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Thorough and complete / instructions for the drawing / and detailed artistic depiction / of the human physique / of male and female figures from childhood / up to old age ... Engraved frontispiece, 65 engravings. Circa 24.6 x 37.2 cm (sheet size). In the original greyish-blue stiff board binding. Augsburg 1723. Not in the Berliner Ornamentstichkatalog; Thieme-Becker, Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, Vol. XVI, p. 567.
There is no complete catalogue of the extensive printed oeuvre of the Augsburg engraver and publisher, Johann Daniel Herz. The information provided by Nagler, for instance, is sparse. One probable explanation is that it is often very hard to distinguish between the artist’s own engravings and those he published. Herz was a very prolific engraver who participated in prominent large-scale projects such as Paul Decker’s monumental Architectura civilis (1711–16) and Johann Elias Ridinger’s New Equestrian Skills. The present, nine-part drawing book is of the utmost rarity in every respect. An ambitious enterprise, it was carried out by Johann Daniel Herz with the collaboration of a host of pupils and assistants, including Jakob Gottlieb Thelott, Jeremias Gottlob Rugendas and Georg Gottfried Winckler. The anthology is a systematic and impressive compendium. Illustrating the wide range of tasks involved in the art of drawing, its purpose was to serve as an instruction manual for artists. The first part contains anatomical details of the human physiognomy and character heads. The next sections comprise detail studies of hands and feet, arms and legs and torsos of people of many different ages (Parts II–VI). In the seventh chapter children “from the first to the fifth year of minor childhood” are shown in a variety of poses. Chapter VIII is devoted to the depiction of the naked bodies of boys, presented here and there as bacchants and satyrs, while the ninth and final part focuses on the drawing of young male and female nudes.
This instruction manual is far from being as dry as dust. Herz’ skill as an engraver enabled him to inject considerable artistic vitality into the very theoretical subject matter. The individual plates derive their appeal from the adroit and often surprising mise en page, which gives the depictions an aesthetic beauty all their own. Herz’ engraving style is extremely varied and technically sophisticated, enabling him to create soft transitions and effective chiaroscuro contrasts. The richly modulated linework proves a very appropriate means of realistically depicting the plasticity of individual parts of the body, the subtleties of complexion and details such as swelling veins, wrinkles and creases. For that reason the plates as a whole appear astonishingly full of energy and inspiration and occasionally radiate an almost surrealistic power.