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Gérard Edelinck

(1640 Antwerp – 1707 Paris)

Portrait of Dominik Andreas I, Count of Kaunitz. Engraving and etching. 47.9 x 35.1 cm. 1698. Robert-Dumesnil 228.

In 1666, Gérard Edelinck, an engraver from Flanders, settled in Paris, where he achieved great artistic fame and fortune. Following his apprenticeship to Gaspar Huybrechts and Cornelis Galle the Younger in Antwerp he continued his training in Paris under such renowned masters as François de Poilly, Robert Nanteuil and Philippe de Champagne. His marriage to one of Nanteuil’s nieces in 1672 certainly proved propitious for his artistic career. Edelinck was given French nationality by order of the king in 1675 and soon became one of the foremost artists in his guild. The over four hundred prints of his oeuvre rank among the best reproductive engravings made in 17th century France. Edelinck’s portrait engravings, in par­ticular, were very popular with his contemporaries, being distinguished by their astonishingly virtuoso craftsmanship and the succinctness of their psychological characterisation.

Evidence of these qualities is provided by the imposing portrait of the Count of Kaunitz, created in 1697 at a late stage in Edelinck’s career. Dominik Andreas I, Count of Kaunitz (1655–1705), was a well-respected Austrian statesman and dignitary at the imperial court, who was entrusted with numerous important diplomatic missions in the course of his illustrious political career. After 1696 he was Vice-chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire and in this capacity closely involved in efforts to achieve an accommodation with France. Edelinck shows Kaunitz in the prime of his manhood. A full-bottomed wig and precious silk clothing give the diplomat dignity and stature, while the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece is a further unmistakable attribute of his prominent social status. Edelinck’s masterly treatment of the subject matter is surpassed, however, by his vivid, ruthless characterisation of the count. Kaunitz looks at the beholder with a mixture of arrogance and distrust, a perfect incarnation of the unscrupulous power-seeker he undoubtedly was. His physical presence is almost tangible. The rendering of his bloated, fleshy head with the voluptuous little mouth – resting on top of a massive upper torso that betrays an all too extravagant lifestyle – is unbelievably realistic. One cannot help wondering whether the privy councillor was really happy with his likeness.

Edelinck’s consummate burin technique superbly characterises the count’s complexion, wig and clothing. The illusionistic frame of the oval portrait can be considered a special artistic bonus. While the artist has used a burin to reproduce the coat of arms and the decorative ribbons, the clearly defined stone surround has been executed in a deft and astonishingly nuanced etching technique. The tiny, agitated hatching patterns contrast effectively with the robust linework of the burin and bring out in a deceptively realistic manner the quality of the natural stone with its fine, marble-like colouring and tiny chippings.

A very fine, nuanced and harmonious early impression with even margins; the auxiliary lines for the inscription are still readily discernible. The impression is available in a state not recorded by Robert-Dumesnil, before the year 1697 in the inscription. Minor ageing, slightly foxed on the verso and with occasional remains of the previous mounting, otherwise in excellent condition.

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