"Belshazzar's Feast," was Martin's most successful composition. The painting on which the print is based was exhibited in 1821 at the British Institution, where it had to be roped off to protect it from huge crowds. This was also the subject of his first mezzotint, which was published in 1826, but the plate had worn so much that the artist re-engraved the subject in 1832. It is, indeed, a marvelous image in which Martin successfully combined a vast architectural extravaganza with a myriad of dramatic details and a skillful blending of artificial, natural, and supernatural light.
The event, or actually the series of events, is set down in the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel. At a banquet for a thousand lords, Belshazzar ordered the treasures stolen from the temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar to be brought out and used. Some of the vessels of silver and gold are displayed on the table in the foreground and stacked directly in front of it. During the banquet a hand appeared and wrote on the palace wall. Unable to interpret the writing, Belshazzar consulted his wise men, but they, too, could not understand it. Daniel was then called in, and he presented the following interpretation.
And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.For this climactic moment Martin gave Daniel a position of authority by placing him center stage. Although he is not significantly larger than the other figures, his purposeful gesture and broad verticality stress the prophet's strength and resolve in contrast to the cowering Chaldeans who gesticulate in fear and distress. Amidst this spectacle of huge architectural spaces, infinite detail, and violent contrasts of light and dark, Daniel stands firmly at the apex of a pyramid formed by the foreground figures. J. Dustin Wees, Darkness Visible. The Prints of John Martin: 37-8. $2,400
This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
Peres; Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.
Bosse, Abraham. "Voicy la representation d'un Sculpteur dans son Attelier." Paris: ca. 1642. Engraving.
Bosse (1602-1676), born in Tours to Huguenot parents, was a prolific etcher and watercolor painter, who trained in Paris and was highly influenced by Jacques Bellange and Callot. Here we see in his workshop, a sculptor receiving three visitors. One of the women gestures towards a large marble statue of Venus and Cupid erected on a pedestal. There we see the tools of the artist: a mallet and a chisel, and on the ground a compass and other tools. The sculptor, holding a chisel in his right hand, presents a reduced model of the larger form. To the left, on a stand, is a man's head; on a table behind, are several models seemingly in progress. On the shelves at the back of the workshop, as well as on the ground, we see various productions of the sculptor, including a cartouche carved with the arms of the Cardinal de Richelieu. This is a magnificent scene of 17th century fashion. $425
Angelica Kauffman. "O Venus Regina Cnidi Paphique..." Paris: Mme. Breton, 18th c. 11 7/8 x 11 3/8 (round). Stipple engraving by R. Girard. Color à la poupée; accented with original hand color. Trimmed just inside neatline on top and right edges; just to neatline at left. Light toning overall.
Beloved for her elegant treatment of classical subjects, Angelica Kauffman achieved great popularity in her lifetime throughout western Europe. Born in Switzerland and trained by her mural-painting father, Kauffman resided in Italy for some time before migrating to England in 1766. In addition to portraits and mythological paintings, Kauffman collaborated with Scottish architect Robert Adam, known in design history for his innovative neoclassical interiors in England's Georgian country houses.
As a female artist in an age of great history painters, Kauffman centered her narratives on women of the past: Venus appearing to Aeneas, Cleopatra mourning at Mark Antony's tomb, and Hector taking leave of Andromache. Here, the Three Graces, Venus, and Cupid comprise a lovely tableau that illustrates the artist's light, Rococo-influenced style. $450
David Teniers. "Dutch Pastime." London: John Boydell, 1792. 19 3/4 x 29 1/4. Engraving by John Collyer. Very good condition.
Boydell, a land surveyor in the employment of his father, was inspired by an engraving by W.H. Toms to leave his home in Shropshire about 1750 and walk to London to apprentice himself to Toms. After six years, Boydell set up his own shop and thus began his career as one of the greatest of print publishers. Boydell was much concerned with the French dominance of the European print market at mid-century, and it was mostly by his efforts that by the 1780's Britain became a print exporting country. A separately issued print which was sold for the decorative market. $425
Edward Corbould. "Canterbury Pilgrims at the Tabard, Southwark, Previous to setting out on their Pilgrimage to Becket's Tomb." Ca. 1840. 22 3/8 x 31 3/8. Etching by C. E. Wagstaff. Full margins. Excellent.
