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The Apostle Paul. Engraving. 38.8 x 30.9 cm. B. XV, 261, 42 II; Robert-Dumesnil 35 II.
After moving to Rome in about 1540, Nicolas Beatrizet initially worked as an engraver for local publishers such as Antonio Salamanca and Tommaso Barlacchi. Between 1547 and 1560 the artist was employed in the influential printing house of Antonio Lafreri before becoming an independent publisher himself around 1558. Under the influence of Enea Vico and Giorgio Ghisi, Beatrizet gradually developed a robust and technically highly developed engraving style, as the present sheet clearly shows. The legend in the lower margin tells us that the work was issued by Beatrizet’s own publishing house. A precise system of dense cross-hatching, curved and wavy parallel hatching and fine stippling creates a high degree of three-dimensionality and finish. Beatrizet has deliberately dispensed with a hatched background, thus enabling the statuesque figure of the apostle to stand out strongly and clearly against the white surface of the paper.
The present engraving also demonstrates the curious way in which secular and religious images could be exchanged as needs dictated in the profane intellectual climate of the Late Renaissance. According to the inscription on the first state, this is a portrait of the ancient natural philosopher and astronomer Anaximenes, who was among the first representatives of Ionic philosophy. The portrait was possibly not the financial success Beatrizet had hoped for, because in the second state the artist reworked the copper plate and put a sword in the hand of the reading sage, thereby transforming Anaximenes into the Apostle Paul.
A brilliant, sharp and tonal impression from the uncleaned plate; the white background enlivened by numerous wiping marks. With thread margins. In excellent, untreated condition.