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Friday 9 December 2016

Jonas Umbach’s etching, “David Kneeling” c.1650/60

Jonas Umbach (1624–93)
“David Kneeling”, c.1650/60
Etching on fine laid paper trimmed to the platemark, old mounted on laid paper, blind stamped by an unknown early collector (Lugt 2690) and lined on a conservator’s sheet.
Size: (with old mount) 27.7 x 20.6 cm; (sheet) 13.9 x 11.4 cm
Inscribed at the lower right corner: “Jonas Vmbach f.[ecit]”
Lifetime impression of the only state
Haas 10; Nagler 10 (Georg Kaspar Nagler,1835 “Neues allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon”, 22 vols, Munich [see vol.19, 1849]); Pelicer-Acezat B8

Condition: lined on a conservator's support sheet and in near faultless condition (for the age of the print).

I am selling this rare original etching by Jonas Umbach for AU$224 (currently US$167.39/EUR167.55/GBP132.79 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this remarkable 17th century print—a lifetime impression—from an artist famed for his small etchings and for his skill in biting his printing plates only once in acid, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Sadly, Jonas Umbach's prints have managed to escape serious study by academics. Unlike most of the other major printmakers of the 17th century who have monographs written about them and their works have been itemised in catalogue raisonnés by Bartsch and Hollstein, Umbach's contribution to printmaking has not had close academic attention.

Rather than passively lament this shortfall, I thought that I would apply the usual advice given to would-be beginning artists wishing to be famous to see why this curious anomaly might have occurred.

The first piece of advice that is commonly given to novice artists is that they should be consistent in creating images. And, importantly, to be consistent in creating images that exhibit a personal style and vision (i.e. their unique way of looking at/perceiving a subject).

With regard to Umbach, he exemplifies what should have been a successful artist who achieved this first goal. He was a very industrious printmaker creating around 250 plates and another 350 designs for prints (see Stijn Alsteens & Freyda Spira, 2012 “Durer and Beyond” Met. Museum of Art [cat.], p. 216). Moreover, his prints are consistent in their small size and they are also consistent in exhibiting only one strength of line. In fact, Umbach was remarkable in his stylistic approach of using a single strength of line as most printmakers in the 17th century used varying line strengths. To achieve this single strength, Umbach bit his printing plates only once in acid. This technique was rare as most printmakers bit their plates with acid multiple times to achieve variation in line quality (i.e a variation from strong, dark and emphatic lines to fine, light and subtle lines). In short, a print by Umbach is easy to identify.

The second piece of advice for budding artists seeking fame is to be visible in the public eye.

Regarding Umbach’s public visibility, he was well-known and highly respected—arguably, a “pillar of society.” There is little question about this as Umbach was an official painter at the court of the Bishop of Augsburg.

The third piece of advice should have been the simplest to achieve, given his success with the previous two guidelines, but this is where Umbach failed to secure his position in history: an artist is famous when his achievements are verified by arts writers. Clearly, Umbach had the chance to be celebrated by distinguished writers but chose to take a quieter path. If this is true, then I admire this man greatly as passionate artist, but not one seeking fame.

Blindstamp of an unidentified collector (Lugt 2690)

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