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Robert Blyth

(1750–1784, London)

Three Oriental Heads. Etching and engraving after John Hamilton Mortimer. 34.9 x 32.9 cm. 1780. Not in Nagler or Le Blanc, John Sunderland, John Hamilton Mortimer: his life and works, 1986, no. 77a.

The English etcher, engraver and publisher, Robert Blyth, spent most of his short life in his native city of London, where he was taught by the famous painter and draughtsman, John Hamilton Mortimer (1740–1779), after whose works he produced a large number of high-quality etchings. Nagler spoke approvingly of these works: “The prints of this commendable artist (...) are lively, expressive and highly effective; most of them are based on the excellent drawings of J. Mortimer and treated in the spirit of the originals”.

The present etching of 1780 depicting three Oriental heads offers eloquent proof of Blyth’s artistic interpretations of Mortimer’s designs. In the foreground of the oval frame we see the profile portrait of an exotically dressed, pretty young Oriental woman wearing pearl earrings and a turbanlike headdress who coyly averts her gaze. Behind her two picturesque looking men watch the beholder; one of them is wearing a fur cap and shouldering a lance, while the other has a headband and a flowing beard, which make him look like an ancient philosopher. Beneath the image the etching has a dedication to Joseph Banks, the president of the Royal Society.

Apart from works after Mortimer, Blyth also made reproductive prints after Charles Parrocel and prints in the style of Salvator Rosa. This talented artist committed suicide at the age of just thirty-four. A very fine, contrasting impression with thread margins. From the collection of the Counts of Harrach in Vienna.

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