Friday, 4 May 2018

Eugène Bourgeois’ etching, “Ora Prima di Notte”, 1803


Eugène Bourgeois (aka Benjamin Eugène Bourgeois) (1791–1818) executed the preliminary work on the print and it and finished by Nicolas(?) Thomas (aka N Tomas) (1750?–1812?) as inscribed on the plate.

“Ora Prima di Notte” (transl. “Now before Night”), 1803, after details featured in  Raphael’s (aka Raphael Sanzio d’Urbino) (1483–1520) fresco ceiling of the Sala Borgia in the Vatican Palace, from the series of 12 plates, “Hours”, printed by Damour (fl.1784–1806), published in Paris.

Note: Michelangelo Maestri (1779–1812) executed gouaches based on the designs of the etchings in this series (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelangelo_Maestri). Some dealers propose that Maestri executed the etchings in this series, but the inscribed publication details on this plate confirms that Bourgeois and Thomas executed this print.

Etching and engraving on wove paper trimmed close to (or along) the platemark and backed with a support sheet.
Lettered on plate below the image borderline: (left) “Rafael Sanzio d'Urb. Inv.'; (centre) “Gravé par Bourgois, ancien Pensionnaire de la Ville d'Amiens. / Ora Prima di Notte." / (trimmed off text: Imprimé par Damour.”): (right) “Terminé par N. Tomas.”
Size: (unevenly trimmed sheet) 42.7 x 28.6 cm; (image borderline) 38.9 x 28.2 cm

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“First hour of the night: draped female figure, on dark ground, holding an owl and poppies; above her, a sphere bearing the symbol of Mars; below, a scene representing a squirrel and snake facing each other, an urn, and a lizard; after Raphael.”

George Glazer Gallery offers marvellous information about the series and the artists involved in which this print features (note that the Gallery advises that there are 10 prints in the series whereas the BM lists 12 prints): https://www.georgeglazer.com/wpmain/product/raphaels-hours-of-day-and-night-10-engravings-of-frescoes/

Condition: crisp, well-printed and evenly printed impression with a few repaired small chips to the edges of the sheet, otherwise the sheet is in very good condition (i.e. there are no significant tears, holes, folds, abrasions, stains or foxing), trimmed slightly unevenly close to the image borderline and backed with a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this exquisitely executed and very beautiful large etching for AU$196 (currently US$147.47123.18/EUR123.18/GBP108.78 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. (Note that this is a large print and will be posted rolled in a tube.)

If you are interested in purchasing this very poetic etching, 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


Although the portrayed subject of this etching is based on Raphael’s design, I have no doubt that print was executed to satisfy the interest of folk on their “Grand Tour” who wished to acquire images of an antique past even earlier than the Renaissance period of Raphael. After all, this was the time when the world was awakened to what lay under the ground with the excavations that were going on in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Beyond capturing the spirit of the classical past, the image is also an allegory of night with the central figure symbolising the spirit of evening darkness holding an owl. From what I recall about the symbolism of owls, they are not just symbolic of wisdom—a symbolic attribute dating back to the representation of the Greek goddess Athena—but, as a nocturnal bird, it was also the bird of ill omen.

Regarding the male symbol glowing like the moon above the figure, in this context, the male symbol is a reference to the God of War, Mars, that glows faintly as a planet in the night sky.







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