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Emprinted on your mind

Mark Stocker, Curator Historical International Art, explores a selection of paper treasures recently purchased by Te Papa


<P data-associrn="1499354"></P> <P data-associrn="1499537"></P> <P>Te Papa’s historical art collection has been strong in prints from its very outset, when in 1869 Bishop Ditlev Monrad donated some 600 engravings and etchings from his private collection to the Colonial Museum as part of his desire to promote interest in art in New Zealand. In the mid-twentieth century the museum benefitted from a further bonanza with many hundreds more, thanks to advertising magnate and philanthropist Sir John Ilott and his good friend Harold Wright, director of the venerable London dealer gallery Conalghi’s. </P> <P>The collection continues to be supported by the Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust, which was the main source of funding for the major purchase of works on paper in 2015, discussed below. Further invaluable assistance came from the Sir Harold Beauchamp Estate Trust Fund, the focus of Jill Trevelyan’s article in this issue of Off the wall; the Ellen Harriet Eames Estate; and the Thomas Lindsay Buick Estate. </P> <P>The source of Te Papa's 2015 purchase was New York dealer James Goodfriend, who has over half a century’s expertise in the field. Mark Stocker originally corresponded with James Goodfriend in relation to the Ng&#257; Toi season 5 exhibition of architectural etchings by Louis Rosenberg (all Ilott donations). Their conversation soon turned to historical works, and the rest, as they say, is history … </P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P><STRONG>Less is more</STRONG><br> Jean-Louis Forain, <em>Le Calvaire (Calvary)</em>, March 1909</P> <P>The sheet is mostly blank. There’s just a ladder bisecting it, and some random clusters of ordinary people, clearly workmen, in the foreground. Something has just happened that explains their body language; heads are bowed, hats doffed, and the woman on the left is supported by two others as she stumbles out of the picture. It takes a while for the meaning to sink in, but when I tell people that it’s called <EM>Calvary</EM> and depicts the aftermath of the Crucifixion, they are impressed, even if they have no faith and minimal religious knowledge. They admire how the artist, Jean-Louis Forain (a good friend of Edgar Degas), uses pictorial emptiness to convey a sense of loss and grief. This is a work literally of graphic power, and I couldn’t get past it when some months ago, I was looking to enhance Te Papa’s already impressive collection of historic prints.</P> <P data-associrn="1499504"></P> <P><STRONG>Rops and the Devil</STRONG><br> Félicien Rops, <em>La Messagerè du Diable (The devil's messenger)</em>, 1880</P> <P>Let’s move from Christ to the Devil. And from Forain’s few strokes of the etcher’s needle to a richly textured print that involves a complex combination of photographic transfer, aquatint, and etching. Don’t think the artist is just showing off: he wants to evoke gloom, mystery and something sinister. A beautiful, reclining female nude, whose troubled and possibly tempted expression we can only guess at, is accosted by a horribly misshapen Devil (or possibly his emissary), whispering sweet, corrupting things to her. Again, we don’t know just what, and it’s probably better that we don’t. Mischief and danger are afoot. This print by Félicien Rops is an excellent example of Symbolism, the literary and artistic 19th-century thought-mode that relied on the power of suggestion and evocation, leaving you the viewer to work out what’s up. Rops is better known &#8211; indeed notorious &#8211; for his salacious, sometimes pornographic prints, which still make us wince when he pulls out all the stops. Here, though, he is more subtly and compellingly effective.</P> <P data-associrn="1539294"></P> <P><STRONG>A source for Courbet?</STRONG><br> Charles-Émile Jacque, <em>Les Musiciens</em>, 1845</P> <P>Forty years before Rops, in the mid 19th century, a more healthy and hearty realism was the dominant force in French art. Although Gustave Courbet and Jean-Francois Millet were the best-known practitioners, their contemporary Charles-Emile Jacque was hugely respected in his time. Jacque asked: ‘If Rembrandt was around in rural France today, what sort of prints would he be making?’ A work like <EM>Les musiciens</EM> provides an answer: the foreground singer is reminiscent of Rembrandt’s startlingly direct, early self-portraits. Looking further at this print, a sudden thought occurred to me. Did Courbet have the image in mind when he painted the far more famous <EM>After dinner at Ornans</EM>, turning his protagonists round 90 degrees? Maybe; then ‘definitely maybe’ when I checked the date of Jacque’s print, made a couple of years earlier. Then I considered its context: it came out in the luxury folio periodical <EM>L’Artiste</EM>, which Courbet would have certainly seen: <EM>voilà</EM>! But rather than devaluing the stellar status of Courbet, this link can only raise that of the now underrated Jacque, and provide yet another example of the intense interest that great artists take in their peers’ work, but don’t usually let on about!