As religious works of art soaked in a gamut of colours hailed Churches and Cathedrals, a monochrome version of the same illustrated the Bible and other religious books. It accompanied the printed word and shared in the enhancement of faith. These illustrations were mostly conceived through the process of printmaking and etching.
Etching is the art of creating an impression (quite literally!). It treasures beauty at its framework. The technique employed is as appealing as the final outcome. So what is it all about?
The artist begins by securing a copper metal plate. It is cleaned and the edges are beveled. Next the plate is evenly covered with an acid resistant coating made from bitumen, beeswax and resin. This is known as the ground.
With the aid of an etching needle the artist draws on the ground. This exposes the metal below. Subsequently the plate is immersed in an acid bath. The acid eats away the exposed metal revealing a pattern of recessed lines. These lines are covered with ink and the plate is then applied to a damp paper. The design transfers onto the paper, thus creating a print.
The print in consideration is the work of a German artist, Friedrich Ludy (1823 – 1896). It reflects the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22, verses 1 – 12. Poised between the two groups of Jewish clad men is our narrator. Garbed in a European demeanour, he chronicles the event before him. Thus his story goes:
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