Prints and Drawings

2017 Oxford Slade Lectures, The Material Presence of Absent Antiquities: Collecting Excessive Objects and the Revival of the Past

By Aidan Mehigan, Current Graduate MSt History of Art and Visual Culture


Caroline van Eck’s 2017 Oxford Slade Lectures, The Material Presence of Absent Antiquities: Collecting Excessive Objects and the Revival of the Past, were announced by a flyer bearing an image of an ornate candelabrum sculpted under the supervision of Giambattista Piranesi and now housed in the Louvre. In just the small part of the object captured by the photo, we can see several tiers of stonework, a lion’s head, acanthus leaves, foliated strigilations, clusters of berries, and much more. Van Eck’s idea of the “excessive object” is immediately clear.

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Close-up of the Louvre Candelabrum, © Hende Bauer

But what made me (and I’m sure many others) particularly excited for these lectures—even though, as the Slade Lectures, they really need no further advertising—is the fact that this object has two siblings in Oxford. The Ashmolean Museum houses two such candelabra, purchased from Piranesi’s workshop in the mid-eighteenth century by Roger Newdigate, who donated them to the University in 1775. They spent a few decades in the Radcliffe Camera before moving to the Greek and Roman sculpture collection at the Ashmolean in 1846.

The first few Slade Lectures this year, then, stayed very close to home, and I think we all relished the opportunity to learn more about a set of objects with which we already had some passing familiarity. Prof. van Eck spent several sessions walking us through the controversial provenance of these complicated works and explored their ancient precedents, initial reception after their supposed “discovery,” and relationship to Piranesi’s other design work and drawings.

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Candelabras in the Ashmolean, © Aidan Mehigan

Despite their imposing form, the Ashmolean candelabra are easy to overlook—because they are placed against a wall, it’s impossible to get a full view of them, and since they flank a doorway, the natural impulse is to keep on moving. The chance to be forced to spend some significant time really looking at them in detail, to see them close read again and again from a variety of angles, was most welcome.

But it soon became apparent that, despite her intensive initial focus on them, the candelabra themselves are not the real focus of Prof. van Eck’s project. Putting on a display of the trademark scholarly versatility and appetite for wide-ranging argumentation that have made her reputation over the years, Prof. van Eck has, in her last few talks, pivoted to an in-depth exploration not of any particular objects but to the birth and intellectual roots of Neoclassicism itself.

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Candelabra in the Ashmolean, © Aidan Mehigan

Patrons, artists, viewers, collectors, and their habits have all had their part to play as Prof. van Eck has probed into the origins of the eighteenth-century impulse to make present an ancient past. Characters as diverse as Wolfgang van Goethe, Caroline van Humboldt, and Aby Warburg have all made appearances. Objects themselves have wielded considerable agency as well, particularly given that, as Prof. van Eck has pointed out, certain works (such as Canova’s Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix) were perceived by their contemporaries to be truly alive, and were treated as such.

Other topics that have been incorporated into the series include the profusion of animal-related imagery, especially in tableware, and its links to ideas of domestication, totem poles and Rorschach inkblots, the eclectic interiors of the Hôtel de Beauharnais in Paris, and the emergence of the tableau vivant—all of which, Prof. van Eck is careful to repeatedly point out, were conceived, created, and experienced in contexts that predate the museum.

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© Department of History of Art, University of Oxford

In a conversation with the History of Art Department’s own architectural historian, Dr. Matthew Walker, as part of a reception held at St. Peter’s College on February 21, Prof. van Eck made explicit for the first time just what she’s driving at with this impressively large cast of objects and moments. As one might have suspected, the book project she envisions developing out of this lecture series will not be about the Piranesi candelabra in the Ashmolean or elsewhere, but rather more generally about the formation and emergence of the Empire Style in early nineteenth century France.

The candelabra, fascinating objects though they may be, are, for Prof. van Eck, most useful as summary objects around which to organize both the initial questions she’s interested in asking and the later-emerging concepts her analysis engages with. That they are so striking certainly makes this organizational role a vivid and memorable one, but Prof. van Eck has made clear that her interests here are in higher-order phenomena themselves rather than any particular manifestations thereof.

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© Department of History of Art, University of Oxford

The final two lectures of the series elaborated on the ideas previewed at the St. Peter’s reception. The whole audience was especially intrigued by lecture seven, in which Prof. van Eck surveyed a great deal of literature in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral anthropology to familiarize us with the essentially universal human tendency to assign animacy and intentionality to even the most abstract movements and visual stimuli.

