Ludovic Napoléon Lepic (aka; Ludovic Lepic; Vicomte Ludovic Lepic) (1839–1889)
“The Remains of the Noble William of Naillac” (Ce qui Restait du Puissant Guillaume de Naillac), 1869, proof-state impression from the series, “Croquis Hollandais et Autres” (Dutch Sketches and Others), hand-signed in blue pencil by the artist at lower left.
This extraordinary etching shows the remains of the crusader knight, Lord Guillaume de Naillac (1238–1266). From what I understand, the tomb of this knight was opened in Lepic’s presence and this etching is based on his viewing of the remains. No doubt the image is redolent with the notion of vanitas (i.e. the transience of life and the futility of fame and honours) as suggested by the many blurred honorific titles of the knight inscribed beneath his remains in the print. Interestingly, the fame of this man changed over time as a sculpture made in his honour had the reputation of assisting young maidens with their fertility if they scratched the sculpture’s genitals. Indeed, there is even an horrific tale that one demure maiden was grabbed by the hand by the sculpture when it came to life and gruffly told her to scratch harder. (Yikes!) Sadly, this belief led to significant wear in the genital area of the sculpture and a caring priest proposed that scratching the sculpture’s chin would be more effective—until it too was worn away. Even the tomb of Lord Guillaume de Naillac was not immune to passionate maidens scratching the stone edifice with knives. Their aim was to gather the stone powder that would later be mixed with a glass of white wine to assist with fertility.
Etching with plate tone on chine volant, proof impression hand-signed in blue pencil.
Note that the variation in the ways that Lepic inked and wiped his plate became a hallmark technique of this artist which he termed “l’eau-forte mobile” (variable etching). The variations allowed for unique proofs such as this darkly glowing example.
Regarding Lepic’s explorations that cemented his fame, Michel Melot (1966) in “The Impressionist Print” proposes that Lepic would “have been forgotten as a printmaker had he not published in 1876 a curious album of prints … ‘L’eau-forte mobile’ (‘The Mobile Etching’)” (p. 123). The ingredient that aroused public interest in Lepic was his willingness to push the boundaries of the medium. For example, Lepic inked one of his etched plates in eighty-five different ways to create eighty-five very different images taken from the same original plate. In Lepic’s own words (translated from French):
“I organised tools of my own, used neat acid, slammed on varnish, sand clay—anything to achieve the right black. … I shall make prints like a painter, not like a printmaker.” (Melot p.123)
Size: (sheet) 30.5 x 22.3 cm; (plate) 23.8 x 15.8 cm.
Inscribed on plate: (lower centre in four lines of honorific titles once distinguishing the deceased crusader) “Ce …/ …/ … De son tom Bleau” (Prince de Soyons; Chevalier d’Ordre du Roi; Grand Maître de l’Artillerie …); (lower left corner) “Lepic”.
Hand-signed in blue pencil below the platemark at lower left: “Lepic”.
This print is described (without image) at C & J Goodfriend Gallery:
Condition: richly-inked impression with significant plate tone and a few ink marks left during the printing of the plate on the left margin appropriate to a proof-state. There are scattered light dots of foxing to the margins.
I am selling this exceptionally rare hand-signed, proof-state etching by the intimate friend of Degas and an important experimental printmaker famous for his technique, “L’eau-forte mobile” (the mobile/variable etching), for AU$426 (currently US$275.16/EUR254.55/GBP225.30 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).
If you are interested in purchasing this fine example of an artist’s selective wiping of the printing plate to create an intensely bright highlight on the brow of the portrayed skull of the crusader knight, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.
This print has been sold
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