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Jean Mignon

(active 1537–1540 in Fontainebleau, later in Paris)

The Assumption of Mary Magdalene. Etching in a tondo. D. 30.4 cm. Jenkins JM 68.

Only a few biographical details of Jean Mignon’s artistic career have come down to us. Between 1537 and 1540 his name appears on invoices for paintings executed in Fontainebleau. Herbet referred to Mignon as “the engraver of Luca Penni’s works”. Indeed, the bulk of his printed oeuvre rests on designs by Penni, but there is little precise evidence for their dating. According to Jenkins, the prints must have been executed in a relatively short period of time between 1542 and 1547.

The present dramatically animated, spirited composition is based on a fresco by Giulio Romano, which he made around 1520/21 for the Massimi Chapel in the church  of Santissima Trinità dei Monti (now in the National Gallery in London). Mignon turned the original lunette composition into a tondo and added a rocky mountain massif in the lower part of the composition. Leon Davent also made an etching after Giulio Romano’s composition, although he opted for an upright format instead (Jenkins LF 73).

This very rare etching has been treated in a confident and accurate manner. The billowing clouds are vividly rendered with varied cross and parallel hatching, while the angels floating heavenwards are filled with great inner energy. Celestial light intensifies the lustre of the wondrous event. The striking chiaroscuro contrasts serve to heighten the drama. A superb, partly tonal and contrasting impression with wide margins. A rarity in this quality of printing.

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