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Nicolaas Verkolje

(1673 Delft – 1746 Amsterdam)

The Apostle Paul. Mezzotint engraving, printed in reddish brown, after Adriaen Cornelisz. van Linschoten. 27.1 x 17.7 cm. Wurzbach 18.

The painter and engraver Nicolaas Verkolje learned the mezzotint technique from his father, Jan the Elder (1650–1693), which makes him one of the second generation of Dutch artists to experiment with the mezzotint procedure introduced to the Netherlands by Wallerant Vaillant in the 1660s. Verkolje soon attained such mastery of it that his works were often taken for those of Vaillant.

This portrayal of St. Paul meditating is an impressive demonstration of Verkolje’s graphic skills. The intimate scene is wrapped in a soft chiaroscuro. The apostle is reverently contemplating a passage and has paused in the act of writing; his left hand holding the goose quill rests on an open folio, while the almost macabre presence of a skull seen from below lends the portrayal a pessimistic and pensive note. Verkolje has taken full advantage of the tonal potential offered by the mezzotint technique. He has dispensed entirely with line and inner detail, structuring the portrayal by alternating light and dark tones which subtly blend into one another and lend the whole a velvety lustre. The rendering of warm light has been made the real subject of the picture. Despite the inherent limitations of printmaking the portrayal possesses a high degree of colourfulness. The deep dark brown of the shadows in the foreground contrasts wonderfully with the creamy white of the folio, where the artist has made skilful use of the blank paper.

A superb, velvety and rich impression with even margins around the platemark. Some remains of old hinging tape on the verso, otherwise in impeccable condition.

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