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Saturday 12 August 2017

Balthasar Moncornet’s engraving, “Lucas van Leyden at the Age of 39”, c1640

Balthasar Moncornet (1600–68)

“Lucas van Leyden at the Age of 39”, c1640, after a self-portrait by van Leyden (1494–1533), published by Balthasar Moncornet as inscribed on the plate.

Engraving on laid paper with minute ink notations by an old hand in the two lower corners.
Size: (sheet) 18.1 x 13.9 cm; (plate) 15.7 x 11.5 cm
Inscribed with three lines of descriptive Latin text about van Leyden followed by publication details and privilege (copyright) details: “B. Moncornet excudit, Avec privilege du Roy.”
Van Someren 3353

Condition: richly inked and crisp impression with margins. The sheet is in very good condition (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions or significant stains) with minor age-toning and a few spots of light foxing.

I am selling this fascinating and well-executed early engraving of the great German printmaker’s self-portrait for [deleted] at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this splendid example of the engraver’s art from the mid 17th century, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

When artists draw themselves in a mirror a curious phenomenon occurs: their pupils dilate (i.e. the black dot in the centre of the eye becomes bigger than usual). This phenomenon tends not to occur when artists take a “selfie” photograph. Consequently, drawn or painted self-portraits evolved from artists studying themselves in mirrors will always be different to those executed from photographs.

What I love about this engraving is not only that van Leyden’s pupils are clearly dilated, but there is another attribute that only great masters know about: the principle of ensuring that the two eyes are different. Or to express this in a different way: great artists know that one eye must be dominant over the other and that poor portraits allow both eyes to compete for our attention. One interesting principle that illustrators sometimes employ is to use a squared reflection in the dominant eye and a round reflection in the other. In this portrait, the reflections are different even though the technique employed is more about changing the size and tone of the strong and weaker eyes. As a result, van Leyden’s “intuitive” eye (on our left) looks kindly towards us while his “analytical” eye (on our right) studies us with sharp pragmatic intelligence. 

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