Edouard Manet, The Little Cavaliers, etching

P. 248x390mm., S. 410x580mm.

Les Petits Cavaliers

Moreau-Nélaton 5, Guérin 8, Harris 5, Fisher 6, Wilson-Bareau 23

etching, drypoint, roulette, and aquatint, 1861-62, on fine greyish Chine appliqué over a heavy cream vellum paper, the 3rd state* (of 5), a very fine impression, rich yet cleanly wiped, with burr on the drypoint work (notably the shoulder of the central cavalier), with wide margins, slight lightstaining above, and a faint crease in the upper margin, away from the image, slight soiling and traces of an old hinge mount along the upper edge on the reverse, otherwise in very good condition

Provenance: the Henri M. Petiet collection (this impression cited by Guérin), with the HMP wetstamp on the reverse (not cited in Lugt)

Copied after the painting Réunion de Treize Personnages in the Louvre, then attributed to Velasquez, this print is Manet's most accomplished early etching: it is well known that Manet was greatly attached to it, exhibiting it (e.g. the Salon des Refusés in 1863, along with Philippe IV and Lola de Valence) and publishing it often, and later considered it to be his finest; most critics (Florisoone, Sandblad, Harris, Wilson-Bareau) have stressed its role as a key work in Manet's career.

The present impression, an early lifetime proof (the fine Chine paper** clearly rendering the most delicate details, especially in the areas of bitten tone and the drypoint), before the first edition (Cadart & Chevalier, 1862) that was on a Hollande laid paper with smaller margins, fully reveals the masterful complexity of Manet's printmaking technique.

* This print was developed in two different stages, having undergone an accident (to the leg of the cavalier in the centre) that probably occurred in 1867. The 3rd state is thus limited to the first edition and earlier proofs, all later editions being after the 1867 rework.

** Whereas most of Manet's early etchings were proofed on Chine paper (see Fisher 1985, p. 27) we know of only a few of Manet's early etchings printed on Chine appliqué, e.g., a 4th state impression of Le Guitarero in the Doucet Collection, and a 5th state impression of Philip IV, before the Cadart address (see Wilson-Bareau's 1977 Ingleheim catalogue).