Wednesday, 4 April 2018

(attributed) Jan van Somer’s mezzotint, “Cupid Fighting with a Satyr”, c1680

(Attributed to) Jan van Somer (c1645–1699)

(Note that the attribution to this artist may be incorrect as the proposal is based on the stylistic attributes of the print; see for an example of Van Somer’s mezzotint, “Two satyrs at a sleeping nymph”, held by the Rijksmuseum:

“Cupid fighting with a Satyr” (descriptive title only), c1680, mezzotint trimmed along the platemark.
Mezzotint on fine laid paper trimmed at the image borderline/platemark and remargined with a support sheet.
Size: (remargined support sheet) 27.9 x 26.1 cm; (sheet) 10.3 x 10.6 cm

Condition: crisp, well-inked and well-printed impression in excellent condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, abrasions, stains or foxing, but note that the curved corner of the printed plate is visible at the upper-left edge) trimmed to the image borderline and remargined with an archival support sheet of millennium quality washi paper.

I am selling this darkly glowing and very poetic early mezzotint of an allegorical tiff between Cupid and a satyr for AU$128 in total (currently US$98.25/EUR79.92/GBP69.82 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this marvellous example of early mezzotint where the rocker marks are clearly visible and where there is virtually no wear to the plate, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Proposing an artist whose stylistic attributes match the treatment of what is otherwise a print by an unidentified printmaker is not always an easy mission. Certainly, this mezzotint is by a master printmaker. This point is not hard to justify as there is great subtlety shown in the way that tonal transitions from light to dark in each subject are portrayed, and, importantly in variations in the tonal transitions from one subject to the next according to how close each subject is to the light source—see my discussion about the “inverse square law”:

Regarding the attribution of this luminous print to Jan van Somer, the stylistic attributes that I see (e.g. the treatment of background foliage, the degree of focal resolution/detail and the manner of modelling of the figures) can also be found in other mezzotint printmakers of the same period (e.g. Robert Robinson [see] and John Smith [see:]). The critical issue, however, is that the combination of these attributes and the specifics of how they are applied must match the style of this print to determine the hand of the likely artist.

For instance, note the fine line of reflected light in the shadow side of both Cupid and the satyr that matches a similar light touch of modelling shown in the work of the Van Somer (e.g. If I were to compare the application of reflected light in Robert Robinson’s mezzotints or the treatment of background foliage in John Smith’s prints the difference is remarkable.

(Note: I have little doubt that there will be collector who knows the artist who crafted this beautiful little print and I will be extremely thankful for any assistance with information.)

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