Friday, 27 October 2017

Gabriel Smith’s crayon-manner engraving, “Study of Three Hands”, 1765


Gabriel Smith (1724–c1783)
“Study of Three Hands”, 1765, Plate 18 from the sixty engraved plates in "The School of Art" published in London in 1765 by Carington Bowles (1724–1793), John Bowles (1701?–1779) and Robert Sayer (1725–1794).

Crayon-manner with engraving and etching, printed in brown ink on laid paper with margins as published.
Size: (sheet) 36 x 25 cm; (plate) 32.7 x 22.5 cm
Lettered in the plate: (upper right of centre) “N 18”; (lower left) "SG [monogram]"; (lower right) "Gabl Smith fc"

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Plate 18: study of three hands: back of a left hand facing down at top left, left hand up at top right, back of right hand to the right below.”

Condition: richly inked and well-printed impression in marvellously preserved condition (i.e. there are light signs of handling in terms of a few surface marks, otherwise the sheet is free of tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing). There are pencil notations from previous collectors (verso).

I am selling this large sheet of studies of hands designed for advanced art students in the late 1700s to copy for a total cost of AU$118 (currently US$90.19/EUR77.65/GBP68.86 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this sheet of stunningly beautiful studies, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


This page of exquisite studies of hands is from a book of engravings (published in 1765) that were executed in the crayon manner (i.e. using a roulette tool that creates dotted strokes mimicking chalk lines) designed for close examination and copying by art students.

Although the short version of the title of the book is simply “The School of Art” the alternative title featured on the British Museum’s copy (see BM no 165.b.7) is much more revealing regarding the publishers’ envisaged scope of the book:
“most compleat [sic] / drawing-book / extant: / consisting of an extensive series of well chosen examples, / selected from the designs of those eminent masters / Watteau, Boucher, Bouchardon, Le Brun, Eisen, &c. &c. / engraved on sixty folio copper plates, / and performed in a method which expresses the manner of handling the chalk, and / the management and harmony of its tints in real drawings.”

The table of contents is also revealing in that according to the curator of the BM: “there is a sub-series titled: ‘12 heads, selected from Monsr Le Brun's passion of ye soul’" (1891,0511.316.25-36).

Regarding this page of studies, I had a fruitful chat this morning with my live-in polymath who argued with my view that studies of women’s hands should reflect the fact ladies ALWAYS examine their fingernails by holding the palm of their hand away from them (i.e. they look at their hands from the "back"). By contrast, manly men look at their fingernails by turning the palm of their hand towards them and curling the hand. I went on to point out that this difference also affected the way that women and men light matches: women strike a match away from them whereas manly blokes strike a match towards them. I am sometimes wrong of course … and when my polymath produced a box of matches so that I could demonstrate the manly man approach I have to admit that I had a slight fear of setting myself on fire.






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