Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Claude Mellan

"It is a Christ's head, designed and shaded, with his crown of thorns and the blood that gushes forth from all parts, by one single stroke, which, beginning at the tip of the nose, and so still circling on, forms most exactly everything that is represented in this plate, only by the different thickness of the stroke, which, according as it is more or less swelling, makes the eyes, nose, mouth, cheeks, hair, blood, and thorns; the whole so well represented and with such expressions of pain and affliction, that nothing is more dolorous or touching."

Claude Mellan
Head of Christ on the Sudarium (detail)
Museum no. E.2546-1960

Line engraving usually creates variations in tone through the juxtaposition and cross-hatching of lines. Claude Mellan (1598-1688) developed a unique style that relied only on curving parallel lines. He exploited the possibilities of the swelling and tapering of an engraved line to give greater or lesser emphasis to the line, depending on whether it represented an area of shade or light. Mellan demonstrated the virtuosity of his technique with this depiction of Christ. The image is formed almost entirely from a single line that spirals out from the nose. Christ’s head is depicted on the Sudarium. According to Christian tradition, this is the name of the veil of St Veronica, which she used to wipe Christ’s brow before the Crucifixion.

Credit line
Given by Mr Edgar Seligman

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