Tuesday, 6 December 2016
Paul Rajon’s etching, “Ninette”
Paul Adolphe Rajon (aka (1843–88)
(left) “Ninette”, 1886, published in the “Art Journal”, 1886
(right) from a pre-lettered edition before publication
Etchings printed in sanguine ink on laid paper
Size of right impression: (sheet) 33 x 23.3 cm; (image borderline) 24.4 x 17.9 cm
Size of left impression: (sheet) 40.1 x 28.9 cm; (image borderline) 24.4 x 17.9 cm
The left impression is lettered below the image borderline at centre: “NINETTE / ORIGINAL ETCHING BY PAUL RAJON / LONDON J.S. VIRTUE & Co. LIMITED”
Condition: richly inked and well-printed impressions in excellent condition. Note that the impressions are subtly different in terms colour bias: the plate tone of the left impression leans to pink and the right impression is more yellow.
The left impression is lightly age-toned towards the edge of the paper. It is cut within the platemark and is lined on a conservator’s support sheet.
The right impression is printed on cream laid paper and the platemark can be seen at the very edge of the sheet. This impression has greater tonal contrast than the left impression.
I am selling this pair of sublimely beautiful etchings for AU$105 (currently US$78.13/EUR72.45/GBP61.25 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing only one of these prints I am selling either print (i.e. only one print but you will tell me which one you want) for AU$75 (currently US$55.81/EUR51.75/GBP43.73 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world
Please let me know if you wish to purchase one or both prints by contacting me (email@example.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
Rajon’s fame in the 19th century was as a reproductive translator of other artists’ paintings into prints, especially the work of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912).
This etched portrait is an original composition by Rajon and it demonstrates his remarkable gift as a draughtsman. The sitter for the portrait is unclear—arguably it is the same model as shown in Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s “Ninette” translated into mezzotint by Samuel A. Cousins. One thing I am certain about is that I do not agree with one writer at the time who dismissed her sublime beauty with the dreadful assessment that “she is pretty enough." Although each judge of feminine charm would have their own opinion about the lovely Ninette, the portrayal of her beauty—and for me she is incredibly beautiful—is not the issue that I find outstanding in this portrait. For me the essence of its attractiveness is the hesitancy of the artist’s stroke in capturing her beauty. Close examination of the line work shows what is termed as a “painterly approach.” What this means is that Rajon is not making unequivocal emphatic single lines to represent his subject but rather many light touches to approximate the position of each observed feature.
In short, this print may one day be THE IMAGE that exemplifies the 19th century vision of beauty and its potential iconic status may rest less with who the sitter is and much more of how she is portrayed with the lightest of touches.