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Abraham Bosse

(1602 Tours – 1676 Paris)

Le Pâtissier. Etching, coloured with gouache and gold heightening. 26.4 x 33.7 cm. Circa 1632–35. Duplessis 1397,7; Inventaire du Fonds Français 1397.

This fine portrayal by Abraham Bosse of a pastry shop is the last of a series of seven prints entitled Les Métiers (The Trades), whose wealth of detail conveys a vivid picture of everyday life in 17th century Paris. Clearly delighting in the exercise of his narrative skills, Bosse shows the back shop of the bakery. Two nattily dressed young fellows with jaunty plumed hats are rolling the dough and filling a baking tin, while the master baker thrusts the pastries into the blazing fire of the oven. Enthroned on the right is the corpulent figure of the proprietress, and a young woman with a child – judging from the inscription she is probably a maidservant or wet-nurse – is handing her a coin to pay for one of the tasty pies. It is quite clearly a very respectable business. Two ornate stone vases flank the counter covered by a linen cloth, on which the tempting pastries are piled in all their glory; an elaborate vase with a bunch of magnificent flowers lends the scene additional lustre.

The print owes much of its effect to the high quality of the carefully applied contemporary colouring, which makes the etching look like a delicate cabinet painting, an impression reinforced by the coloured accentuation of the decorative green moulding. The bright bunch of flowers in all its glorious colours is depicted with great artistic refinement, while the sparing, yet very effective gold heightening on the handles of the exquisite goblet and the ornamental details of the stone vases emphasize the preciousness of the sheet.

Abraham Bosse was not only an extremely productive engraver, but also made a name for himself as a very influential art theoretician. His manual on the art of etching (Traité des manières de graver en taille douce sur l’airain ...), which first appeared in 1645, was still being reissued in the 18th century and even translated into English, thus providing a theoretical foundation for several generations of printmakers.

A superb impression with thread margins around the platemark. With the address of the Amsterdam publisher Carolus Allard, which was not recorded by Duplessis. The colours and gold heightening are preserved in an impeccably fresh and luminous condition.

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