Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Antique Image of the Day: A Mezzotint of Queen Mary II, 17th C.

Maria D.G. Angliae Scotiae Franciae et Hiberniae Regina & CT. 
Mezzotint, John Smith
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A mezzotint is a form of tonal engraving made when the surface of a metal plate is pitted with a serrated tool called a “rocker.” The plate is then scraped and smoothed so that different areas of the plate will hold varying quantities of ink depending on the relief. This technique creates a range of rich, textures and tones and white highlights when the image is printed onto the paper.

The print we see here is based on a portrait of Queen Mary II (Who ruled as Sovereign jointly with her cousin/husband King William III and II) which was painted in 1688 by the Dutch painter and engraver Jan van der Vaardt, who moved to England in 1674.

This is the work of one John Smith, a printmaker who is thought to be one of the most important mezzotinters of the Seventeenth Century.

Here, Queen Mary II is depicted as dressed in the height of fashion, in the style set by the French court, wearing a formal mantua of striped and figured silk. Her royal noggin is adorned with an elaborate lace headdress which was called a frelange, with ribbon-bows behind (known as fontanges). The whole ensemble was held up by a wire frame called a commode.

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