Monday, 2 January 2017

Gabriel de Roton’s hyalograph after the marble bust of Thomas Combe by Thomas Woolner


Gabriel de Roton (fl, 1865-1954) (Note: These dates are based on QCLC WoldCat. [http://www.worldcat.org/identities/viaf-165663680/] that offer a timeline of the publications illustrated by de Roton. Since 1954 there have been 10 posthumous publications involving his illustrations.

“Portrait of Thomas Combe”, 1892, after the marble bust of Thomas Combe by Thomas Woolner (1825–1892). Reproduced in Philip Gilbert Hamerton’s (1892) “Man in Art: Studies in Religious and Historical Art, Portrait, and Genre”, Macmillan, London, p.274.

(Note: I am selling this large book (344 pages) with all the original prints (46 plates in line-engraving, mezzotint, photogravure, hyalography, etching, and wood engraving) for AU$350 plus the cost of shipping. The print that I am selling is not from this intact volume.)

Hyalograph on cream wove paper
Size: (sheet) 30.3 x 22 cm; (plate) 22.5 16.3 cm; (image borderline) 17.9 x 12.5 cm
Inscribed in the plate at lower left with the artist’s signature in reverse.
Lettered below the image borderline at centre: “IMP. CHARDON WITTMAN PARIS”

Condition: excellent impression in excellent condition but with a minor age toning at the edges of the sheet.

This print may be of a low monitory value, but it is of great value to those interested in unusual technical processes. This print has been executed using the hyalograph process (i.e. a rare hybrid process of cliché-verre where a drawing on textured glass is transferred as a negative onto a printing plate that is then etched like an aquatint). If you are interested in acquiring this extraordinary print, I am offering it for AU$25 (currently US$17.94/EUR17.14/GBP14.59 at the time of this listing) in combination with the sale of other print(s).


Although the hyalograph process faded into obscurity very quickly in the late 19th century as other less demanding techniques took its place, there are qualities in the prints printed from this process that are worth considering. For instance, from my understanding of the process the artist literally drew with a pencil onto roughened glass and this intimacy is captured in all the subtlety of the artist’s touch in the prints such as this one. More impressive to my eyes is that the prints exhibit a delicate almost transparent attribute that is close to the luminosity—verging on transparency—and the surface facture of a hand drawn image.

What is extra appealing about this particular hyalograph is that it reproduces a marble bust that has similar visual properties of translucency and sheen. In particular, the hyalograph process seems perfectly suited to the rendering of the hair and that amazing beard—a virtual cascade of curls—so that the hair looks like hair carved in marble in terms of sharing a solid fluidity. Philip Gilbert Hamerton (1892) in his discussion about this print in “Man in Art” makes the following very interesting and insightful comment about the treatment of the hair in Woolner’s sculpture: “The light strikes UPON the marble beard … [and, as a point of comparison with real hair], it entangles itself WITHIN the natural beard” (p. 274). Hamerton also offers his personal assessment of the treatment of the hair: “I do not remember in all plastic art a more magnificent example of the hair and beard taken from actual life. There are ideal examples that may surpass this, but purely as mental conceptions” (ibid).





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