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Salvatore Tresca

(1750 Palermo – 1817 Paris)

The Twelve Months of the Republican Calendar. Suite of twelve stipple engravings. Each 34.8 x 26.8 cm (one sheet 33 x 23.1 cm). Circa 1794. Le Blanc 13–24.

Salvatore Tresca from Italy was active as a reproductive engraver in Paris, where he worked after designs by artists such as Louis-Léopold Boilly and Louis Lafitte. He also produced a number of satirical genre prints of his own invention. The present series of monthly allegories – a truly printmaking jewel of the Empire style in France – is considered to be Tresca’s main work. It is based on preliminary drawings by the painter and draughtsman, Louis Lafitte (1770–1828, Paris), who had studied inter alia under Jean-Baptiste Regnault and won the coveted Prix de Rome with a historical painting in 1791. Lafitte subsequently studied at the Académie de France in Rome. From 1791 to 1817 he took part in the exhibitions of the Paris Salon, where he displayed drawings on allegorical and historical subjects, portraits and landscapes, most of which served as designs for reproductive engravings. Later on, during the Restoration, Lafitte was appointed Dessinateur du Cabinet du Roi.

The different months are personified by pretty young women equipped with a wide variety of attributes. The iconographical programme is highly original and extremely diverse. Borrowings from ancient mythology predominate, this being very much in keeping with the refined classical taste prevalent at the time of the Empire. The pictorial elements, such as sumptuous floral arrangements, vegetation and individual animals, are rendered with painstaking care worthy of a still life and an evident passion for detail. The young, often sparsely clad women radiate an unmistakably erotic charm. The sophisticated stippling proves a suitable artistic medium with which to produce soft, velvety transitions and a mild, visually very appealing chiar­oscuro.

Superb early impressions with wide margins, before all letters; one print (‘Germinal’) with the letters and colouring ‘à la poupée’; this impression is trimmed inside the platemark, but the depiction is complete. Slightly foxed, minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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