</P> <P data-associrn="1499551"></P> <P data-associrn="42845"></P> <P><STRONG>The cause of the poor</STRONG><br> William Strang, <em>The cause of the poor</em>, 1890</P> <P>We will linger with the poor and dispossessed with one more print: the very title of William Strang’s <EM>The cause of the poor</EM> says it all. Dating from 1890, it depicts an interior, probably of a Victorian workhouse, and a cross-section of its inhabitants. Unlike Jacque’s poor but robust rural labourers, the mood is one of tragic resignation and alienation: all the figures appear strangers to each other, each one carrying their particular story and shame. The elderly man, lost in thought and leaning on his stick, looks for all the world like a Rembrandt biblical figure, perhaps some disciple down on his luck. While there is no mistaking Strang’s humane sympathy with his plight, the tatty coat shows an art-for-art’s-sake interest in its terrific, almost abstract patterning. In its mood, the etching strikes an interesting medium between the sentimental, paternalist depictions of the poor in earlier Victorian art, and the expressionistic modernism &#8211; and avowed socialism &#8211; of Käthe Kollwitz’s <EM>Aufruhr (Uprising)</EM>, which is also in Te Papa’s collection.</P> <P data-associrn="1499500"></P> <P><STRONG>No, Dr Johnson!</STRONG><br> Diana Beauclerk, <em>Street Musicians and Monkeys</em>, 1780-1795</P> <P>In the course of history, women artists till surprisingly recently got a raw deal in terms of their education and subsequent critical recognition, and were also the victims of double standards in judgements on their moral conduct. Consider the case of Lady Diana Beauclerk, the third duke of Marlborough’s artistically talented daughter. She did the unthinkable in the 18th century, divorcing her lecherous first husband, Lord ‘Bully’ Bolingbroke, and marrying her second, Topham Beauclerk, out of love. Samuel Johnson allegedly snapped: ‘The woman’s a whore, and that’s an end on’t!’<SUP><FONT size=2>1</SUP></FONT> No, Dr Johnson! Today we admire both Lady Diana’s conduct and the art that she made in prolific quantities to earn a relatively modest living as a semi-outcast, thanks to such attitudes. Her drawing depicts a motley group of street musicians, with its accompanying population of children and monkeys, the latter traditional partners of organ-grinders. The principal figure, dignified and beautiful as she turns the portable organ, is certainly a Lady Diana lookalike, hinting at a self-portrait. The mood of the work has a lightness, charm and wistfulness, suggesting that like Marie-Antoinette aspiring to her famous rustic retreat, the artist yearned for a simple life.</P> <P data-associrn="1499502"></P> <P><STRONG>Angry asps</STRONG><br> Jan Harmensz. Muller, <em>Cleopatra</em>, 1592</P> <P>In Jan Harmensz. Muller’s <EM>Cleopatra</EM>, Te Papa has acquired an exceptionally rare old print that is intriguingly contemporary with Shakespeare: though Muller was slightly younger than the Bard, his work pre-dates <EM>Antony and Cleopatra</EM> by 12&#8211;14 years. He was an early example of a roving artist, in high international demand for his skills (like footballers today), working in Italy and Prague before returning to his native Amsterdam. Would Shakespeare have admired this print? Of that there is surely little doubt. It is the perfect visual counterpart to Cleopatra’s famous suicide speech: ‘Come thou mortal wretch,/ With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate/ Of life at once untie; poor venomous fool/ Be angry and dispatch’ (V, 2). Cleopatra’s musculature and her complex, distorted pose make Muller’s engraving an excellent example of the Mannerism that was then highly fashionable in Emperor Rudolf II’s Prague, which before the Thirty Years’ War was an artistic centre in Europe probably second only to Rome. </P> <P data-associrn="1499548"></P> <P><STRONG>Roman visions</STRONG><br> Giovanni Battista Piranesi, <EM>View of the Bridge and Mausoleum, built by the Emperor Hadrian</EM>, from <EM>Antichità Romane (Roman Antiquities)</EM> vol. IV, plate IV, 1756 </P> <P>John Wilton-Ely, a leading scholar of Piranesi, the great 18th-century architectural etcher, engraver, designer, architect and archaeologist, claims: ‘The ultimate legacy of his unique vision of Roman civilization was an imaginative interpretation and re-creation of the past, which inspired writers and poets as much as artists and designers.’<SUP><FONT size=2>2</SUP></FONT> This depiction of the Castel Sant’Angelo (originally Hadrian’s Mausoleum) is a classic exemplar of that vision. All visitors to Rome know this landmark, an impressive enough reality, but with his low viewpoint Piranesi makes it look more sublime and sinister as the later papal prison and the scene of Tosca’s suicide.