Girtin’s soft-ground etching (see the print after, above) was published separately from the finished aquatint, on 9 August 1802. To create this autograph print, the artist first traced his own drawing, reversing the image in the process (see figure 2), 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, one of which survives in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (see figure 3). A note in pencil next to the left pavilion reads: ‘This is too strong being a white object’.
The View from the Palace Terrace at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Aqueduct of Marly in the Distance: Colour Study for Plate Sixteen of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’