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Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well. Etching. 23.5 x 13.9 cm. Nagler 1.
The portrait and history painter, Franz Palko, son of Anton Palko, a painter from Breslau, studied under Bibiena at the Vienna Academy and in Venice, where he was inspired by the work of Giuseppe Maria Crespi. Palko went on to pursue a successful career as a painter, undertaking commissions inter alia in Bratislava, Kromeriz, Brno and Dresden, where King Friedrich August II appointed him painter to the Saxon-Polish court in 1752. Like many other foreign artists seeking their fortune in Dresden at the time Palko is likely to have been driven out of the Saxon royal seat by the turmoil of the Seven Years War (1756-63). He subsequently lived and worked in Munich, where he was appointed painter to the electoral court of Bavaria in 1764, as well as in Prague. Palko was a talented etcher, although his printmaking oeuvre consists merely of four “intelligently etched sheets” (Nagler), all of which are of exquisite rarity.
Christ and the Samaritan Woman at the Well has been treated in a light, delicate manner. The artist employs varying transparent hatching patterns which never appear unwieldy and give the scene an attractive airiness - an impression reinforced by the effective use of the white paper tone. Characteristic of Palko and the Late Austrian Baroque are an energetic verve and a certain mannerism in the poses. The Samaritan woman pours the fresh water from the well into a stone amphora with all the elegance of a dancer; by contrast the pose of the seated Christ is more statuary and complex. The upper part of his body is turned slightly to the left in a movement that is continued by his outstretched left leg, while his head is bent sharply to the right in the direction of the Samaritan woman. The interaction between the two protagonists is full of great inner tension which gives the print a very striking aura. A superb, even impression with thread margins. Perfectly preserved.