</P> <P data-associrn="1499542"></P> <P><STRONG>Caryatids and satraps</STRONG><br> Marcantonio Raimondi, <em>Facade with caryatids</em>, 1520</P> <P>Architecture also occupies centre stage in one of the most enigmatic of Te Papa’s recent acquisitions, <EM>Façade with caryatids</EM> by Marcantonio Raimondi. This is a very rare and well-preserved work by the first important specialist printmaker of the Renaissance. Through his engravings, Marcantonio made the work of his business partner Raphael familiar to the world beyond Urbino, Florence, and Rome. Later, Marcantonio fell from grace when he was imprisoned by Pope Clement VII for publishing a suite of obscene engravings based on designs by Giulio Romano, and had to rely on powerful friends to be released. Not long afterwards, the Sack of Rome ruined him financially. In our print we see the intellectual rather than the pornographic Marcantonio, revealing his awareness of the 1511 edition of <EM>De Architectura</EM> by the classical architect Vitruvius. In his text, Vitruvius describes pre-Greek Persian porticoes that feature caryatids &#8211; draped female figures that double up as supportive columns. Marcantonio takes this one stage further, creating a lower storey of load-bearing telamons (male caryatids), topped by the Doric order, surmounted by an upper storey of caryatids and the Ionic order: girls on top! Alongside the caryatids is a huge female head. Here the literary source is the Greek writer, traveller and antiquarian Pausanias, who describes a Persian portico with precisely this feature, a portrait of Artemesia, Queen of Halicarnassus, a ferocious ally of Xerxes in the wars against Greece. Did ancient Persian architecture really look like this? It is doubtful, but we have to admire the grandeur of Marcantonio’s reconstruction, magnified by the figures of the architectural connoisseurs standing in the doorway. Look in turn at the figures in Piranesi’s print and you can see that his device (tiny men and mega monuments) is identical and surely owes much to Marcantonio. </P> <P data-associrn="1499506"></P> <P><STRONG>Judgement is nigh!</STRONG><br> Jan Sadeler I, <em>Mankind awaiting the Last Judgement</em>, 1580-1584</P> <P>Surrealist artists would have loved the strangeness of Raimondi’s print, but to many people today his architectural preoccupations may seem remote and possibly even irrelevant. But a truly impressive and large engraving dating from the same century by Jan Sadeler connects the world of 400-plus years ago uncannily with ours. The foreground is dominated by six entwined Renaissance couples, who are elegant, beautifully dressed, and pleasure-loving; servants attend to their needs and musicians assist the hedonistic mood. The company has evidently reached the post-dessert course and you win no prizes for guessing that the amorous mood will only intensify. Only it won’t. A cataclysm appears outside the window and will surely strike any moment now: Christ’s second coming and his pronouncement of the Last Judgement, consigning all sinners to hell. The print quotes in Latin from the Gospel of St Matthew 24:39, ‘Ita erit et adventus filii hominis’. The verse translates as ‘and they knew not until the flood came and took them away; <EM>so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be</EM>’. I don’t rate the chances of the beautiful people too highly. Although the traditional meaning is stirring enough, I believe the work takes on a new level of topicality, even scariness, in today’s situation of the privileged 1 percent enjoying their ‘dolce vita’, seemingly without a care in the world. A secularised cataclysm &#8211; in the form of global warming &#8211; potentially awaits us all! </P> <P><STRONG>The presence of the past</STRONG></P> <P>Is this pushing it and imposing today's political agendas on a very different past? Maybe. But as Curator of Historical International art at Te Papa, I believe not only in preserving and understanding the past, but in exploring how it potentially impacts on us today.</P> <P>We can admire these works on paper in their own right as technically wonderful and aesthetically beautiful, but they can reach out a lot further than that. </P> <P>&nbsp;</P> <P><FONT size=2>Endnotes</P> <OL><LI>This remark is attributed to Johnson by James Boswell. See J C D Clark and Howard Erskine-Hill, <EM>The Interpretation of Samuel Johnson</em>, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, p 21</LI> <LI>John Wilton-Ely, ‘Piranesi, Giovanni Battista’, in <A href="http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T067810">http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/grove/art/T067810</A> (subscriber only)</LI></OL> <P>&nbsp;</FONT size=2></P> <P>&nbsp;</P>
Marcantonio Raimondi, &lt;em&gt;Facade with caryatids&lt;/em&gt;, 1520, engraving, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-5)

