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Thursday 24 May 2018

Francesco Bartolozzi’s stipple engraving, “The Spirit of a Child”, 1787

Francesco Bartolozzi (1728–1815)

“The Spirit of a Child”, 1787, after the painting by Rev. Matthew William Peters (1741/2–1814), published in 1801 by J & J Boydell.

Etching and stipple engraving with early hand-colouring (as published?) on laid paper with small margins backed with a support sheet.
Size: (support sheet) 64.4 x 44.7 cm; (sheet) 58.4 x 41.1 cm; (plate) 57 x 39.5 cm; (inner image borderline) 50.1 x 37.5 cm.

Lettered below the image borderline: (left) “Painted by the Rev. Wm, Peters of Exeter College Oxford & R.A; (centre); (centre in six lines of text with a coat of arms breaking the first four lines at the centre) “The SPIRIT of a CHILD arriv'd […] in the PRESENCE of the ALMIGHTY. / And the Lamb which is in the midst of the Throne […] shall feed them and shall lead them unto / living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away […] all Tears from their Eyes. / To Her Grace Mary Isabella Dutchess of Rutland […] […]c. […]c. This Print from a Picture by Mr Peters / is humbly Inscrib’d by Her Graces most humble and most Oblig’d Servants. F. & F Boydell. / London. Pub. July 1, 1801, by J. & J. Boydell, at the Shakspeare [sic] Gallery, Pall Mall; & No. 90. Cheapside.”; (left) “Engraved by F. Bartolozzi".

I do not have a listing of the various states of this print, but as the fifth state is the edition published by W Dickinson in 1787 showing this publisher’s details and the publication details were changed with the edition by Boydell in 1801, this impression is either from the six or a later state.

Calabi & De Vesme 1928 342 (Augusto Calabi & Alexandre De Vesme 1928, “Francesco Bartolozzi. Catalogue des estampes et notice biographique d'après les manuscrits de A. De Vesme entièrement réformés et complétés d'une étude critique par A. Calab”i, Milan, Guido Modiano).
The British Museum offers the following description of this print from the fifth state published by William Dickinson [1746–1823]):
“An angel, clothed in swirling draperies with a palm in its right hand, ascends upwards with a child at its side. 1787 Hand-coloured etching and stipple”

Condition: a well-printed crisp impression with delicate hand-colouring and small margins laid upon a support sheet of archival (millennium quality) washi paper. There are many closed tears that have been professionally restored with watercolour, abrasions and chipping to the margins otherwise the sheet is in a very good restored condition.

I am selling this exceptionally large and sublimely beautiful engraving—one of Bartolozzi’s masterworks—for AU$334 (currently US$252.59/EUR215.23/GBP188.56 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

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

This print has been sold

This is a large print and one of Bartolozzi’s masterworks of stipple engraving that made him one of the most famous practitioners of this slow, labour intensive and highly disciplined process. To offer an insight into what was involved in executing this print, Herbert Baily (1907) in “Francesco Bartolozzi, R.A.” (Otto, London) gives the following outline of the process:

“In the ordinary way of engraving, a copper plate was coated with wax, and the engraver then sketched out his subject with an etching needle, these lines afterwards being bitten on to the plate with acid. The wax was then removed, and the engraver went over the bitten dots with a finely pointed tool called a stipple graver, with which he put in, at the cost of considerable labour, and only by the surest and most sensitive touch, the fine effects of light and shade required in this style of engraving, which depended entirely for its success upon the appearance of softness and delicacy” (p. xiv).

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