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Tuesday 27 September 2022

Comte de Caylus & Nicolas Le Sueur’s “Discovery of the True Cross”, c1729/64, after Bernardino Pintoricchio

Anne Claude Philippe Comte de Caylus (1692–1765) (etching component) in collaboration with Nicolas Le Sueur (1690–1764) (aquatint component)

“Discovery of the True Cross” (aka “l'Invention de la Croix”; “Discovery of the True Cross by St Helena”), c1729/64, plate 3 from the series, “Recueil d'estampes d'après les plus beaux tableaux et d'après les plus beaux desseins qui sont en France” (Collection of prints from the most beautiful paintings and from the most beautiful designs that are in France) (aka “Recueil Crozat”; “Cabinet Crozat”), after a drawing by Bernardino Betti Biagi Pintoricchio (aka Bernardino Betti Biagi Pinturicchio) (c1454–1513), published by François Basan (1723–1797) in 1764.

Etching and aquatint with tone woodblock imitating a chiaroscuro woodcut, printed in two shades of blue with black on heavy laid paper with wide margins.

Size: (sheet) 46.8 x 37.2 cm; (plate) 41 x 32 cm; (image borderline) 34.4 x 31.3 cm.

Regarding the publication of the series, “Recueil Crozat”, the Curator of the British Museum offers the following insights: “… a series of plates commissioned by Crozat [Pierre Crozat (1665–1740)] … reproducing famous paintings and drawings of the era; 140 plates were published in 1729. A second volume formed by 42 prints (instead of the 110 plates initially planned) was issued in 1740.

After Crozat's death, the plates were sold to a company of booksellers who commissioned Mariette to reorganize the 'Recueil'; Mariette divided the plates into two volumes, added some missing descriptions, and advertised the set to the public in 1742.

In 1764, Basan [François Basan (1723–1797)] bought the plates and the text, and republished the 'Recueil', but replaced the woodcuts by intaglio prints. … where an attempt to imitate the effect of a chiaroscuro woodcut is made by using aquatint instead …” (

Lettered in plate below the image borderline: (centre) “l'Invention de la Croix./ 'D'après le dessein de Bernardin Pinturicchio, qui est dans le Cabinet de Mr. Crozat/ gravé en bois par Nicolas le Sueur”; (right) “3.**”

The British Museum offers the following description of this print: “The invention of the Cross, or the discovery of the True Cross by St Helena, after a drawing attributed on plate to Pinturicchio: three men lifting a cross; two are standing in a trench, the third one is kneeling on the edge at right. c.1729/64/ Aquatint imitating a chiaroscuro woodcut, printed in two shades of brown, on etched lines (

See also the description of this print offered by the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Condition: a strong and well-printed impression in excellent condition with no tears, holes, folds, losses, abrasions, significant stains or foxing.

I am selling this curiosity of an intaglio print (viz. etching with aquatint) that is skilfully crafted to imitate a chiaroscuro woodcut (i.e., a woodcut involving more than one tone of a colour) for AU$296 (currently US$191.90/EUR199.54/GBP177.81 at the time of posting this print) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).

If you are interested in purchasing this technically important print showcasing a somewhat deceptive practice of the 1700s, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).

This print has been sold

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