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Johann Friedrich Bause

(1738 Halle – 1814 Weimar)

Skull of a Seven-Month-Old Child. Etching after Adam Friedrich Oeser, printed in iron red. 12.5 x 18.7 cm. 1791. Keil 22, Meyer, Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon 22 II.

Johann Friedrich Bause has portrayed the skull of a seven-month-old child with loving care and great graphic delicacy. A detailed preliminary drawing by Adam Friedrich Oeser (1717–1799), a fellow artist active in Leipzig, served as a model. The finely ramified blood vessels on the forehead and temples and the shimmering reddish texture of the little skull, on which the im­pression of the scalp is still visible, are rendered meticulously and with great reverence. The work thus testifies to the scientific interest that was characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment. The effective mise-en-page against an empty background gives the depiction a quiet, spiritual strength.

In a figurative sense the little skull is a metaphor for the uncertainty of life. In deference to this philosophical perception Bause commemorates the life of a new-born child that has been carried off by death overnight. The sheet, printed in red and treated in a very subtle stippling technique, which is on offer here in the second state, consummately transfers the brilliant draughtsmanship of the original to the medium of reproductive printmaking. In addition to the present version other variations are known to exist in brown and in combinations of crimson and yellow.

A superb impression with wide margins. Slightly foxed, otherwise in excellent, pristine condition.

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