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Johann Elias Haid

(1739 – 1809, Augsburg)

Johannes Kupezky Pictor (Self-portrait of Johann Kupezky). Mezzotint. 42.5 x 29.8 cm. 1773. Le Blanc 40, Heller-Andresen 7.

This astonishingly vivid and rare portrait, rightly considered one of Johann Elias Haid’s masterpieces, demonstrates the artistic quality achieved by practitioners of the mezzotint technique in 18th century Augsburg. Johann Elias, the son of Johann Jakob Haid (1704–1767), came from an influential Augsburg dynasty of engravers and publishers. His father had built up a respected publishing house specializing in engravings, which Johann Elias took charge of after his death, becoming a successful and much sought-after artist with a distinct mercantile bent, as is evidenced by several journeys to Venice and the Netherlands. While his early works still betray the influence of the decorative Rococo style favoured in Augsburg, those completed in the 1770s reveal an increasing tendency to depict life as he saw it, in a sober and objective manner. As is the case here, he produced straightforward, unadorned portraits, in which the almost life-size subject is presented with an astonishing degree of realism against a neutral background. The physiognomy and individual details, such as the hair and the folds of the broad ruff, are treated in a broad and summary fashion, creating an effect of timeless immediacy and modernity. Haid’s engraving was modelled on a self-portrait by Johann Kupezky (1667–1740), a Bohemian painter who had worked since 1723 in Nuremberg, where he was held in high esteem. Such was the popularity of this work that local artists such as Bernhard Vogel and Valentin D. Preissler used his inventions to produce numerous mezzotints which were of considerable significance for the dissemination and appreciation of Kupezky’s paintings.

A superb, velvety and rich impression with even margins around the platemark. Slight aging, a minor repair in the left margin, otherwise in excellent condition. Verso with a collector’s mark not listed in Lugt.

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