A robust and lusty view of Medieval England. Charles E. Wagstaff (1808-1850) specialized in historical and genre studies after the paintings of his contemporaries. This pictorial narrative of pilgrims on their way to the most famous shrine in Christendom is a tour de force for the printmaker. Animals, Chaucer's pilgrims in elaborate costumes, and intricately designed buildings are pulled together in this richly moving scene of abandonment and revelry. At the lower right is Chaucer himself with head turned to present an interpretation of the woodcut portrait that is found in Caxton's first edition of The Canterbury Tales. The generous scale makes it even more impressive. This print is a fine example of expert printmaking, as well as an excellent instance of the historical concerns of the Victorian period. $800
Thomas Faed. (1826-1900) "The Little Wanderer." Chicago: Crosby Opera House Art Association, 1866. 16 1/4 x 23 3/4. Steel engraving by Christian Rost. Printed by W. Pate, N.Y. Some chips at extreme edges of margins; tide mark at bottom margin, into publication line, but still legible. Else excellent condition.
This fine engraving was made by Rost after Faed's painting, "The Mitherless Bairn," which was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, in 1855, where it achieved a notable popularity. The painting shows an idealized incident from Faed's early years: a small child pretending to be orphaned, has imposed on the family. In spite of having been treated and fed well while in their care, his behavior devolves, and it becomes known that he is no orphan, but in fact the child of two well known tramps.
Thomas Faed, born in Scotland, was one of five siblings who became accomplished artists. Credited for popularizing Scottish art to a degree similar to the way Robert Burns' works did for Scottish song, Faed painted for most of his life, to great acclaim.
This print was one of two premium options for single shareholders of the Crosby Opera House Art Association, an elaborate lottery to pay off the cost overruns caused by war shortages. Uranus H. Crosby built his famous Italianate Opera House on Washington Street, between State & Dearborn in Chicago. While the lottery was a great success, the structure was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. $450
Charles Eastlake. "Christ Blessing Little Children." Philadelphia: Bradley & Co., 1861. 11 3/4 X 16 (image). Mezzotint engraving by Samuel Sartain. Minor staining and scuffing in margins not affecting image. Otherwise, very good condition.
This handsome image illustrates the New Testament story of Jesus explaining to his disciples that one must have the childlike innocence and acceptance of God in order to be welcomed into Heaven. Under the image are several lines of text from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark in the New Testament:
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.
Engraved by Samuel Sartain, the son of the famous printmaker John Sartain, this print is after Sir Charles Lock Eastlake's painting (1793-1865) made in 1839 which can be viewed today at the Manchester Art Gallery in England. $400
Randolph Caldecott. (1846-1886) "St. Valentine's Day." From The Graphic. London: February 13, 1875. 12 x 9. Chromolithograph. Very good condition.
This charming scene of cupid as a letter carrier, delivering Valentine's Day greetings to the girls and women in a household bursts with details, such as a decorative border filled with flowers, leaves, putti and lovebirds. The poem below the image adds further:
See, here comes the postman; we'll open the door,British artist Randolph Caldecott was best known for his children's illustrations, and is the namesake for the annually awarded Caldecott medal for outstanding illustrations in a children's book. Caldecott also illustrated travel books, drew cartoons and humorous drawings of the famous and fashionable, created and exhibited sculptures, as well as painted in oil and watercolors. Caldecott, an older child of a large family, left school at 15 and was apprenticed to a bank, in which industry he worked for a little over ten years, while also pursuing his artistic avocation. At the age of 26, having achieved some success selling illustrations, he quit the banking business, moved to London, and began to support himself entirely through his art work, quickly gaining popularity with his young audience through annual publications available at Christmastime. $145
And ask for our budget of letters, before
He touches the knocker; but, oh! he's so small,
He never can reach the knocker at all.
* * * * *
Why, who can he be? We are all of us stupid,
For this is none other than the little god CUPID.
Go to our HIDDEN GEMS page
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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated October 22, 2019