DEBUCOURT, Philibert-Louis (1755-1832)
Mademoiselle Lundens / Maîtresse de Rubens
Paris: Charles Bance & Aumont, circa 1800. Aquatint engraving printed in colour à la poupée on wove paper. Very good condition apart from some overall light soiling, minor foxing, and a skillfully repaired small loss in the left margin. Trimmed close to plate mark on all sides. Sheet size: 18 3/4 x 13 7/8 inches. Plate mark: 18 1/4 x 13 1/4 inches.
A striking beautifully coloured engraving after the renowned 17th-century Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. A representation of Rubens' sister-in-law, Susanna Lunden, this plate is part of a series of three aquatints Debucourt completed after paintings by Tintoretto, Rubens, and Raphael.
Susan Lunden was the daughter of the Antwerp silk merchant Daniel Fourment and the sister of Rubens' second wife Helena. Originally titled 'Le Chapeau de Paille' [The Straw Hat], the painting after which this plate is engraved dates from around 1622-25 and may have been a marriage portrait intended for Lunden's second husband Arnold.
This print is a stunning example of the single plate colour printing technique used in France beginning in the 18th century. The effect is achieved by inking a single plate with several different colours by using a rag stump, a process known as à la poupée. The outcome achieved by this laborious method of inking has a wonderful painterly effect and creates a delicacy of image, which is charming to behold.
Although a painter by training, Philibert-Louis Debucourt is primarily renowned as one of the most innovative colour printmakers of the eighteenth century. Born in 1781, he studied with Joseph Marie Vien at the French Academy. After several years of exhibiting his paintings at the Salon, he turned to printmaking in 1781. During the mid 1780s, he began experimenting with the complicated multiple-plate colour printing process, a technique that was refined and revolutionized by Jean-François Janinet. Debucourt found success with his colour intaglio prints of Parisian high society, and he quickly earned a reputation as a skilled and prolific engraver. The bulk of his prints, however, were based on paintings by other artists and completed after the turn of the century. Despite his intense focus on printmaking, he continued to exhibit his paintings alongside his engravings at the Salon throughout his life.
Cf. Benezit, Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs , vol. 4, p. 323; cf. Regency to Empire: French Printmaking 1715-1814 , p. 346; Fenaille, L'oeuvre gravé de P.-L. Debucourt (1755-1832) , pp. 257-8.