Girtin’s soft-ground etching (see the print after, above) was published separately from the finished aquatint, on 16 July 1802, with numerous figures added to the foreground. To create this autograph print, the artist first traced his own drawing, reversing the image in the process (see figure 1), and then, using the tracing as a template, impressed the lines onto an etching plate coated in a tacky ground of an acid-resistant mix. Lifting the tracing and taking away the ground where the lines had been pushed in, he would then have immersed the plate in acid, which would have bitten into the unprotected areas. Cleaned up, the plate, with the etched lines now according with the direction of Girtin’s original drawing, could then be used to print from. Such a complex procedure employed by a novice printmaker like Girtin no doubt required a number of proof stages. An early impression of this plate (see figure 2) lacks a number of small details in the figures, which Girtin seems to have added on the plate in drypoint.
Girtin’s view, one of three looking east downriver from positions adjacent to the Louvre, consequently shares a number of features with plates six and seven (see prints after TG1871a and TG1872a). However, from closer to the Pont Neuf, the towers of Notre Dame are no longer visible and nor is the Palais de l’Institut de France, with the Mint coming into prominence instead. The Hôtel des Monnaies, completed on the Quai Conti in 1775 to house the Mint, is the subject of a separate, more detailed drawing by Girtin (TG1875). In comparison with the pencil drawing, where the foreground is left all but empty, the print is notable for a fine array of figures, including a troupe of cavalry as well as elegant and well-dressed groups strolling along the quays. Clearly, it was not practical to sketch passing figures on the spot, not least because this was just months after the beginning of the short-lived Peace of Amiens, and Girtin presumably improvised them on the tracing. However, at least one of the figures appears in a sheet of studies that the artist made at this time (TG1900), though the image of the small man with his stick shown to the far right is reversed. This appears to have been copied from a work by Jean-Baptiste Lallemand (1716–1803), rather than having been sketched on the spot.
The Pont Neuf and the Mint: Colour Study for Plate Eight of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’
The Tuileries Palace and the Pont Royal, Taken from the Pont de la Concorde: Colour Study for Plate Six of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’
The Pont Neuf, Part of the Louvre, Notre Dame and the College of the Four Nations: Colour Study for Plate Seven of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’
Part of the Pont Neuf, with the Mint: Pencil Study for Plate Eight of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’
1801 - 1802
A Sheet of Figure Studies Relating to ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’