Claude Mellan, The Sudarium, or Veil of St Veronica, an engraving

France, AD 1649

Christ's face engraved in a single spiral line

A story, not found in the Gospels, describes how a woman of Jerusalem, filled with compassion for the suffering of Jesus on the road to Calvary, wiped his sweating face with a cloth. An image of his features was miraculously transferred to the fabric. Mellan (1598-1688) has achieved something like a miracle of a different sort. In a single line and starting from the tip of Jesus' nose, Mellan has engraved the entire face, the folded veil, and the lettering below. The modulations in direction, from thick to thin, model the image in chiaroscuro (light and dark). Thus the shapes and volume of the engraving are achieved.

Mellan studied engraving for five years in Paris before travelling to Rome in 1624. He remained in Rome for twelve years, refining the Italian engraving style he found in the work of Francesco Villamena and Agostino Carracci. He learned to dispense with cross-hatching and model forms just by controlling the swelling and tapering of his lines.

The text below this image, FORMATVS VNICVS VNA ('the one formed in one'), plays on a pun on the uniqueness of Christ, the uniqueness of the miraculous image, and the single line.

This engraving is signed and dated.

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More information


S.W. Reed, French prints from the age of (Museum of Fine Art, Boston, 1998)


Height: 428.000 mm
Width: 315.000 mm

Museum number

PD M-88-25 (A. de Montaiglon 25)



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