Figures & Heads from the Originals of Louthenbourg & Bossi …

[London,] 1773.

[bound with:]

GREEN, Benjamin. [Two plates of Quakers. 1690. After Marcellus Laroon]. London, Published by Samuel Hooper, 1775.

Large 8vo (275 x 185 mm), in total 24 plates (dated 1761-1775) on thick laid paper, including a title-page; mostly soft-ground etchings, but also two mezzotints, plate sizes 100 x 55 mm to 173 x 114; the last plate (a frieze of putti possibly not by Green) foxed, else in very good condition; stitched in contemporary brown marbled wrappers, later recovered in the nineteenth-century with blue marbled paper, manuscript spine label in French.


US $4105€3768

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Figures & Heads from the Originals of Louthenbourg & Bossi …

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First edition, very rare, containing probably the earliest soft-ground etchings produced in England. A head of a monk after Benigno Bossi, dated 25 December 1771, is often referred to as the first dated soft-ground etching by an English artist (it is here in an early state, without lettering and with a faint publication date 29 May 1772 at the foot); but there is in fact a delightful head of a child in profile here dated 1761.

Benjamin Green (1739–1798) came from an artistic family – his brother Amos was an animal painter, and he succeeded another brother, James, as engraver of the Oxford University almanac in 1760. He was appointed assistant drawing master at Christ’s Hospital school in 1762, and then drawing master in 1766. His large mezzotints after Stubbs greatly contributed to the latter’s fame. ‘After 1771, however, most of Green's effort went into plates for drawing books. He was a gifted draughtsman and was good at imitating the style of other artists … He worked in every printmaking medium and was technically innovative, improvising methods to copy the appearance of drawings. Green was one of the first English artists to use soft-ground etching, his earliest work in that medium being dated 1771’ (ODNB).

The two larger portraits of Quakers after Laroon possibly come from A Drawing Book in Chalks, Containing Fifty-one Plates which is advertised on a trade card printed by Hooper in 1775, but does not appear to survive. That work contained ‘landcapes, figures, heads & animals’ after Sandby, Stubbs, Loutherbourg, Bossi, Laroon, and others, so may also have included some later impressions from Figures & Heads.

Extremely rare: not in Library Hub or OCLC, although we have traced a copy at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (contents unspecified). The British Museum has an impression in sanguine of the title-page, as well as several individual pulls of heads after Bossi (present here in earlier states which erroneously give them to Loutherbourg), and one after Greuze (here unlettered).

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