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The Engraved Works of Nicolas Ponce

Ponce, Nicolas

(Paris). c.1775–1822
An exceptional recueil of Nicolas Ponce's graphic oeuvre, likely constituted by the artist himself, and an important monument to the history of French engraving in the eighteenth century.

Nicolas Ponce (1746 - 1831) was a student of Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre (1713 - 1789), Etienne Fessard (1714 - 1777) and Nicolas Delaunay (1739 - 1792). As an engraver he produced works primarily after others, including numerous vignettes and book illustrations, for Ovid's Metamorphoses and Orlando Furioso, as well as for numerous treatises on art, architecture and aesthetics, and also reproductive prints after Pierre-Antoine Baudouin, Fragonard, Boucher, Moreau and many others. Ponce was also a keen student of antiquity (he wrote treatises on the subject) and the history of art, as well as a political polemicist, maker of his own prints and, during the revolution in France, the 'chef de bataillon de la garde nationale'.

The set of engravings presented here appears to be the recueil of his work, collected by Ponce himself: 'Ponce avait réuni tout ce qu-il avait gravé, en un recueil in fol., composé d'épreuves de premier état et d'eaux-fortes.' (Portalis et Beraldi).

This volume contains 406 engravings, opening with the portrait of Ponce by Civeton (1822), although nearly all his engravings were executed in the 18th century. The larger number of them - 207 - are printed before letters. Many of Ponce's masterpiece engravings are present, including 'L'Enlevement Nocturne' ('le morceau capitale de Ponce … sans contredit'), 'Les Cerises', 'Annette et Lubin', and 'La Toilette', each engraved after paintings by Baudouin, many with the avant-lettre state. Fragonard is represented by two paintings - 'Le Pot au Lait' and 'Le Verre d'Eau', each present in early states with letters and without address.

As well as individual prints, well-known series of engravings are included such as the eight designs Ponce produced for the series on the American War of Independence: 'Recueil d'Estampes représentant les différents événements de la Guerre qui a procuré l'Independance aux Etats Unis de l'Amerique' (Paris, c.1780). Another ambitious series of engravings is 'Les Illustrés Français' (Paris 1790 - 1816), a glorification of the great men of France: the work was commenced in 1790, interrupted by the French Revolution, and resumed again in 1816. The designs are by Marillier, however Ponce had an influence on the composition and arrangement of illustrations as well as engraving the 56 plates.

Much of Ponce's engraved work was done for the beautiful illustrations of 18th century French books, after the designs of Eisen, Cochin, Gravelot, Marillier, Moreau le Jeune and other masters. Among those present are the illustrations for Ariosto's 'Orlando Furioso', translated into the French by d'Ussieux (Paris, 1775 - 83) - consisting of 44 engravings, plus one proof plate; Ovid's 'Metamorphoses', translated by Banier (Paris, 1767 - 71) - 6 engravings after Eisen, Moreau and Monnet; Homer, L'Iliade (1786) - frontispiece and five plates after Marillier; Gessner, 'Oeuvres' (1786-1793) - ten plates after drawings of Le Barbier illustrating the Idylles; Berquin's 'Pygmalion' (1775) - four vignettes after Moreau; La Sainte-Bible, translation by Le Maistre de Sacy (1789 - 1804) - under the direction of Ponce whose nine plates are present in the collection.

Finally, the volume also includes some examples of the work of Madame Ponce, née Marguerite Hémery, the engraver's wife and also an engraver in her own right; Madame Ponce died the year after her husband.

'Graveur de talent en même temps qu'écrivain d'art, Nicolas Ponce avait reçu une éducation très supérieure à celui de la plupart de ses confrères, ce qui explique la nature multiple de ses travaux … Il devint bientôt un habile graveur de vignettes, et se signale tout particulièrement aussi dans l'estampe galante.' (Portalis / Beraldi).

[see Portalis / Berladi, 'Les Graveurs du Dix-Huitième Siècle', Paris, 1880 - 1882, pp. 325 -339].
[146 unnumbered leaves]. Folio. (520 x 340 mm). Illustrated with portrait of Ponce and 406 engravings, each tipped-in (one loosely inserted), many leaves with several per page, many with title in manuscript in pencil beneath. Contemporary French mottled calf, banded spine with elaborate decorative gilt tooling and green morocco label with gilt title 'OEUVRES / DE / PONCE' in seven compartments, boards with double gilt rules, marbled endpapers and edges; front board detached, block sound and contents good.

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