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I. ROBILLART
(engraver and publisher, active in France, first half of the 17th century)

Doubting Thomas. Etching after Caravaggio. 21.9 x 28.6 cm. Le Blanc 2; Nagler 1; Moir 18a, I (of III).

Almost nothing is known about the origins and career of the draftsman, engraver and print publisher I. Robillart, other than the fact that he was active in France during the first half of the 17th century. There is even contention surrounding the initial of the artist’s first name. Both Nagler and Le Blanc refer to the artist as N. Robillart, while the present sheet bears the initial I. Both authors list only two sheets by Robillart.

The composition of the present rare etching is based on Cara­vaggio’s painting of the same subject, reproducing it in mirror image. Executed in 1600–1601, the painting originally belonged to the legendary Roman collector, Marchese Vincenzo Giusti­niani. In 1815 the work was acquired by the King of Prussia and kept in the Royal Palace (Stadtschloß) in Berlin. The painting is now kept in the Picture Gallery of Schloß Sanssouci in Potsdam. The etching is an early example of the way in which Cara­vaggio’s painted images were disseminated through the medium of print. The image here is executed in a slightly crude, schematic etching technique that gives the sheet a somewhat primitive character. Caravaggio’s style was imitated not only in the painted work of innumerable contemporary Italian, Dutch, Spanish, and French artists, but also became widely known through popular and affordable reproductions like this etching (see Alfred Moir, Caravaggio and his Copyists, New York 1976, p. 89, ill. 57).

A very fine and strong early impression, before the alteration of the inscription and before the adresse of Robillart; trimmed to the platemark. The sheet is very rare. Moir lists only very few impressions in public museum collections. Minor defects, two flattened vertical folds on the verso, otherwise in good condition.