labour intensive and very contrived technique of creating return strokes was essentially to give the appearance that all his engraved lines were connected the way that drawings are made. Not that the enthusiasm for reproducing the appearance of natural mark-making stopped with this fascinating technique. After Pollaiuolo’s plate wore down from repeated editions, the full return-stroke disappeared (because the return stroke was engraved much lighter) leaving only the hooks at the start and finish of the main line. This effect was picked up by Francesco Rosselli (1445–before 1513) who then used this as his trademark hook stroke.

With Picart’s translation of Rosa’s drawing there is a desire to not only capture the speed of the original drawing but also the pentimenti—early beginning strokes that could be read as mistakes drawn over with later marks—of Rosa’s tentative preliminary thoughts; see, for example, the reworked drawing of Sylla’s advancing leg.




For those interested in the legend of Glaucus and Scylla, Glaucus was a fisherman turned merman smitten with the beautiful nymph, Scylla. After being rejected by Scylla (as illustrated in this print) Glaucus seeks help from the sea-sorceress, Circe, in terms of preparing a potion to make Sylla fall in love with him. Sadly, as luck would have it, Circe was smitten with Glaucus and decided to make Sylla’s life a misery by concocting a portion that ultimately turned Sylla into an ugly monster with a tail consisting of vicious dogs. Of course, Glaucus loses interest and Sylla spends the rest of her days eating passing sailors.

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