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Blind Belisarius outside the Gates of Rome; Job Grieving with his Friends. Two etchings. 52.5 x 70.0 cm and 53.8 x 73.0 cm respectively. 1806–1808. Nagler 20, 23 II.
These two etchings, designed as companion pieces, reproduce compositions by the history painter Eberhard Wächter, who studied from 1785 to 1793 in Paris under Jean François Pierre Peyron and Jean-Baptiste Regnault and was introduced by them into David’s circle. Following stays in Stuttgart and Rome, Wächter settled in 1798 in Vienna. He spent a number of years there, during which he became a leading figure for future Nazarene artists such as Friedrich Overbeck und Franz Pforr, who detected elements of a renewal in his art.
Wächter’s paintings had a formal austerity and linear purism that were regarded by many young artists as forward-looking and revolutionary. The two reproductive etchings by Carl Heinrich Rahl are among the outstanding works in his printed oeuvre. Rahl, who had taught himself to draw and make prints, went to Vienna in 1799 to hone his artistic skills. In the early years he earned a living by doing odd jobs; his contact with Wächter exerted a positive influence on his art. Rahl soon made a name for himself as a reproductive engraver and his first works after Wächter were deemed by Nagler to be his most successful artistic achievements.
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Typical features of his engravings are their narrative concentration and a boldly reduced form, which dispenses with any genrelike, anecdotal embellishments; the figures convey a statuesque monumentality and tranquillity that appear astonishingly modern and evocative to contemporary observers. Rahl has ingeniously transferred Wächter’s artistic purism to the print medium. He uses an intricate, differentiated etching technique that never appears trivial, but always three-dimensional and masterly.
Very fine, sharp and nuanced impressions with thread margins around the platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.