An exhibition of colour printed engravings and etchings traditionally attributed to Johannes Teyler (Nijmegen 1648 - c.1709) was shown in Nijmegen and Cleves in 1961. Although a slim volume its catalogue contains the - until now only - study of Teyler, his social context and prints.
The prints attributed to Teyler are typical, because all of the copper plates were inked in multiple colours in the so-called - á la poupée manner. This means that one plate is inked with two or more different colours and the impression shows a multi-colour image.
The method is occasionally found with some German and Italian engravings and etchings of the sixteenth and seventeenth century, applied in a modest way using two, rarely three colours. With Teyler, however, intaglio colour printing came to full bloom for the first time in print history, showing radiating oranges, brilliant reds and lush greens on bright white paper.
With one exception, none of these prints is signed or dated, while Teyler himself was educated as philosopher and mathematician, making his carreer and fortune as a military engineer. He was not a trained engraver, let alone an artist of merit, as the few drawings by his hand show a limited range of drawing skills.
We therefore cannot see him as the designer or engraver of those prints. Instead they are the products of a studio with Teyler as its organiser and financer. This studio was active from 1688, when he acquired a privilege for colour printed images, to 1698 when the complete inventory of his printshop was auctioned. The coherence of its output is by the characteristic colour printing manner, choice of quality paper, and subjects - classical figures and mythological scenes, views of towns and landscapes, birds, flowers, insects and animals, and plans of military encampments and marching orders.
One particular aspect is the printing on fabric, mentioned in the 1688 privilege and testified by contemporaries, of which so far only three examples are found. The absence of signatures and the printing in colours on fabric may point to the production of decorated wall hangings. The images of classical figures and mythological scenes would well suit the contemporary fashion for interior design.
As such the corpus comprises some 300 unique prints, the larger part being gathered in three remaining albums kept in Amsterdam, London and Washington respectively. More important is the influence of Teyler's working manner, changing the course of print history. First his colour printing process was used by Amsterdam publishers from 1695. Next we see it appear in England, Germany, France and Italy in the course of the eighteenth century.
These New Hollstein volumes will give an extensive introduction on Teyler and his activities, with a compilation in full colour of the prints ascribed to his studio.
Compiler: Ad Stijnman. Editor: Simon Turner. Expected in 2015.