Sunday, 14 January 2018

A niello manner engraving from the circle of Marcantonio Raimondi, “The Man of Sorrows”, c1475


Unidentified 15th century Florentine engraver from the circle of Marcantonio Raimondi (1480–1534)

“The Man of Sorrows”, c1470–1480, printed before 1826. The original silver and gold plate is held by the British Museum; see: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1404839&partId=1&searchText=1845,0825.12&page=1

Note: Baron Dominique Vivant Denon (1747–1825) (aka Vivant Denon) discusses this plate in his 1826 essay focused on 15th century goldsmiths’ engraved nielli, “Essai sur les nielles, gravures des orfevres florentins du 15.e siecle; par Duchesne aine” (plate 110, p. 174).

Silver and gold plate engraving printed in the niello manner on fine Japanese paper lined with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 6.3 x 6.4 cm; (hexagonal plate) 5.5 x 5.9 cm; (circular image borderline, dia.) 5.6 cm
Inscribed on Jesus Christ’s tomb: “HVMAN I GENE / RIS RE DEMTOR” (HVMANI GENERIS REDEMPTOR).

Hind 1936 26 (Arthur Mayger Hind 1936, “Nielli. Chiefly Italian of the XV Century Plates, Sulphur Casts and Prints Preserved in the British Museum”, London, BMP, p. 30, no. 26); Duchesne, 1826, no. 110
See also the description of this print at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: https://art.famsf.org/anonymous/piet%C3%A0-19633037455

Note: the FAMSF has another print by what would seem to be the same engraver and propose that the style of both prints is in the manner of Marcantonio Raimondi (1480–1534): https://art.famsf.org/anonymous/female-martyr-saint-19633037451

Condition: strong and well-printed impression on fine Japanese paper laid onto a support sheet and re-margined with archival paper. The sheet has restored breaks in the margins.

I am selling this exceptionally rare engraving, for the combined total cost of AU$220 (currently US$174.40/EUR142.88/GBP127.04 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested this engraving executed in the niello manner, please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


This print has been sold


Before I discuss some of the problematic issues associated with niello prints, let me first outline the medieval process of making nielli.

First, a piece of metal—usually silver that has been shaped for functional purposes, such as a plate, candelabra or a similar object—is engraved. Next, an inky black amalgam of metal, sulphur and borax is heated and flooded into the engraved lines and the surplus ink (nigellum) is wiped/polished away leaving the ink only in the lines. Finally the ink is allowed to cool/set in the engraved lines.

The process that I have outlined creates a niello but this is not the same as a niello print. A niello print is created in much the same way as a traditional engraving, in the sense that before the nigellum is allowed to dry, paper is rubbed onto the printing surface to “capture” the sticky amalgam to create a niello print. Of course the difference between this manner of printing and a traditional engraving is that here the printing plate is not rolled through a press.

When examining niello prints such as this one the critical concern is whether the plate, the ink and how the print was made matches the description of the above process. Looking at this impression, for instance, I believe that this impression is far too good to have been taken from a plate without pressure, using the crude medieval ink. Accordingly, even though the impression is taken from an original plate used to make niello prints this particular impression is best described as a “niello manner” engraving.





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