Monday, 9 April 2018

Bernard Picart’s etching after a drawing by Nicolas Poussin

Bernard Picart (1673–1733)

“Plate 44”, 1730, after a drawing attributed to Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665) in the collection of the artist, Bernard Picart (as inscribed on the plate), from the series “Impostures Innocentes”

Etching with plate tone in brown ink on wove paper with wide margins.
Size: (sheet) 27.8 x 42.9 cm; (plate) 15.5 x 35.2 cm.
Inscribed on the plate: (upper-right corner) “44”; (lower left) “'Gravé par B. Picart, d'aprés un dessein atribué au Poussin du Cabinet de B. Picart.”

Dimier 1928 not described (Louis Dimier 1928, “Les peintres français du XVIIIe siècle, histoire des vies et catalogue des oeuvres”, 2 vols., Paris & Brussels)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“Plate 44: a nude male figure, seated, and looking to right, where stands a female figure with a twirling drapery; two other male figures flanking her; at far left a winged putto, and a small sketch of a seated figure; after a drawing attributed to Poussin. c.1724/33” (

Condition: crisp, well-inked impression with generous margins in pristine condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing).

I am selling this sensitive translation of the light and free touch of Poussin’s drawing into an etching for AU$142 in total (currently US$108.74/EUR88.62/GBP77.13 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this superb etching executed by one of the world’s master printmakers showcasing the subtle nuance of Poussin’s approach to drawing, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Although not everyone may agree with my next comment, this print captures the essence that I see in Poussin’s drawings: a gestalt view of the portrayed narrative where—if one were to slightly close one’s eyes—no feature is more important than the next.

On close examination of the etching I can see Picart’s attempt to reproduce with very contrived thickening and thinning what must have been very spontaneous zigzag strokes laid in Poussin’s drawing. Note in particular the zigzag line—what artists call a “return stroke” made famous by Antonio del Pollaiuolo (1431–1498) in his only engraving, “Battle of the Nudes”, c1470 —describing the shadow of the billowing cloak to the left of the standing figure on the right side of the composition. Such a line with thickening and thinning does not just “happen” without conscious manipulation of the etching needle and in this case I can see that Picart has thickened the downstroke of the zigzag with an extra line. What is interesting for me is that Picart has clearly not used the échoppe etching tool developed by Jacques Callot (c1592–1635) to create a seamless changes to the thickness of an etched line. This surprises me as I have no doubt the Picart would have been familiar with this useful tool.

If I may draw attention to another very small example of the return stroke that is especially interesting: note that the interrupted/broken return strokes—what artists call “hook strokes” first used in the prints of Francesco Rosselli (1445–1513)—lightly toning the arm of the reclining figure to the left of the same standing figure. These “z”-like strokes are created when an artist works very quickly. Of course, in the case of this etching, Picart has consciously crafted the “look” of speed that he observed in Poussin’s drawing.

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