The Best Portraits in Engraving

It requires no remarkable knowledge to recognize his great merits. Evidently he is a master, exercising sway with absolute art, and without attempts to bribe the eye by special effects of light, as on metal or satin. Among his conspicuous productions is the Tent of Darius, a large engraving on two sheets, after Le Brun, where the family of the Persian monarch prostrate themselves before Alexander, who approaches with Hephæstion. There is also a Holy Family, after Raffaelle, and the Battle of the Standard, after Leonardo da Vinci; but these are less interesting than his numerous portraits, among which that ofPhilippe de Champaigne is the chief masterpiece; but there are others of signal merit, including especially that of Madame Heliot, or La Belle Religieuse, a beautiful French coquette praying before a crucifix;Martin van der Bogaert, a sculptor; Frederic Léonard, printer to the king; Mouton, the Lute-player; Martinus Dilgerus, with a venerable beard white with age; Jules Hardouin Mansart, the architect; also a portrait of Pompone de Bellièvre which will be found among the prints of Perrault's Illustrious Men.

The Philippe de Champaigne is the head of that eminent French artist after a painting by himself, and it contests the palm with the Pompone. Mr. Marsh, who is an authority, prefers it. Dr. Thies, who places the latter first in beauty, is constrained to allow that the other is "superior as a work of the graver," being executed with all the resources of the art in its chastest form. The enthusiasm of Longhi finds expression in unusual praise:

"The work which goes the most to my blood, and with regard to which Edelinck, with good reason, congratulated himself, is the portrait of Champaigne. I shall die before I cease to contemplate it with wonder always new. Here is seen how he was equally great as designer and engraver."[6]

Martin van der Bogaert

(Painted by Hyacinthe Rigaud, and Engraved by Gérard Edelinck.)

And he then dwells on various details; the skin, the flesh, the eyes living and seeing, the moistened lips, the chin covered with a beard unshaven for a few days, and the hair in all its forms.

Between the rival portraits by Nanteuil and Edelinck it is unnecessary to decide. Each is beautiful. In looking at them we recognize anew the transient honors of public service. The present fame of Champaigne surpasses that of Pompone. The artist outlives the magistrate. But does not the poet tell us that "the artist never dies?"

As Edelinck passed from the scene, the family of Drevet appeared, especially the son, Pierre Imbert Drevet, born in 1697, who developed a rare excellence, improvingDrevet. even upon the technics of his predecessor, and gilding his refined gold. The son was born engraver, for at the age of thirteen he produced an engraving of exceeding merit. He manifested a singular skill in rendering different substances, like Masson, by the effect of light, and at the same time gave to flesh a softness and transparency which remain unsurpassed. To these he added great richness in picturing costumes and drapery, especially in lace.

He was eminently a portrait engraver, which I must insist is the highest form of the art, as the human face is the most important object for its exercise. Less clear and simple than Nanteuil, and less severe than Edelinck, he gave to the face individuality of character, and made his works conspicuous in art. If there was excess in the accessories, it was before the age of Sartor Resartus, and he only followed the prevailing style in the popular paintings of Hyacinthe Rigaud. Art in all its forms had become florid, if not meretricious, and Drevet was a representative of his age.