Though it took some time to get an audience of art historians and art enthusiasts up to speed on some occasionally quite technical material, this foray into the sciences proved crucial to substantiating Prof. van Eck’s point that the defining feature of the Empire Style is its immersiveness: uncanny animal forms invite us to grasp and control the world of objects. For Prof. van Eck, the Empire Style profoundly entangles humans with things.

Prof. van Eck, at the opening of her final lecture, urged us to consider a line from an essay by Novalis on Goethe: “antiquity is only now coming into being.” In this moment, one of her larger implicit arguments of this series immediately became clear: Piranesi and his fellow antiquarians were not restoring, recovering, or reimagining antiquity—they were creating it. The artistic and intellectual situation in Napoleon’s Paris around 1800 prefigured, she asserts, the material turn currently taking place in the academy—where the obsession is not with ideas or texts but overwhelmingly with things and their thing-ness.

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© Department of History of Art, University of Oxford

In this final lecture, Prof. van Eck wonderfully demonstrated the need for scholars to bring together anthropological ideas about agency attribution and art historical ideas of style formation. Anthropology, archaeology, and art history all have claims on the object, and it is only by uniting them, Prof. van Eck concluded, that we can begin tackling the problems of materiality.

I can’t be alone when I say that I was wowed by the breadth and depth of Prof. van Eck’s lectures and that I left them unsettled and inspired in equal parts. I’m sure our memories and notes from this term will serve us all well for years to come. We’ll certainly need something to tide us over until the book arrives, and I believe I speak for everyone when I say I am incredibly excited for that day to come.


Professor Caroline van Eck was appointed in October 2016 as Professor of History of Art at the University of Cambridge.

Inside Christ Church Picture Gallery

By Jacqueline Thalmann, Curator of the Picture Gallery


Studying in Oxford also means access to a number of world class museums, collections and objects – some of them better known than others. The lesser known ones have the stigma of inaccessibility attached, but it is often just a matter of less prominent placement and publicity and the uncomfortable fact, voiced by Goethe, that we only see what we know.

Have you, for example, seen Giampietrino’s important copy of Leonardo’s Last Supper or Mark Wallinger’s impressive sculpture Y, both in Magdalen College, or the El Greco in the chapel of New College? These are overlooked objects that surround us – just waiting to be noticed and seen.

Christ Church Picture Gallery and its collection somewhat share this fate – even though to a much lesser degree. However, until the opening of Pembroke College’s art gallery in 2013 – showing their remarkable JCR’s collection of mainly British 20th century art – Christ Church was the only Oxford (and Cambridge) college with a dedicated and open-to-the-public gallery and a world-class collection to fill it. In fact, Christ Church can be proud to have opened the first permanent public art gallery in Britain. It opened its doors in 1768, with the first catalogue of the paintings being published in 1771. The Ashmolean did not yet have paintings and the Bodleian’s art collection consisted almost exclusively of portraits, whose main pull was to entertain the visitors with the likenesses of the famous and infamous sitters, rather than their artistic execution.

0803_pg-137view-to-drawings-galleryInterior Views of the Red Gallery and Picture Gallery © Christ Church Picture Gallery

But the ‘art scene’ in Oxford changed when Christ Church accepted an exceptional bequest of almost 2,000 drawings and over 200 paintings by one of its alumni, General John Guise (1682-1765). The collection consisted mainly of Italian Old Masters, including all of the famous names: Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Carracci, Tintoretto, Veronese et al, especially among the drawings and some of the less famous and anonymous masters, whose works are no less enticing – visually and academically. The acceptance of this vast number of works also meant that Christ Church took on the responsibility of caring for them and showing them. They were not hung in private or semi-private college rooms, as would have been the easy option, but from the beginning, the idea was to share the works by displaying them together in a dedicated gallery space. This was ground-breaking: for the first time one could see paintings and drawings by the great Italian masters without having to travel to the continent or having to gain access to private residences and collections.

jbs-62v-webMichelangelo, Study for a left leg (JBS62v) © Christ Church Picture Gallery

John Guise’s awareness of the importance of the visual arts had been fuelled by one of his Oxford teachers, Dean Henry Aldrich, but also by writers and collectors like Jonathan Richardson who wrote in 1715:

