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St. Paul of Thebes, Tempted by a Demon. Etching. 32.7 x 21 cm. Heller-Andresen 1.
Bartolomeo Gazalis, a draughtsman and etcher who hailed from Genoa, is known to have been in Milan between 1720 and 1730, where he presumably worked for Alessandro Magnaco. Very little is known of Gazalis’ biography and his artistic activities. He made two etchings based on designs by Magnasco, which are extremely rare.
The present portrayal of the hermit, Paul of Thebes, being tempted by demons in his rock cave illustrates the artist’s skill as an etcher. The suggestive scene has been rendered in an unrestrained and differentiated etching technique which is very much on a par with Magnasco’s art in the atmospheric, explicitly painterly effect it achieves. St. Paul gazes in quiet meditation at the crucifix in his right hand, while two demons rage above him attempting in vain to disrupt his contemplation. Rendered very convincingly is the gaunt, muscular body of the bearded old man who has spent the past sixty years in the wilderness devoid of all human contact. The delicate application of the etching needle produces soft, gentle transitions and rich light-and-dark contrasts, bathing the scene in a warm, shimmering light. The surfaces of the barren rocks, tree trunks, branches and grasses are treated with equal sophistication. The whole scene is replete with a deep, religious pathos. We were only able to verify one impression of this print in the Civica Raccolta Bertarelli in Milan.
A superb, contrasting impression with thread margins, a little irregularly trimmed in the right-hand margin. Minor ageing, otherwise in immaculate condition.