Corot, Saltarelle, cliché-verre (glass print)

S. 223 x 163 mm


Robaut 3194, Delteil 75, Melot 75

glass print (cliché-verre)*, 1858, on fine cream wove paper (papier salé), the very rare first state (of 2), before the alterations in the plate to the lower right (which appear in all later printings), a very fine bistre impression, with rich contrasts, trimmed as usual to the border line (the image complete), from the first printing by Charles Desavary; a short tear extending into the composition upper left, expertly mounted on a support sheet of vellum, otherwise in very good condition

Provenance: a private Parisian collection

This fine print of Corot's mature style depicts a verdant Italianate countryside landscape, enlivened by a central pair of dancers. The saltarello (from the Italian saltare, meaning "to leap") was a popular North Italian dance dating back to the Renaissance, which was still current in Corot's time.

Worked up in sketchy refinement, the artist's graphic handling renders the subject with a vibrant rhythm and resonant movement that oscillates between realism, classicism, and romanticism.

It should further be noted that there were no later printings of this work by either Bouasse-Lebel or Sagot-Le Garrec.

* Technically speaking the glass print (or cliché verre) was then an innovative photographic medium invented by Constant Dutilleux and his son-in-law, Charles Desavary. Taking a plate of glass coated with an opaque layer of collodion, the artist would draw into the ground with a sharp stylus, and then place the plate (as a sort of negative) onto a photosensitive sheet of paper that, once exposed to light, would be developed like a photograph. Corot first discovered this process on a trip to Arras in 1853, and went on to create more than 60 glass prints over the next 20 years.

This technique, given the variables involved in preparing the paper, determining exposure times, etc., resulted in a range of effects that were far more difficult to control than those of more conventional printmaking media. And it may even be surmised that Corot was intrigued by such variety, which in turn fed his creative endeavour.