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The Grand Village Festival. Etching. 26.8 x 34.3 cm. 1685. Hollstein 16 II (of III). Watermark: Amsterdam Coat-of-Arms; together with a counter-proof of the same plate and the same state.
The painter Cornelis Dusart produced a high-quality corpus of some 15 etchings and a fairly large number of mezzotint prints, some of which were produced in collaboration with his friend and fellow-artist Jacob Gole. Dusart, who worked his whole life in Haarlem, was apprenticed to Adriaen van Ostade in 1675 and admitted, as a free master, to the Guild of St. Luke in Haarlem in January 1679. His extensive oeuvre of paintings and drawings marks the final high point of the peasant genre in Dutch art.
The artist’s style was greatly influenced by his master Ostade; after his death Dusart acquired the contents of his studio, including a substantial stock of partly unfinished paintings, drawings and prints. Another major source of creative inspiration was Jan Steen’s genre painting with its moralistic and satirical undertones. Right from his childhood days Dusart suffered from poor health and, having remained a bachelor all his life, died in Haarlem in 1704.
The Grand Village Festival is generally regarded as Dusart’s printmaking masterpiece. Gathered on the village square, a crowd of people are in the throes of a wild and boisterous celebration. The peasants are drinking and dancing as if in a frenzy, urged on by the music of a violinist stood on a stool in front of the village inn. The banner with the inscription “Gulde Schenk Kan” (The Golden Jug), which flutters fitfully in the breeze, is a hidden reference to the root of all evil: the excessive alcoholism of country folk. With a fastidiousness reminiscent of his great predecessor, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Dusart has depicted the whole repertoire of human folly in an expressive and humorous vein. In the middle ground a quack doctor is prizing his dubious services while, on a platform to the right, acrobats are performing daring feats in front of a group of spectators. Only the animals have evidently not lost their senses. Seemingly untroubled by the noisy spectacle around them, the pigs and chickens run around unhindered in their search for food.
A superb, sharp and harmonious impression with thread margins around the borderline, respectively a thread margin around the platemark at the bottom. With the etching spot in the sky that is characteristic of early impressions. In excellent condition. The present etching is on offer together with a counter-proof of the same state. It is a trial proof which the artist creates by printing an impression and then, when it is still damp, pressing it on top of another sheet and running it through the press again. As a result, the image is in reverse of the original print, but in the same direction as the copperplate. This makes it easier for the artist to perform any corrections that are needed and rework the copperplate if required. As a rule, counter-proofs are extremely rare. Since they were no more than working copies, they were often thrown away after use. The British Museum in London has an album with etchings by Dusart which contains numerous counter-proofs – an indication that the artist made abundant use of this method. The present impression and the counter-proof are comparable in every respect with the quality of those in London.
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