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Single Line Engraving

(Fr.: gravure en un seul trait; gravure à une seule taille)

Quoting the words of Stannard:

“Another ‘Curiosity,’ called single line engraving, is sometimes exhibited in engraved landscapes, and sometimes in figures. Take the ‘Ecce Homo’ for instance, which is effected by the graver starting from a given point, in one continuous, circuitous, wavy, or rather spiral course, making the line vary in substance, as light or shade is desired. Much was thought of it by our dear old friend, Evelyn, who, in his Sculptura, or History of Chalcography, 1662, exclaims, ‘Who has not beheld with admiration the incomparable burin of Claudius Melan [sic, Claude Mellan (1598-1688)] (ob. Paris, 1664), celebrated by the great Gassendus, and employed by the most noble and learned Perieskius? The Sudarium of St. Veronica, where he has formed a head as big as the life itself, with one only line, beginning at the point of the nose, and so by a spiral turning of the graver, finishing at the utmost hair, is a prodigy of his rare art and invention, because it is wholly new, and performed with admirable dexterity.’

Thurneisen of Basle (b. 1636), engraved in this spiral style, with a single stroke, after the manner of Mellan, and his performances were much admired. Pittori, of Venice (b. 1703), who was an admirable artist, also engraved in this remarkable manner, but in courses of lines differently disposed from the preceding, running perpendicularly from top to bottom, the shadows being expressed by strengthening the lines as occasion required, producing an effect far more pleasing than could have been expected.”

A similar technique was applied to a half-tone process for photomechanical printing by Sartinara, of Paris, in 1887. (Nadeau, Encyclopedia, p. xxx.).

Single line engraving on copper by Claude Mellan, 1649. 416x315 mm Single line engraving on copper by Claude Mellan, 1649. 416x315 mm

Single line engraving on copper by Claude Mellan, 1649. 416 x 315 mm.

Detail from the above Single Line Engraving Detail from the above Single Line Engraving

Detail from the above Single Line Engraving. Click to enlarge.