” supposing two Men perfectly equal in all other respects, only one is conversant with the works of the best Masters […] and the other not; the former shall necessarily gain the Ascendant, and have nobler Ideas, […]; he shall be a more Ingenious, and a Better Man”

These thoughts have become even more poignant today in view of recent developments in art education. But let’s continue with the pioneering history of the collection: The then new Christ Church library, which was designed with an open loggia on the ground floor, was modified and the loggia was abandoned in favour of creating the necessary wall space to hang the incoming collection. This newly developed space was called the Picture Gallery (today it is known as the Lower Library) and was open to the public. The library itself (today known as the Upper Library), was the actual college library and only open to members of Christ Church and by permission. It is important to stress these distinctions in order to fully appreciate the sagacity and unprecedented act of – not only incorporating art into the Oxford education – but extending that to a wider audience.  We even have a caricature by Thomas Rowlandson of an early guide to the collection – Mrs Showwell (1807).

mrs-showwellThomas Rowlandson (after John Nixon), Mrs Showwell © Christ Church Picture Gallery

Establishing the gallery, attracted other gifts and bequests: The Continence of Scipio, an important early van Dyck, was added in 1809, bequeathed by Lord Frederick Campbell; two gifts of Early Italian paintings, by the pioneering collectors W T H Fox Strangways (1828) and Walter Savage Landor (1897) widened the scope of the collection and more recently we added a collection of British 18th century drinking glasses and Russian metal icons to it.

van Dyck, Anthony, 1599-1641; The Continence of ScipioAnthony van Dyck, The Continence of Scipio (JBS 245) © Christ Church Picture Gallery

The growing number of paintings and the library’s need for more space heightened the need for a new dedicated gallery building and this, the current building, sensitively designed by Powell and Moya, opened in 1968. It was almost too sensitively designed, without any façade or wall visible from the outside, the gallery sits, nearly undetectable, within the gardens and grounds of Christ Church. This outwards invisibility almost conceals its content: one of the most important Old Master collections in Britain. But, after finding the rabbit hole through which to squeeze (the entrance in Canterbury Quad), the visitor resurfaces in a light, modern and cleverly designed building to encounter some of the great masterpieces of Western art: be it Annibale Carracci’s Butcher’s Shop, a highly visceral, early (the first) monumental genre painting or the cerebral Wounded Centaur by Filippino Lippi, or Hugo van der Goes ‘religious close-up’ – or one of our drawings exhibitions (at the moment, until the 30th January 2017, Drawing in Red, an exploration of red chalk drawing).

Carracci, Annibale, 1560-1609; The Butcher's ShopAnnibale Carracci, The Butcher’s Shop (JBS181) © Christ Church Picture Gallery

Having said all this, if you have not been visited the Picture Gallery, yet, do drop by. You will find us at the back gate of Christ Church, off Oriel Square. The porter at the gate can point you in the right direction – and while there is a small entrance charge – current and former members of the University and Oxford Brookes have free access, just show your University card at the gallery entrance desk.


More information about the Picture Gallery can be found here.

Student Placements: Working in the Ashmolean Museum’s Prints and Drawings Department

By Ella Letort, Second Year BA History of Art Undergraduate


One of the Oxford History of Art Department’s great strengths is the extent to which it makes use of the city’s world-class collections. From the start of our degrees, students are familiarised with the art and objects offered by local museums and galleries. Oxford’s collections remain at the core of the undergraduate programme’s layout, with tutorials frequently held in the University’s Ashmolean Museum, as well as a first year extended essay requiring independent research on an object held within the city. Second year collections placements, organised through the Department, aim to build upon this by offering us the opportunity to see Oxford’s museums and galleries in fresh light through a placement within one of the many available departments.

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Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino (1591-1666), St Francis kneeling, c. 1615. Charcoal crayon, heightened with white, on buff paper. Reproduced with permission. © Ashmolean Museum Prints and Drawings Department

My placement alongside the Ashmolean Museum’s Prints and Drawings Department, taking place one afternoon per week throughout Hilary and Trinity terms, has fitted comfortably around academic work while being substantial enough to accommodate individual projects. Thus far, my work has largely involved digitally cataloguing etchings and engravings from the School of Fontainebleau – a period in which I had, and have, little expertise. One of the reasons for my application to the Print Room was the appeal of close encounters with works of art; mounted prints and drawings can be handled with gloves, and this encourages up-close observation. My lack of specialist knowledge certainly necessitated careful examination of the prints and written sources at hand. Far from being monotonous, this method of cataloguing has been, for me, an exercise in observation and has given me the chance to work closely with objects I would not have otherwise encountered. Each print presented its own challenges; often the work of art would require further research or, at times, the identification of the artist or subject matter. This enabled me to feel that, although my role within the Print Room was relatively small, I was nonetheless able to make a contribution to the Department.

