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Tuesday 8 November 2022

Jean Jacques de Boissieu’s etching with drypoint and roulette, “Les Pères du Désert”, 1797

Jean Jacques de Boissieu (aka Jean Jacques de Boissieux) (1736–1810)

“Les Pères du Désert” (The Desert Fathers), 1797, featuring the central figure modelled on Francisco de Zurbarán’s (1598–1664) painting, “St Francis” (1659), that de Boissieu owned at the time and later sold to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (see Lifetime impression of the 4th state of 6 states.

Etching with drypoint and dot roulette on heavy wove paper backed with a support sheet.

Size: (support sheet) 59.5 x 42.6 cm; (sheet) 53.2 x 37 cm; (plate) 49.9 x 34.7 cm; (image borderline) 43.9 x 31.1 cm.

Inscribed in plate below the image borderline: (left [ligature initials]) “DB. 1797”; (centre) “Les pères du Desert”.

State iv (of vi) with the completion of the scratched title but before the addition of roulette work on the lit part of the brushwood and the shoulder of the reading monk.

Perez 103 iv (Marie-Féliche Perez 1994, “L'Oeuvre gravé de Jean-Jacques de Boissieu”, Geneva, Éditions du Tricorne, p. 228, cat. no. 103); IFF 103 (Département des Estampes 1930, “Inventaire du Fonds, Français: graveurs du XVIIe siècle”, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale).

See also the description of the 1823 restrike impression of this print held by the British Museum:

Perez (1994) offers the following description of this print: (transl.) “In front of a dark grotto, formed by a rock lined with climbing plants, one notices, at the left corner, two trees, one of which, although splintered, is still adorned with branches which rise to the top of the print; the other is lost in the lateral square line, and we see only the healthy and vigorous trunk. On the right, a monk seated on some advancement of rock, at the entrance to the cave, is immersed in reading. His head is bare and the curls of his hair fall over his shoulders. His beard is long, his head rests on his right hand; a book is open on his knees: in front of him, a jug is placed on the ground, in the middle of the grass and brushwood in the foreground.  Finally, on the front, and emerging in light against the entrance of the cave, stands, motionless, a monk in ecstasy. He wears the dress of a Cordelier: a knotted rope serves as a belt; a hood hides the forehead and hair; his eyes are raised to the sky; his mouth is ajar; his hands are gathered on his chest, in the sleeves of his dress.

Everything in pose and expression indicates recollection. A bright light, coming from the right, illuminates the upper body of the monk in ecstasy, brings out this ascetic figure and contrasts with the shadows of the cave and this wild site” (p. 228).

Condition: a richly inked and well-printed early impression before the usual wear seen in later impressions. There are marks, flattened folds and tears in the margin and the sheet is laid upon a sheet of millennium quality washi paper providing wide margins.

I am selling this very strong (even magnificent!) impression of what I see as an intriguingly interesting etching, for AU$289 (currently US$186.77/EUR187.05/GBP162.95 at the time of posting 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 large and superb etching worthy of close study, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

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