Auguste BLANCHARD after Sir Lawrence ALMA-TADEMA (1836-1912)
The Vintage Festival
Engraving, 1873, on chine with margins (image 36.1 x 85.4 cm), laid down on a sheet of white wove (67.3 x 113 cm). Signed in pencil lower left by the artist and lower right by the engraver, with the PSA blindstamp. On the original canvas support and in the original frame with the original rippled float glass.
Contemporary reference: Pilgeram and Lefevre, The Vintage: Ancient Rome. Pamphlet, London, n.d. but probably 1873 (New York Public Library, Microfilm *ZM-MCT p.v.4, no. 14).
Alma-Tadema completed the large version of The Vintage Festival (1870, oil on canvas, 77 x 177 cm, now in the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany) as part of a commission for the dealer Ernest Gambart. Realizing its importance and thanking the artist with a bonus substantially above what had been agreed, Gambart immediately resold the painting to Baron J.H.W. von Schröder, who was to become the noted collector of the artist's most important works.
Having commissioned the well-known French engraver, Auguste Blanchard, to do a plate of The Vintage Festival, Gambart now ordered from Alma-Tadema a second version, a reduced replica on panel for Gambart's own private collection, to serve as the model for engraving. By placing such an order the dealer was following his earlier practice, where he had encouraged William Powell Frith and Holman Hunt to make second versions of their most important works. When this second version was later exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876, it won the gold medal (The Vintage Festival, 1871, oil on panel, 51 x 119 cm, now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia).
Auguste Blanchard (1819-1898), the engraver of The Vintage Festival, was a French engraver who did much work for both French and English contemporaries. Perhaps his best-known engravings are those after the pictures of Frith (for example, Derby Day), Hunt and Alma-Tadema. Elevated to the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France in 1888, Blanchard held one of the four chairs of the Fourth Section, Gravure.
This is a very rare "Artist's Proof," which is an "India proof" (on laid chine) before letters, signed by the artist and the engraver, the same state held by the Print Room of the British Museum. We offer this example with a copy, itself rare, of the contemporary Pilgeram and Lefèvre pamphlet The Vintage Festival: Ancient Rome, n.d. [but 1873], with its contemporary essay and reviews of the Hamburg version of the painting during the period while Blanchard was at work on the engraving.
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