From the very start of my time working alongside them, the staff have been exceptionally welcoming and helpful. As well as cataloguing, I was given numerous opportunities to view works of art relating to current courses of mine, which reflects the Department’s commitment to fostering greater interest in the arts with as many people as possible. For example, I was able to study John Ruskin’s watercolours – which are part of his Teaching Collections, and are housed in the Ashmolean’s Print Room – alongside the second year ‘Victorian Intellect and Culture’ module. Besides the support it provides to History of Art students, the Print Room’s diverse collection caters to the varied interests of University academics as well as members of the public, both of whom could frequently be found viewing the prints and drawings on offer during my working hours.

The collections placement has deepened my knowledge of how large museums and galleries like the Ashmolean work; in particular how they strengthen the academic and public understanding of art across Oxford. The cataloguing and research skills I’ve taken away from my time in the Prints and Drawings Department have put me in good stead during interviews for summer internships and have lead to future opportunities. The History of Art collections placements not only help undergraduates to engage further with the collections they frequently use, but also offer us a foot up in a competitive career sector with a growing demand for prior experience.


The Ashmolean Museum’s Print Room is home to one of Britain’s finest collections of European graphic arts. Find more information on their holdings, opening hours, and contact details here

John Ruskin’s Teaching Collections have been digitised by the Ashmolean and made available online here.

The Building Before Photography

By Dr Matthew Walker

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Figure 1: Robert Hooke, The Anatomy Theatre of the College of Physicians, London, 1671-1679. Demolished 1866. Engraving by David Loggan, 1677. © Wellcome Images.

Antony Griffiths’s brilliant Slade Lectures this term have got us all thinking about the print and its role in European culture before the invention of photography. For me personally, they have been hugely useful as my own research is often concerned with printed material about architecture in the seventeenth century. In this post I thought I might give my thoughts on Antony’s lectures and, more generally, say something about the role that prints play in architectural history.

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Figure 2: Engraving of the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, from Georges Guillet de Saint-George, Athènes ancienne et nouvelle, 1675. Reproduced with permission of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

One of the most important implications of Antony’s lectures has, I think, been his challenging of art (and architectural) historians’ use of prints as relatively straightforward transmitters of visual information in the pre-photographic age. He has shown time and time again in his talks that this was not the case; that prints were highly complex objects that should be considered in their own right rather than as windows onto lost artistic cultures. Architectural historians have been particularly guilty of this sin of anachronism I think. And my conscience is by no means clear. In an article I published in 2013 on the now demolished anatomy theatre of the College of Physicians in London (designed by Robert Hooke in the 1670s) [Figure 1] I used a series of engravings of the structure to communicate to the reader what the building had once looked like. But at no point did I stop and think about these prints as objects made with ink, a copperplate and a printing press, instead I treated them as the equivalent of early modern photographs.

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Figure 3: The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, 2nd Century AD, Athens. © Visual Resources Centre, History of Art Department, University of Oxford

So, I’ve recently started to think about the seventeenth-century architectural print as, firstly, a historically localised object and, secondly, as a potentially tricky customer when it comes to representational accuracy.  Take the example of another article I published recently. This included a remarkable illustration: an engraving of another, much older theatre, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, built in the 2nd century AD on the slopes of the Acropolis. It was depicted as it had appeared to a French traveller when he visited Athens in 1675. [Figure 2] The engraving was widely circulated as very few Western Europeans had ever visited Greece and the building was largely unknown at the time. Except that this engraving did not show the building at all, the people who made it had never been to Athens and the entire image had been fabricated in Paris. A photograph on a lantern slide from the Visual Resources Centre shows the actual structure in the early twentieth century before recent restoration work [Figure 3] and we can see just how wide of the mark the engraving was.  Luckily, a traveller called Francis Vernon visited Athens in 1676 and immediately wrote back to London and Paris warning people of the disingenuous nature of the print. A subsequent English edition of the book in which the print had first appeared was then published without the offending image.