Marcantonio Raimondi, Facade with caryatids, 1520, engraving, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-5)

Jean-Louis Forain, &lt;em&gt;Le Calvaire (Calvary)&lt;/em&gt;, March 1909, etching, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-2)

Jean-Louis Forain, Le Calvaire (Calvary), March 1909, etching, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-2)

F&#233;licien Rops, &lt;em&gt;La Messager&#232; du Diable (The devil&#39;s messenger)&lt;/em&gt;, 1880, photogravure, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-9)

Félicien Rops, La Messagerè du Diable (The devil's messenger), 1880, photogravure, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-9)

Charles-&#201;mile Jacque, &lt;em&gt;Les Musiciens&lt;/em&gt;, 1845, etching, Purchased 2015 with Mary Buick Bequest funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-3)

Charles-Émile Jacque, Les Musiciens, 1845, etching, Purchased 2015 with Mary Buick Bequest funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-3)

William Strang, &lt;em&gt;The cause of the poor&lt;/em&gt;, 1890, etching, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-8)

William Strang, The cause of the poor, 1890, etching, Purchased 2015 with Sir John Ilott Charitable Trust funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-8)

Diana Beauclerk, &lt;em&gt;Street Musicians and Monkeys&lt;/em&gt;, 1780-1795, ink drawing with watercolour highlights, Purchased 2015 with Ellen Eames Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-1)

Diana Beauclerk, Street Musicians and Monkeys, 1780-1795, ink drawing with watercolour highlights, Purchased 2015 with Ellen Eames Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-1)

image

Käthe Kollwitz, Aufruhr (Uprising). From: Ein Weberaufstand (A weavers' revolt)., 1899, etching, aquatint and other tonal textures,
Purchased 1981 with New Zealand Lottery Board funds.
Full object info is available on collections.tepapa.govt.nz

 Jan Harmensz. Muller, &lt;em&gt;Cleopatra&lt;/em&gt;, 1592, engraving. Purchased 2015 with Ellen Eames Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-4)

Jan Harmensz. Muller, Cleopatra, 1592, engraving. Purchased 2015 with Ellen Eames Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-4)

 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, &lt;em&gt;View of the Bridge and Mausoleum, built by the Emperor Hadrian&lt;/em&gt;, from &lt;em&gt;Antichit&#224; Romane (Roman Antiquities)&lt;/em&gt; vol. IV, plate IV, 1756, etching, Purchased 2015 with Ellen Eames Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-6)

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of the Bridge and Mausoleum, built by the Emperor Hadrian, from Antichità Romane (Roman Antiquities) vol. IV, plate IV, 1756, etching, Purchased 2015 with Ellen Eames Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-6)

Jan Sadeler I, &lt;em&gt;Mankind awaiting the Last Judgement&lt;/em&gt;, 1580-1584, engraving, Purchased 2015 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-7)

Jan Sadeler I, Mankind awaiting the Last Judgement, 1580-1584, engraving, Purchased 2015 with Harold Beauchamp Collection funds. Te Papa (2015-0056-7)

Gustave Courbet, &lt;em&gt;After Dinner at Ormans&lt;/em&gt;, 1849, oil on canvas. Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille via Wikimedia Commons.

Gustave Courbet, After Dinner at Ormans, 1849, oil on canvas. Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille via Wikimedia Commons.