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Wallerant Vaillant

(1623 Lille – 1677 Amsterdam)

Sophia of the Palatinate. Etching. 22.8 x 15.3 cm. 1656. Le Blanc 6, Wessely 7, Hollstein 9. Watermark: Large double-headed eagle with cross coat-of-arms.

The painter, draughtsman and printmaker, Wallerant Vaillant, is best known as a mezzotintist. In the late 1650s he made increasing use of this technique, to which he was probably introduced by Prince Rupert of the Rhine, and became one of its earliest and most prominent advocates. Of the eleven pure
etchings he made, all of which are portraits of secular rulers and church dignitaries, only one is of a woman, the Electress of Hanover and designated heiress to the British throne, Sophia of the Palatinate (1630–1714). Born to Fredrick V, King of Bohemia and Elector Palatine of the Rhine, and Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of King James 1 of England, Sophia occupied a prominent position in the hierarchy of Europe’s royal houses. In 1658 she married Ernest Augustus, Elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg. Apart from a lengthy trip to Italy in the 1660s Sophia spent most of her life in the electoral residence in Hanover, where she took a keen interest in rearranging the gardens. The Act of Settlement passed in England in 1701 meant that Sophia was second in succession to the British throne after Anne Stuart. Anne remained childless and so after her death in 1714 Sophia’s son George, Elector of Hanover, became the next king of Great Britain, thereby establishing the House of Hanover which was to remain the ruling dynasty for the next two hundred years.

Vaillant’s delicate, sensitive portrait shows the young princess at around 26 years of age in a rear view with her face in profile. The refined, differentiated etching technique he has used is fully in keeping with the noble status of the lady portrayed. He demonstrates immense skill in rendering details such as the
brooch adorning her hair and the filigree pearl necklace. The print is in excellent condition and very rare. Hollstein records impressions in London, Munich, Paris and Vienna; in the case of the latter, however, imperfections already diminish the quality of the printing.

A very fine, sharp impression with thread margins. Minor foxing and ageing, occasional remains of old hinges on the verso, otherwise in very good condition. From the collections of Johann Andreas Boerner (Lugt 270), Karl Eduard von Liphart (Lugt 1687) and Alfred Morrison (Lugt 151).

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