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Figure 4: Photograph of the Anatomy Theatre taken in 1866. St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background. Reproduced by courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians.

The Odeon print shows that some engraved images of architecture in the early modern period were exercises in outright fiction. But this is a limit case, and its mendacity was exposed at the time of its production. To return to Hooke’s anatomy theatre we can see that other prints from the period – that were apparently accurate representations of buildings – still have the potential to trip the architectural historian up. Look at the engraving I showed earlier. It is a print of Hooke’s theatre that had been produced in 1677 by the well-known seventeenth-century engraver David Loggan. For a long time this was one of the only images we had of the demolished theatre until two remarkable photographs of the building, taken weeks before its destruction in 1866 showed up in the present day archives of the college [Figure 4&5]. Comparing the print with the photographs we can immediately see that the Loggan engraving is reasonably accurate but with differences in the proportions of the dome, the glazing of the lantern and the details of the finial, everything below matches up. Can we explain these small but significant inaccuracies? Yes, I believe we can. As part of my research on the theatre I have accurately reconstructed the history of its construction and we now know that, as Loggan’s print was made in 1677, it predated the completion of building work by nearly three years. In fact, it was produced just as Hooke was designing the dome and its lantern. So, Loggan must have taken the design of the dome from drawings, probably by Hooke (who he knew well), rather than in situ. Hence the small differences between the print and the building.

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Figure 5: Photograph of the Anatomy Theatre on Warwick Lane, London, taken in 1866. Reproduced by courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians.

This has interesting implications for other engravings of the theatre. A year later, and still two years before building work finished, we find another, anonymous engraving, very similar to Loggan’s, but much cruder [Figure 6]. This print must have been based on Loggan’s as it exaggerates the differences in the design of the glazing and the finial now bears very little resemblance to the executed building. The chances are this engraver only had access to Loggan’s print and not Hooke’s drawings, thus the small inaccuracies became magnified. This process even continued after the building was completed. Another print, again made after Loggan in 1707, either in France or for the French market, shows the inaccurate rendering of the dome and lantern [Figure 7] in spite of the building having been finished nearly thirty years previous. This print seems to have been made by somebody who had never seen the building as the structure was now rendered ludicrously out of scale with a group of human figures that had also been added to the composition.

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Figure 6: The Anatomy Theatre of the College of Physicians, anonymous engraver after Loggan, 1678 from Pharmacopoeia Collegii Regalis Londini, (London, 1678) © Early English Books Online.

To return to Loggan, the point of this extended discussion is that we should see the original engraving of the theatre not as a depiction of the building, but rather as a depiction of the design of the building. It had been based, to some degree, on Hooke’s drawings rather than the structure itself. This is an important distinction I think, and Antony made a similar point in his seventh lecture about Marcantonio’s engravings after Raphael, which show examples of Raphael’s disegno rather than his paintings per se. But there is another potential explanation for the inaccuracies of both the Loggan print and the copies of it. This relates to function. The original Loggan engraving was commissioned by the College of Physicians to accompany the publication of its annual ‘Pharmacopoeia’, a printed review of the drugs available in the London medical world and a display of the physicians’ control over treatments given out in the city. Thus, the print was the visual counterpart of the accompanying Latin text and was less a representation of a building, more a symbol of a learned organisation. Loggan’s engraving of the theatre served as a synecdoche for the institution and for the intellectual calibre of its members. This explains why the print depicts the theatre in isolation from the rest of the city (a feature of the image that was grossly exaggerated in the 1707 French engraving) in spite of its actual site being a cramped urban one in the area of the city north of St. Paul’s Cathedral. In this case, I think, the desire for symbolic clarity in the print outweighed the need for architectural or topographical veracity. In other words: architectural historians beware!

But I don’t mean to suggest that architectural historians should eschew prints. As long as we heed Antony’s warning and always consider the circumstances of a print’s production and their functions beyond the straightforward reproducing of works of art and architecture, then they have much to offer us. In the case of Loggan’s print, it reveals far more about the design history of the building as well as the intellectual aspirations of its patrons and its users than any photograph could.

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Figure 7: The Anatomy Theatre of the College of Physicians, anonymous engraver after Loggan, 1707 © Wellcome Images.

Matthew Walker BA (Oxford) MA PhD (York) is a Departmental Lecturer in the History of Art Department and a Tutor for St. Peter’s and Worcester Colleges. Matthew’s research concerns architecture and intellectual culture in late seventeenth and early eighteenth-century Britain. He is currently finishing his first book, Architects, Builders and Intellectual Culture in Post-Restoration England, and is an editor for the journal Architectural History.

