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Josef Abel

(1764 Aschach – 1818 Vienna)

Self-Portrait of the Artist. Etching. 20.8 x 16 cm. “Dono Dedit Jos. Abel” inscribed on the verso probably in the artist’s own hand: Heller-Andresen 2 I (of II); Meyer, Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon I, 2 I (of II). 

The present etching, which is also known under the title Portrait of Melchior Abel, Father of the Artist, is distinguished by its consummate technical treatment. The vigorous interplay of the hatching, which alternates with fine stippling, and the subtle chiaroscuro effect are inconceivable without the example set by Anthony van Dyck’s portraits of artists for the Iconographia. The use of historical-style garments including a doublet and shoulder cloak stems from these prototypes. The print was probably erroneously identified in the past as a portrait of Melchior Abel, the father of the artist. However, the physiognomy of the person portrayed is surprisingly similar to Abel’s self-portrait (Andresen 1), in which the artist is wearing similar attire, although he looks a little younger. It therefore seems plausible that the portrait shows Josef Abel at a slightly later age. A fine impression with thread margins around the inky platemark, avant la lettre and before the address. 

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