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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Benigno Bossi’s etching with dot-roulette, “Profile portrait of a man facing right”, 1773

Benigno Bossi (1727–92)
“Profile portrait of a man facing right” (descriptive title), 1773 (dated in the plate), plate 28 from the series of 49 plates (including the frontispiece and antiporta), “Raccolta di teste inventate, disegnate e incise da B. Bossi” (Transl. “Collection of heads created, drawn, and engraved by Benigno Bossi”), published by Gioachino Bettalli and C Cont.a of Capello (as noted on the frontispiece).

Note that the preliminary drawing for this print is held in the Museo Glauco Lombardi, Parma. Note also that some of the later prints in this series were after designs by Ennemond Alexandre Petitot (1727–1801) whereas this print is designed and inscribed solely by Bossi’s hand.

Etching with dot-roulette in the crayon manner printed in sanguine coloured ink on laid paper
Size: (sheet) 19.5 x 15.8 cm; (plate) 12.7 x 10.2 cm; (image borderline) 11.8 x 9.3 cm
Inscribed: (upper right) “28”; (lower left) “Benigno Bossi In. f. Parma 1773”

LeBlanc 64-103; Museo Glauco Lombardi, Parma, Inv. No. 7232 (etching); F Sandrini, ‎LF Schianchi and ‎P Sivieri 2003, “Museo Glauco Lombardi: Maria Luigia e Napoleone”, p. 117 (lo splendido Ritratto virile a sanguigna); see also “The Mark J. Millard Architectural Collection: Italian and Spanish books, fifteenth through nineteenth centuries”, National Gallery of Art, 2000, p.77f.

Condition: richly inked, crisp and well-printed impression with generous margins (varying but approximately 3 cm) and in marvellous condition with only a few faint marks.

I am selling remarkably sensitive portrait, for the total cost of AU$159 (currently US$135.77/EUR113.27/GBP100.72 at the time of posting this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this small masterpiece executed in 1773, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

Bossi’s “Raccolta di teste” series of 49 plates, of which this is plate 27, is almost a retrospective of the artist’s stylistic evolution from the earliest prints of the series executed in 1755 to the last ones printed in 1789. What makes this particular print most interesting is that it was created midway through his career. From my reading of his style at this juncture in his development, I wish to propose that he has retained many of the stylistic formulas of his artistic mentor, Dietricy (aka Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich) (1712–74). For instance, note the technique of using squiggles in the background to create a tonal gradation towards the face and the use of return strokes used in the lower left foreground to create a vignette. Looking beyond these traces of his mentor’s influence, what I see in this etching is an artist who is skilled at making subtle adjustments—for example, the tiny shifts in orientation of the hatched parallel lines in the background—to create an extremely refined portrait.

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