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St. Peter; St. Paul. Etching and engraving after Philippe de Champaigne. 43.8 x 32.1 cm and 42.7 x 31.6 cm respectively. Robert-Dumesnil 27, 28; Mazel 033, 034. Watermark: Grape with countermark (Petitjean & Hornibrook 17, 18 on Robert-Dumesnil 28).
Jean Morin is one of the most independent and remarkable of 17th century French printmakers. Although trained as a painter, he worked as an etcher for most of his life. Morin produced several large-format religious prints after Philippe de Champaigne, who exerted a considerable influence on his style. The present head-and-shoulder portraits of the apostles Peter and Paul were intended as companion pieces and thus visibly relate to each other. The two saints convey a tremendous presence and vitality of expression. The intensity of their gestures should be seen in the context of the dispute at Antioch (Galatians 2: 11–21), where Paul engaged in an open controversy with his fellow disciple Peter. Paul raises his left hand in a beseeching gesture designed to lend added emphasis to his remarks, whereas Peter appears to be listening attentively and adopts a wait-and-see attitude (see exhibition catalogue French Prints from the Age of the Musketeers, published by Sue Welsh Reed, Boston 1998, no. 96, pp. 182–183).
Morin shows consummate technical mastery as an engraver. Employing a wide variety of graphical abbreviations – fine cross-hatchings, narrow parallel lines and little dots – the artist succeeds in conveying the different individual qualities and texture of the hair, skin, material and stone and orchestrating them into an effective whole. The creases and protruding veins on St. Peter’s brow are depicted in a wonderfully evocative and realistic manner. The virtuoso treatment of form and subtle use of light serve to heighten the religious pathos of the two portraits.
Superb, sharp and rich impressions with wide, even margins. In perfect condition.