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Liber Veritatis

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1872,1012.4709

  • Title (series)

    • Liber Veritatis
  • Description

    Landscape with Jacob and Laban and Laban's daughters; hills and classical buildings in the distance, bridge and river in the background on the left, Jacob and Laban with his two daughters on the left, three figures sitting by trees with cattle at the centre. 1776
    Etching with mezzotint

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1776
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 206 millimetres
    • Width: 256 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London 1997
        Inscribed on the plate, "Claude Lorrain delin \ N° 134 | Published Jany 1 1776 by John Boydell Engraver in Cheapside \ R. Earlom Fecit"
  • Curator's comments

    For comment on the Earlom set, see 1872,1012.4663.

    T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London 1997
    The 'Liber Veritatis' was a book of drawings made by Claude to record the compositions of his paintings. It was bought by the Duke of Devonshire around 1720 and probably kept at Devonshire House in London until around 1835. Although artists knew of it, it was not generally accessible, and its influence effectively dates from the publication of Earlom's series of engravings after the drawings, begun in 1774 and completed in 1777.
    Their mixed method, with mezzotint to represent wash and etching for Claude's pen line, was unusual in landscape prints at this date, yet highly effective in capturing the character of the originals. As a resource for artists at all levels the 'Liber' prints were unparalleled. When Paul Sandby came to create his first aquatints of Wales, shortly after the appearance of the first 'Liber' prints, they provided an important example, notwithstanding the differences in technique (as suggested in Kitson 1978, p. 31). Recommended by Malchair and other drawing-masters, they soon became standard fare for beginners to copy.
    It is surely more than coincidence that it was precisely at the time of their publication that Towne began to develop his distinctive technique of drawing in pen over the washed surface of his landscape sketches, producing an effect which is comparable with Earlom's prints. Towne had a deep regard for Claude's work, yet it is not clear whether he understood that the method he adopted for his own studies from nature echoed drawings which were made for a very different purpose, and that Claude's pen was intended to lend precision and clarity to copies of already established compositions. In his own sketches from nature Claude employed a wide variety of graphic techniques in which the use of the pen was by no means universal. Although a few of his drawings had been reproduced as prints (for instance, by Arthur Pond in the 1730s, see Tate Gallery 1973, no.4), Towne's knowledge of any original nature studies by Claude is difficult to establish. It is possible, and even likely, that he would have seen some of the examples which appeared on the market in London, which might have included some of the eighty or so from the collection of the painter Jonathon Richardson, dispersed in 1747 (Howard 1969, p. 727). Ultimately, though, it seems to have been the Liber Veritatis prints, forming a large body of work in a consistent style, which of all Claude's work had most impact on Towne.
    In later life Towne's enthusiasm for Claude was undimmed. He praised the 'Landscape with the Embarkation of St Ursula', recently acquired by Angerstein (and later part of his founding gift to the National Gallery), as the finest picture ever painted.
    When the Earl of Egremont lent 'Jacob and the Daughters of Laban', one of the largest and most expansive of all Claude's works, to be seen in public for the first time at the British Institution in 1808, Towne set to making a copy of it. This is in all probability the work now in a private collection in Oxfordshire, which though unsigned bears a traditional attribution to Towne.

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Liber Veritatis 1978 134 (copy) bibliographic details
    • Röthlisberger 1961 134 (see) bibliographic details
    • Wessely 1886 282 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display (British XVIIIc Mounted Roy)

  • Exhibition history

    1997 Jun-Sep, London, Tate Gallery, 'Francis Towne'
    1997 Oct-Jan, Leeds, City Art Gallery, 'Francis Towne'

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1872

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1872,1012.4709

Landscape with hills and classical buildings in the distance, bridge and river in the background on the left, Jacob and Laban with his two daughters on the left, three figures sitting by trees with cattle at the centre.  1776  Etching with mezzotint

Landscape with hills and classical buildings in the distance, bridge and river in the background on the left, Jacob and Laban with his two daughters on the left, three figures sitting by trees with cattle at the centre. 1776 Etching with mezzotint

Image description

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