Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Richard Earlom’s mozzotint (with stipple and etching), “A Fruit Piece” (after Jan van Huysum), 1781



Richard Earlom (aka Henry Birche) (1743–1822)

“A Fruit Piece”, 1781, after the painting executed in 1723 and now in the Hermitage, St Petersburg by Jan van Huysum (1682­–1749), after the intermediary drawing by Joseph Farington (1747–1821), from the series, “Houghton Gallery” (after paintings in Robert Walpole's collection, sold in 1779 to Catherine the Great), published by John Boydell (1719–1804). (Note that the “Houghton Gallery” is a two-volume collection of 160 prints involving 45 engravers in the project; see BM no. 2005,U.109)

Mezzotint with stipple and etching on laid paper with small margins lined with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 56.3 x 43.2 cm; (plate) 55.4 x 41.7 cm; (image borderline) 50.3 x 39.1 cm
Inscribed within the image borderline: (lower left) "Jan Van Huysum / fecit 1723"
Scratch inscribed (before publication lettering) on plate below the image borderline: (left) “Van Huysum pinx”; (centre) “Jon Boydel excudit 1782 / Published Sepr 1st. 1781 by John Boydell engraver in Cheapside London."; (right) Richd Earlom Sculp / 1781”
State ii (of iii?) (See a first state impression held by the British Museum: no. 1842,0806.206; a second state impression: BM no.1868,0822.2013; a third state impression: BM no. 1838,0420.206).

Wessely 1886 145 (J E Wessely 1886, “Richard Earlom, Verzeichniss seiner Radirungen und Schabkunstblätter”, Hamburg); Rubinstein 1991 60 (Gregory M Rubinstein 1991, “Richard Earlom (1743-1822) and Boydell's Houghton Gallery”, Print Quarterly, Vol VIII, London, pp.2–27); Hollstein 7 (after Huysum) (F W H Hollstein 1949, “Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts c.1450-1700”, Amsterdam); Chaloner Smith 1883 undescribed (John Chaloner Smith 1883, “British Mezzotinto portraits from the introduction of the art to the early part of the present century”, 4 vols, London)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“A rich bouquet of flowers in a vase with classical reliefs; before it lie grapes, peaches, nuts and other fruits, all placed on a marble ledge; coat of arms at bottom; scratched letter proof before title; after Jan van Huysum.”

Condition: a richly inked and well-printed impression with small margins in good condition (i.e. there are small restored tears and nicks to the edges and there are minor/visually unobtrusive abrasions, but there are no holes, folds, significant stains or foxing). The sheet is restored and laid upon a support sheet.

I am selling this large mezzotints which is one of Earlom's masterworks in an extremely rare scratch-lettered (proof) impression (i.e. an impression made before publication) for a total cost of AU$586 (currently US$459.93/EUR384.41/GBP339.19 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested this famous and important 18th century mezzotint, 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


This is one of the most celebrated flowerpiece mezzotints of the 18th century because of its stunning display of technical virtuosity. In short, it is masterwork of mezzotint.

The curator of the British Museum offers the following information about this print:
“Earlom made this as a pair to his 'A Fruit Piece', also after van Huysum and published in 1781 in the Houghton Gallery (Wessely 145, Rubinstein 60). The pair quickly became celebrated, and Duchesne in his account of the prints on display in the Royal Library in Paris in 1823 remarked that Earlom had to re-engrave the plates to meet the demand, but that the second version was not as good as the first.” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1616438&partId=1&searchText=Earlom+flower&page=1)

This impression is not only from the desirable early edition it is also a proof before the published edition as is shown by the scratched lettering before the print was titled.

What is interesting about the subject is that it is rich in symbolism. Note for instance the many insects crawling amongst the greenery, the broken fruit and cracked-open nuts which all contribute to the vanitas theme of the impermanence of life. Like most of the famous flowerpieces, there is also allusions to the past. Here, the vase with its classical decoration is a reference to antiquity. Note also the droplets of water on the leaves and the misty background. These details when seen in context with the stone slab, fruit and fragrant flowers allude to the senses and, arguably, the four elements.







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