GREEN, Valentine after John Singleton COPLEY
Youth Rescued from a Shark, This Representation is founded on the following Fact: a Youth bathing in the Harbour of Havannah, was twice seized by a Shark from which , (though with the Loss of the Flesh & Foot, torn from the Right Leg), He disentangled himself & was, by the assistance of a Boat's Crew, sav'd from the Jaws of the voracious Animal: for in the Moment it was attempting to seize its Prey (a third Time) a Sailor with a Boat Hook drove it from its pursuit. / Jeune Homme sauvé de l'attaque d'un Requien...[text repeated in French]
London: Published by V. Green, Newman Street, Oxford Street, and at No. 52, Strand, May 31st, 1779. Mezzotint. Printed on heavy laid paper. Several expertly repaired tears in top and bottom margins. Image size: 18 1/4 x 23 3/4 inches. Sheet size: 20 5/8 x 24 1/4 inches.
Considered one of the most important eighteenth century mezzotints, "Youth Rescued from a Shark" made the fortunes of both Valentine Green and the expatriate American painter John Singleton Copley
Brook Watson, a London merchant, commissioned his friend John Singleton Copley to paint a scene from his youth depicting the fateful night when he was attacked by a shark while swimming in Havana Harbor. Although Watson survived the attack, after being rescued by his fellow shipmen, he lost his leg during the encounter. "Watson and the Shark" launched Copley's career in London, making him one of the most celebrated American painters on the Continent. The painting became a metaphor for salvation and the triumph over adversity and was widely heralded as the most important painting of the age.
Based on Copley's masterpiece, Green's large mezzotint became one of the most sought after prints on the market. It sold so well in fact, that Green was forced to scrape a second and a third plate of the image to satisfy public demand. The wide appeal of Green's mezzotint heightened Copley's fame and catapulted both engraver and painter to the top of the English art world.
In the history of engraving, no printmaker has achieved such depth and precision as Valentine Green. He is considered the father of the English mezzotint because through his example we can see the pinnacle of mezzotint engraving. During his career, Green produced some of the most beautiful and sought after 18th century mezzotints. At an early age Green apprenticed himself to Robert Hancock of Worcester, where he produced his first published work 'A Survey of the City of Worcester'. In 1765 Green moved to London where his excellent scraping soon earned him a much-celebrated reputation. He soon became mezzotint engraver to George III, and a member of the Royal Academy. Throughout his industrious career, Green scratched over 400 plates working from works by Copley, Reynolds and West.
Whitman, Valentine Green 152; Chaloner Smith, British Mezzotinto Portraits 209; Clayton, The English Print , p. 243, no. 38.