The Print before Photography: ‘The Technology and its Implications’

A student’s review of Antony Griffiths’s first Slade Lecture

By Emily Knight

Abraham Bosse, Intaglio Printing, 1642  © Trustees of the British Museum

Abraham Bosse, Intaglio Printing, 1642 © Trustees of the British Museum

A “tiny backwater sandwiched between…art history and that of printed books”; the European print is the focus of this year’s Slade Lectures by Antony Griffiths. The aim of the series is to provide a framework for understanding and interpreting the European print, not as an early photograph but as a work of art in its own right. As the former Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum rightly stated, the European print is little taught at universities, consigning it to the preserve of academics and specialised collectors. This prestigious lecture series will hopefully go some way to addressing this lack in art education and encourage a new generation of scholars to direct their attention more fully to this vital and expansive aspect of European visual culture.

Griffiths began the lecture by giving an overview of the history of printmaking in Europe, referring to the developments of various printing techniques and the commercial aspects of their production. Acknowledging and explaining the complex technical processes and confusing terminology associated with prints, he provided the audience with a necessary and clear introduction to the lecture series. Rather than focusing on the changes that took place in the development of the European print, he has structured his lectures around various continuities drawing examples largely from the British Museum, some which had fittingly been owned by Felix Slade (after whom the Slade Lectures are named).

Antoine Masson, Portrait of Henri de Lorraine, Count of Harcourt, known as "le Cadet la Perle”, after Nicolas Mignard, 1667.

Antoine Masson, Portrait of Henri de Lorraine, Count of Harcourt, known as “le Cadet la Perle”, after Nicolas Mignard, 1667. © Trustees of the British Museum

The main body of the lecture centred on the technology of printmaking and the astounding manual dexterity of the most skilful engravers. This was perfectly illustrated by Antoine Masson’s Portrait of Henri de Lorraine, Count of Harcourt, known as “le Cadet la Perle”, after Nicolas Mignard. Using close-ups of the print, Griffiths demonstrated the precision of lines and diverse effects made possible by the expert engraver and his burin, contrasting these to the pixilation of digital images. He compellingly argued that no skill has been so completely overlooked in recent art history and it is vital that due attention is paid. Griffiths made a point of distinguishing the techniques of engraving and etching, the latter so often subsumed by the use of ‘engraving’ as an umbrella term. Etching was a more accessible technique available to the gentleman amateur, whereas engraving was a highly skilled and refined technique that required a lengthy apprenticeship.

Despite this, Griffiths interestingly explained how present scholarship favours etching over engraving, the latter having been assimilated with photography due to the fact that engravings were often made after Old Master paintings. This, he persuasively argued, ignores the skill and creativity of engravers. Furthermore, before 1800, when the public had little access to these sorts of paintings, people did not consider engravings as mere substitutes but as works of art in their own right. This has resulted in a complete misrepresentation of the print. It will be intriguing to discover more about the status of the print with regards to debates about originality and copying as the lecture series progresses.

It was fascinating to discover more about the economics of the print business, such as the issue of copper plates wearing down over time, therefore limiting the total number of impressions; an issue which Griffiths will focus on in his third lecture. He also touched upon the personal exchange of prints and it will be interesting to discover how they were circulated outside of the trade.

As Griffiths demonstrated, the complexities of print scholarship – the lack of signatures on prints, the softening of images as the plate wears out, the subtle differences in printing techniques – make it a challenging field for researchers, let alone an unspecialised audience. Griffiths’s erudite, thoughtfully structured and expertly illustrated lecture was a comprehensive and clear introduction to this area of art history. The rest of the lecture series promises to be a rare and fascinating insight, particularly for history of art students, into this overlooked aspect of visual culture.

The next seven lectures in the Slade Lecture Series ‘The Print Before Photography: The European print in the age of the copper plate and wooden block’ given by Antony Griffiths will be taking place in the Andrew Wiles Building in the Mathematical Institute on Wednesdays at 5pm during Hilary Term. For more details please click Slade Lectures 2015.

Antony Griffiths

Antony Griffiths

Emily Knight completed her Masters in the History of Art and Visual Culture at the University of Oxford (2012). She is continuing her postgraduate studies within the History of Art Department working toward her DPhil.