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Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Conrad Martin Metz's etching and aquatint, “The Adoration of the Shepherds”, 1789, after Parmigianino


Conrad Martin Metz (1749–1827)

“The Adoration of the Shepherds”, 1789, after a drawing by Parmigianino (aka Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola; Francesco Mazzola) (1503–1540), published in London in 1789 by Conrad Martin Metz in “Imitations of ancient and modern drawings, from the restoration of the arts in Italy to the present time: together with a chronological account of the artists, and strictures on their works, in English and French”, with 71 plates in the 1789 edition. This impression is from the later edition of 1798 published by Thomas Philipe (1740–1816) that archive.org advises had “as many as 115 plates” (see the later edition featuring this print on page 229 at archive.org [https://archive.org/details/gri_33125010706691/page/n227]; see also a detailed description of this publication offered by the British Museum: [https://research.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3651502&page=1&partId=1&peoA=119446-1-7&people=119446]).

Etching and aquatint printed in brown ink on fine cream wove paper trimmed with a small margin around the image borderline and backed with a support sheet.
Size: (sheet) 23.1 x 15.9 cm; (outer image borderline) 22.4 x 15.3 cm.
Inscribed on plate at lower left corner: “CM Sc”.

Condition: well-printed (near faultless) impression, trimmed with a small (approx. 4mm) margin around the image borderline, laid onto a support of archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this very beautiful etching with aquatint, reproducing in a very considered and clean way the subtle pen and bistre drawing (1524–27) of the same composition (but in reverse) by Parmigianino, held by The Metropolitan Museum of Art (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/340437), for a total cost of AU$243 (currently US$167.73/EUR150.47/GBP129.29 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this marvellous gem of reproductive printmaking from the late 1700s, that is discussed in depth in a comparison with the newly discovered (in 1948) drawing by Parmigianino in Louise Burroughs’ (1948) essay, “A Drawing by Francesco Mazzola, II Parmigianino” (featured in “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin”, 1948, New Series, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 101–107: https://www.jstor.org/stable/3257346?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A214229bc2334534c3dbf200a8d8a0bbe&seq=7#page_scan_tab_contents), please contact me (oz_jim@printsandprinciples.com) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.


For those who may not have the time to read Louise Burroughs’ (1948) assessment of Martin Metz’s print in her essay (op. cit.) the following extract may be fascinating to contemplate regarding the accuracy of Metz’s interpretative translation of Parmigianino’s pen and bistre wash drawing into an etching:

“The extraordinary loss of character in the lines and of depth and harmony in the composition suffered at the hands of the engraver makes the comparison of drawing and print an absorbing study and serves to emphasize Parmigianino's brilliant style. Every figure offers some illuminating comment, none more so than the child, whose graceful movement as he emerges from the bath into his mother's arms is completely lost in the engraving. Particularly to be noticed in the drawing are the curving lines, constantly varied in strength, the parallel strokes in the shadows terminating in an accent where the contour of a muscle is indicated. From these fluid lines and strategically placed accents springs the sense of life and movement so characteristic of Francesco's drawings” (p. 101).

For a very different point of view, I wish to draw attention to what Metz believed that he had achieved with this and his other prints reproducing old master drawings (as offered in his foreword to the 1798 edition in which this print features):

“A collection of well-attested [d]rawings, carefully traced and correctly imitated ... is a process simple, and in a great degree mechanical, I may, without vanity, claim the merit of exactness” (p. 1).

Regarding Metz’s vision of Parmigianino’s drawings, the following insightful assessment is revealing:

“For grace in his [Parmigianino’s] females, and loveliness in his children, he is almost unrivalled. But these graces seem too indiscriminately bestowed on all his figures; they seem too much, as it were, cast in the same mould” (p. 10).











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