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The Lovers’ Garden. Etching. 18.4 x 26.9 cm. Le Blanc 17.
Virtually nothing is known about the life of Nicolas de Son, who worked as a draughtsman and etcher in Reims, apart from a few signed etchings and a source reference to his death in 1637. De Son produced a small corpus of etchings after Callot, Vignon and Jan Lys as well as two views of the Cathedral of Reims after his own invention, both of which are dated 1625. The extremely rare etching The Lovers’ Garden is based on an invention by the Oldenburg-born painter and etcher, Jan Lys, who was apprenticed to Hendrick Goltzius in Haarlem and went on to work in Paris, Rome and Venice, where he died in 1629. De Son’s fluid and spontaneous etching technique convincingly reproduces the Baroque vitality and exuberance of Lys’ original.
The depiction of loving couples in a natural setting had been a motif in Northern European art since the 16th century. It was in 1632, just a few years after the production of our print, that Pieter Paul Rubens painted his famous definitive version of this theme, full of noblesse and superior striving for beauty, which is now in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. In contrast to the Flemish master painter de Son presents a very profane, almost traditional version of this theme. The lovers lying at the foot of a magnificent Neptune fountain are getting passionate with each other, seemingly obliging the god of the sea to look coyly to the side. A scurrilous detail is the urinating voyeur hidden in the shadow of the pergola. The genre-like aspect of de Son’s interpretation, which verges on caricature, gives the work a great degree of artistic verve and originality. A very fine, contrasting impression with thread margins around the framing line. Minor ageing, two inconspicuous vertical printer’s creases, otherwise in excellent condition.