This exhibition presents French prints from the second half of the seventeenth century, an era in which the Absolutism of the Sun King Louis XIV developed into a form of government that shaped Europe. During this period, the French school of copperplate engraving emerged. It built on Italian and Dutch developments in the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries, revitalizing the qualities of both – the graphic concept and the pictorial graduated tonality – and even improved them thanks to more sophisticated technical means.
In 1660, Louis XIV freed engravers from the restrictions of guilds and elevated them to the rank of free artists; in 1663 they were allowed to enter the Academy. The Minister of Finances, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, utilised printmaking for his political goals by publishing an extensive series of engravings, the so-called Cabinet du Roi, to record Louis XIV’s collection of art works, buildings, cultural events and military victories. Printmaking informed society’s taste in regards to the objects portrayed and in addition the quality of the prints themselves. Their technical precision and the inventiveness of engravers, such as Gérard Edelinck, Claude Mellan and Robert Nanteuil, advanced them to highly respected and desirable prestige objects that set the standard for later printmaking.
Fig.: Gérard Edelinck (1640–1707), Die Anghiarischlacht, after a sketch by Peter Paul Rubens, after the lost fresco by Leonardo da Vinci, copperplate engraving, 50 x 64 cm, © Kunsthalle Bremen – Der Kunstverein in Bremen, Photo: Karen Blindow
Subject to modifications!