Prints and printmaking, £12.99
Height: 635.000 mm
Width: 438.000 mm
PD 1838-4-20-8 (Hollstein 14)
Prints and Drawings
Prince Rupert (Ruprecht of Pfalz), The Great Executioner, a mezzotint
Germany, signed and dated AD 1658
The head of St John the Baptist displayed by his executioner
Rupert was a nephew of Charles I (reigned 1625-49), and commanded the royalist forces during the Civil War (1642-48). He demonstrated the new technique of mezzotint to the Royal Society in London in 1661. To accompany John Evelyn's Sculptura, a history of printmaking published in the following year, he made a reduced version of this print (the 'Little Executioner'). Rupert and Evelyn chose to restrict knowledge of the technique to gentleman amateurs, so the description in Evelyn's book is deliberately obscure.
The forms and modelling of The Great Executioner are controlled with such confidence that it looks more like the work of a professional artist rather than an amateur, and it is known that Rupert employed the artist Wallerant Vaillant as his assistant. Whether or not Vaillant's job involved more than grounding and printing the plates, Rupert signed the blade of the sword with his own initials and a distinctive crown.
A. Griffiths, The print in Stuart Britain, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)