This morning’s Times included a report of a forthcoming exhibition at The British Museum, The Business of Prints, to be drawn from its extensive print collection. Among the proposed exhibits named was Claude Mellan’s The Veil of St Veronica, another copy of which, coincidentally, I was looking at only two days ago. In the reproduction here it isn’t possible to appreciate exactly what is so remarkable about this 1649 engraving. In fact, you really need to get up close and personal with an original and a magnifying glass to be able to see that the image is created from just one single line which spirals out from the tip of Christ’s nose. This would be a notable feat had the work been created with pencil or a fine pen, but when you consider that Mellan was using a tool called a burin to etch into a copper plate, controlling the varying shades only through the depth and width of the line and having no way of checking how accurate his work was until the resulting plate was printed, it is simply breathtaking.
You may be as lucky as I am and have a copy of this print in a local gallery, but if not, the exhibition opens on September 21st, runs until January and would be well worth seeing for this work alone.