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Wednesday 24 June 2020

Édouard Baldus’ héliogravure, “Composition Study for the Adoration of the Magi”, 1867, after Leonardo da Vinci

Édouard Baldus (1813–1889)

“Composition Study for the Adoration of the Magi” (aka “Adoration des Mages”), 1867, héliogravure after Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) ink and silverpoint study for the “Adoration of the Magi” (c.1481) in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris, published in the “Gazette des Beaux Arts”, (vol. 9, 1867, no. 2, pp. 534–35) and printed by Alfred Salmon (fl.1863–1894).

This héliogravure reproduces the true size of Leonardo’s drawing that was once in the collection of the editor of the “Gazette des Beaux Arts”, Émile Galichon. According to “The History of Photography Archive” (, this print is “the only one of Baldus gravures to appear in this journal.” The “Photography Archive” also advises that Édouard Baldus “became a central figure in the early development of French photography and acknowledged in his day as a pioneer in the still-experimental field, was widely acclaimed both for his aesthetic sensitivity and for his technical prowess.” See additional information about this artist offered by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco:

Héliogravure with some areas of burin (e.g. the fine lines on the Madonna’s cheek) and plate tone printed in a warm black ink on laid paper backed with a support sheet. Note that this print was originally folded with a support strip (verso) on the fold crease, but this strip has been removed and the fold flattened.

See this print in its context in the “Gazette des Beaux Arts” offered by

Size: (sheet) 34.1 x 27.3 cm; (soft platemark) 29.2 x 25.1 cm; (image borderline) 23.9 x 24 cm. Note that the foot of an atttendant to the Madonna passes through the image borderline. I understand that this was necessary so that the size of the image conformed to the format requirements of the “Gazette des Beaux Arts.”

Lettered on plate below the image borderline: (left)LÉONARD DE VINCI DEL./ Gaxette des Beaux-Arts.”; (centre) “ADORATION DES MAGES/ Premier pensée du Tableau de Florence./ Coltion. De M. Emile Galichon.”; (right) BALDUS SCULP./ Imp. A. Salmon, Paris.”

The Louvre offers the following very interesting insight about the composition of “Adoration of the Magi”:
(Transl.) “In his representation of Adoration, Leonardo da Vinci chose not to relate one of the episodes in the mythical history of the pilgrimage of the Three Kings, but the upheaval that the birth of the Child brings about. … The movement of the figures pressing around the central point is like a prefiguration of the effect of ‘amplification of gestures’ that will translate, fifteen years later, the emotion spread like a wave among the Apostles of the ‘Last Supper’. Flexion of the hands and plays of glances are already read here and translate, as the tense faces and the impatient hands detached on the dark background which encircles the whole foreground, an anxious fervor”

Condition: strong impression with flattened centre-crease of publication in very good condition (beyond a few pale marks in the margin). The sheet is laid upon a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper.

I am selling this visually engaging héliogravure of Leonardo’s drawn study for his “Adoration of the Magi”, made by one of the pioneers of using experimental processes of photography—note how he has erased (perhaps even “photoshopped” may be an appropriate term?) the foxing marks of the original drawing—for AU$202 (currently US$139.50/EUR123.50/GBP111.62 at the time of posting this print) 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 interesting example of early photogravure with passages of hand gravure, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

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