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Friday 5 May 2017

GB Castiglione’s etching, “Laban searching for idols among Jacob's possessions”, c.1635–40

Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (aka Il Grechetto) (1609–64)
“Laban searching for idols among Jacob's possessions”, c.1635–40, from the 1740 edition by Jacob Frey (1681–1752)

Etching on buff coloured laid paper trimmed along the image borderline.
Size: (sheet) 24.6 x 32.9 cm
State iv (of iv) with the addition of the publisher details
Inscribed within the image borderline at lower left: "Gio Benedetto Castiglione Genovese"
Lettered below the image borderline at lower right: “Rome apud I. Frey 1740”

TIB 46 (21).4 (11) (Walter L Strauss & Paolo Bellini [Eds.] 1982, “The Illustrated Bartsch”, vol. 46, p. 18); TIB Comment.4602.004 S2; Bartsch XXI.11.4 (Adam von Bartsch “Le Peintre graveur”. Vienna, 1803); Bellini 1982 2.IV (Paolo Bellini “L'opera incisa di Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione” Exh. cat., Castello Sforzesco, Civiche Raccolte Achille Bertarelli, Milano. Civica raccolta delle stampe A. Bertarelli, Milan, 1982)

See the description of this print at The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Condition: excellent impression of this rare print. The sheet is in superb condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions stains, or foxing) but the sheet has been trimmed to the image borderline with the publication details lettered outside the border retained. There are remnants of mounting verso.

I am selling this exceptionally rare print by the inventor of the monoprint process for the total cost of AU$835 (currently US$618.49/EUR563.12/GBP477.87 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.
If you are interested in purchasing this important early print by one of the most famous of the old master printmakers, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

For those unfamiliar with the story of Laban and Jacob in the book of Genesis (Old Testament), the following extract from the Art Institute of Chicago may be helpful:

“After fleeing Laban’s house in the middle of the night, Jacob and his wives, Rachel and Leah [Laban’s daughters], are overtaken by Laban, who searches for the household idols stolen by Rachel in an attempt to protect Jacob from another twenty years of labor under her father’s rule.” (

As a continuation of the story, Rachel had hidden the idols in her camel’s saddlebag and tells her father (Laban) that she is unable to dismount from the camel because “the way of women is upon me” (i.e. Rachel was pretending to be suffering from the discomfort of her menstruation period) (Genesis 31.35). Wicked! … or as Edwin Astin in “Wicked Bible” (2001) points out, “So often in these stories cunning and deception are praised more than honest dealings!” (p. 51).

Leaving aside the story illustrated in this print, what I love about this image is the ease with which it is drawn. When I look at the figure with the hairy chest, for instance, I can picture even the great Picasso admiring Castiglione’s confidence in making every line count. This doesn’t mean that each stroke is laid with anatomical precision or that the marks are calligraphically beautiful. Instead, each line captures the spirit of the artist’s vision and expresses meaning without undue refinements. In short, this is the drawing of a master who works with an unambiguous flow of knowing what is to be expressed and feeling it in every stroke.

Like all artists, however, this print exemplifies the artist’s interests and compositional tendencies. For example, the Art Institute of Chicago in its description of this print (mentioned earlier) offers the following insights:

“The image demonstrates Castiglione’s preference for patriarchal themes and his tendency to place animals in the foreground of his compositions: two sheep rest in the left-hand corner.” 

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