Saturday 29 October 2016
Valentin Lefebre’s etching, "St Jerome in the Wilderness, after Titian”, 1682
Valentin Lefebre (aka Valentin Le Fevre; Valentin Le Febre; Valentin Lefebure; Valentin Lefèvre) (1637–77)
"St Jerome in the Wilderness, after Titian”, 1682, published by Jacobus van Campen, from the series “Opera selectiora quae Titianus Vecellius Cadubriensis et Paulus Calliari Veronensis inventarunt ac pinxerun” of 53 prints.
Etching on laid paper lined onto a support sheet
Size: (support sheet) 46.4 x 33.5 cm; (sheet trimmed on, or within, the platemark) 45.9 x 32.9 cm
Lettered in lower margin: (lower-left) "V. lefebre del. et sculp."; (lower-centre) "TITIANVS VECELLIVS CAD INVENT. & PINXIT"; (lower-right) "J. Van Campen Formis Venetÿs."
According to the British Museum: “This is a copy in reverse after the painting by Titian, formerly in the Church of Santa Maria Nuova in Venice, but transferred to Milan to the Accademia di Brera.” (http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=3087559&partId=1&searchText=lefebre&page=1)
Hollstein 1-53; Ruggeri 2001 I.15
Condition: Strong impression but in poor condition. The print has been trimmed on, or within, the plate marks and has been glued to a support sheet. There are many significant stains and the upper corners have losses that have been restored.
I am selling this large and exceptionally rare print for a total cost of AU$280 (currently US$195/EUR172.38/GBP154.63 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world. If you are interested in purchasing this large and exceptionally rare etching please send me an email and I will email you a PayPal invoice.
This is a powerful print.
For me, there are two elements contributing to making this image strong and memorable ... but, of course, I may be off target and there may be other more important reasons that I'm not seeing at the moment.
The first element is symbolism and the layering of meanings expressed. For instance, my eyes are riveted on the skull (the famous vanitas symbol of our mortality) perched up on the rocks. This relatively common symbol in early prints may not in itself make the image memorable, but in this print the expressed meaning is memorable—perhaps even haunting, as suggested by a fellow Instagramer—because the skull is “watching” the saint.
The second element has to do with the dynamics of the composition. For instance, my eyes are drawn to the contrast of direction between the angle of the saint's diagonal stretching movement and the angle of the tree limb matched by a myriad of other parallel angles throughout the composition countering his movement.
Leaving aside the reasons for the visual strength of this large and beautiful print, what I find fascinating to contemplate is the play of light and shadow that keeps me engaged in looking at the image. Titian was famous for using a counterpoint of lights and darks to make his images sparkle (not forgetting that Lefebre was copying a painting by Titian for the design of this etching). In fact, I remember reading an article by Charles Ricketts (1908) in the Burlington Magazine (Vol. 13, No. 61, p. 10) where Ricketts coined a term for Titian’s checker-board pattern of lights and darks: “Titian's formula.”
Regarding the background to the print, Lefebre is famous for his series of etchings, “Opera Selectiora”, after Titian and Veronese. Sadly, Lefebre never completed his envisaged series as he died at the young age of only 40. Nevertheless, after his death his prints were published in 1680 by Jacques van Campen, but, The British Museum states the rather surprising fact that “the 1680 edition does not seem to exist.” The BM also notes that the series “was reprinted in 1684, and in the XVIIIc in 1749, 1763; later by Teodoro Viero who added his address to the plates (editions in 1786 and 1789).” This print is a graphic translation in line of Titian’s painting, “St Jerome.” When Lefebre drew the painting as a copy for this etching he didn't make allowance that when the plate was printed the image would be in reverse of Titian’s painting.