Printmaking in Piranesi’s Time


what are the various printmaking techniques that Piron Ozzy used to create his prints what are the differences between these techniques will begin by imagining that we are visiting his workshop in the Strada flea che near the Spanish Steps in Rome what we see here is a French workshop of the same period but the range of activities that are being carried out here no different from the ones took place in an Italian workshop of the same era engraving naturing are two different techniques but both involve the working of lines into the surface of metal plate normally copper using a variety of pointed tools in engraving the lines of work directly into the plate with printmaking tools a Burin or a graver the plate would generally be rested on a cushion in such a way that the artist could tarnish at different angles while creating an individual line however the resistance of the metal makes anything like the free line of drawing impossible and great discipline as well as ingenuity was needed to build up a pattern of lines that would create the illusions of tone sometimes almost of color as well as depth and perspective many of Piran Ozzie’s prints and many large prints by other artists use a combination of engraved and etched lines on one plate but pure engraving was seen as the more technically difficult process it was particularly favored for use in portraits in this collaborative portrait of pope clement xiii the portrait itself is by Domenico Koenig a one of Renee’s contemporaries and is engraved while most of the other details have been etched by pure and AZ bitching was in some ways a more complicated process than engraving but allowed the artist to create a freer line much closer’s that of drawing one in our 18th century french studio we can see all the major steps that went into making an etched plate firstly the plant would be completely coated with a wax based coating that was acid resistant this is called the ground next the ground would be blackened by waving a lit candle or taper across the surface the asked would draw through the wax using pointed instruments of varying degrees of firmness often termed needles against the charcoal deposit left by the tapers the lines created would show up as a pink copper color the word etching comes from a German word mean to eat or corrode and the next step explains why the lines would be deepened by a nursing plate in an acid bath here we see studio assistants preparing the acid then the plate being submerged in the acid bath the acid would only eat into the plate where the metal was exposed and not through the wax based coating or ground for delicate lines just one immersion might be enough then these would be covered over the technical term has stopped out with an acid resistant substance while the plank would be nursed more times in order to create deeper and then the deepest lumps here we see stereo assistants emptying acid from the bath if the print maker was satisfied with any of the line work at this stage there were ways of making alterations one was to work on the rear of the plate with small hands or mallets as we see here the mass also be some itched lines made directly onto the plate and not work through a ground this process is known as dry point the grain that you to draw on plate throws up a kind of metal furrow on each side of such lines these catch zinc resulting in rich dark lines and an almost fuzzy overall effect now for the printing the plate is warmed on hot plate and then inked evenly with a dabba a dampened paper sheet is placed on top of the plate which lies face upwards on the bed of a press the press consisted of two rollers operated manually by a wheel even pressure is secured by laying blankets over both flat plate and the paper in passing through the press the paper is forced in thin lines on the plate creating an apprentice impression the plate also leaves a distinctive indentation made by its edges the plates mark the sheet is then hung up to dry if the paper sheet were a large one it might be hung over aligned dried leaving a fold mark on its reverse side fold marks are visible on the backs of some of Piran Ozzie’s views of Rome many of Pyrenees these earlier prints were printed in the workshop of french bookseller and publisher in rome but from 1761 until his death he was able to afford his own staff and a workshop with two presses like the french workshop in the illustrations Pyrenees his workshop offered employment to a range of people from young apprentices to senior craftsmen able apprentices could slowly work their way upward mastering all printmaking skills and might remain in one studio for life in the 1790s almost 15 years after pyrenees death his sons were still employing members of the Morey family who joined the workshop in the 1760s in the last decade of his life many of the publication’s from Pyrenees workshop such as the big book on Trajan’s cotton were primarily the creation of studio staff who copied from drawings made by Piranesi we know from sources close to his old son the Pyrenees he himself often worked from memory on the plate drawings on site were something he seems only to have done to impress things into his memory which must have been what we would now call photographic in studio it was though he was starting afresh and he was known to work unusually rapidly now let’s look at some individual prints just to start to gain some idea with quite different effects Piron AZ obtained the way in which pure edging could simulate the freedom of drawing is clear in this early were published in 1748 showing an arch in Ancona not far from vents it has much of the lightness and airiness that characterized Venetian printmaking of his day the feature that marks Piranesi from all his contemporaries is the extraordinary range of line work in a single print from intensely dark the most light and delicate this look for a moment at this view of the arch of Titus on the right the arch and the deep shadows around us are created from the dramatic lines but paranasal made by immersing the plate between 10 and 12 times in the acid box at the opposite extreme look at the delicate details in the background such as three columns of the temple to the left of the man gesturing these would have been scratch very likely through the wax based ground then stopped up when the plate was repeatedly submerged in the acid bath this view of the interior of the so-called temple of the COFF contains more examples of deeply bitten and therefore dark lines in fact well the first edition of this image looks quite dramatic what we see here is second edition or state where Pyrenees he added new lines to an already quite intense area the arch that frames the view into the dome sometimes he to play so heavily and works like this the inking actually obscures individual lines in the plate printing as a dark almost solid mass in his own printing studio he also seems to have been using heavier printing presses than many other print makers which was another way of reinforcing the intensity he strove for we can easily be overpowered by the drama created through these techniques and miss the lightness and airiness that he could also convey this archway made up from deeply bitten lands looks all the more imposing because of the delicate lines of the corns stretching under the art trains the distance and the suggestion of a hazy shimmering Italian sky in fact Pyrenees skies are a study of their own often but not always they include small groups of irregular dark lines if you look again at the view of the arch of Titus we can see these lines in the sky above the walls on the left sometimes lines like these create an oddly unsettling effect as they do in this view of the form shimmering light effects are also a feature of some of Pyrenees his views of the interiors of the great pilgrimage churches of Rome this long perspective view inside some Peters is typical and this edition was printed in the 1750s when Pyrenees his views were being printed on presses that were lighter in weight than the ones he subsequently used sandwiches would make all the lines on the plate with a single needle retching tool but a place look at Pyrenees his views of brain show that in these images he used several different needles of varying thicknesses this is the case of the parallel lines that make up the columns in this view of the temple of Concord looked at in isolation the effect is almost surreal as though we were looking at work by a mid 20th century artist these are only a few of the almost endlessly varied effects of Piran AZ obtained in his printing but I hope that this introduction helps you to begin to appreciate the remarkable gifts of this great artists and to realize how rewarding it can be to look closely at his work you

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