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Abel Schlicht

(1754–1826, Mannheim)

Two Architectural Capriccios after G. P. Pannini. Two aquatint etchings, printed in brown. 48 x 62 cm. 1788. Nagler 13.

Abel Schlicht, an architect, theatrical painter and printmaker, was first taught by Lorenzo Quaglio at the tender age of ten. Although few people are familiar with his name today, Schlicht was an esteemed artistic figure in his time. After completing his artistic training he was appointed architect to the court of the Elector in Mannheim and professor at the Düsseldorf Academy. However, Schlicht worked for the most part in Mannheim, where he painted decorations for the local theatre and made a name for himself as an engraver.

The majority of his works, including these two architectural capriccios, were executed in aquatint. In our particular case they are repro­ductive prints after two paintings by Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691–1765) which formed part of the Elector’s art collection at the time. The outstanding feature of these very rare prints is their decorative effect. Aquatint proved a very suitable medium to convey the subtle distribution of light and achieve soft, atmospheric effects. The cloudy sky on one of the two sheets is rendered in a very pleasing and visually com­pelling manner.

Pannini produced a brilliant synthesis of classical sculptures and imaginary ancient architectural ruins, while Schlicht derives visible pleasure from transferring the painted originals to the medium of reproductive printmaking. In the right foreground of one of the prints is the statue of the Far­nese Hercules, while the ghost-like figure of Diogenes with his lamp is portrayed with great dramatic effect in the background on the left. Very fine, contrasting impressions with the original mounting. Minor ageing in the margins, otherwise in perfect condition.

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