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Claude Mellan

(1598 Abbeville – 1688 Paris)

Hercules Giustiniani. Engraving. 36.9 x 23.4 cm. Circa 1631. Inventaire du Fonds Français, Graveurs du XVIIe siècle. Claude Mellan, edited by M. Préaud, 212 I (of II). Watermark: Lily in a circle.

This is one of a series of twenty-two engravings of ancient sculptures which Mellan made in Rome between 1631 and 1636 for the art collector, Marquis Vincenzo Giustiniani. It is noteworthy in technical respects in that it provides an exemplary illustration of Mellan’s engraving technique and shows how aesthetically satisfying an engraving can be when the burin is used with precision, intelligence and sophistication. Mellan dispenses almost completely with contour lines. The three-dimensional volumes are defined instead by means of an ingenious system of rising engravings which produces a soft, captivating chiaroscuro effect. The outcome is an artwork of the utmost graphical delicacy. Mellan’s engraving technique has a lightness that is lacking in most of his contemporaries. A very fine, inky early impression, trimmed to the platemark. Before the number. In excellent condition.

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