A Loose Thread and the Virgin’s Lap: Jacques Bellange

A perfect black line creeps across the image. At points, it passes over blank paper alone; elsewhere it can just be picked out as it enters into the rigorous crosshatching and then tapers off, wound around the spindle. Etched over the heart of an image, like a meandering crosscut, this detail is located in one of the most assured prints of Jacques de Bellange (ca. 1575–1616). Though he was court painter to the ducal court of Nancy from 1602 until his death, few of his paintings survive and many of his purported drawings are spurious. The best evidence we have of his oeuvre is found in his 48 remarkable prints, all undated but nearly all signed.1

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  1. The chronological ordering of Bellange’s prints by style and technique remains inconclusive. However, his first foray into etching can be dated ca.1610/1611, meaning that his entire printed oeuvre was produced in the few years before his death in 1616. See Nicole Walch, Die Radierungen des Jacques Bellange. Chronologie und kritischer Katalog (Munich: Antiquarin Robert Wolfle, 1971), 152. Walch was the first to detect Bellange’s hand on the tenth plate of The Entry of Henri II into Nancy from the set of prints known as the Pompe funèbre de Charles III, surmising that Friedrich Brentel (1580–1651), the Alsatian etcher in charge of the project, left an open space for Bellange to complete the drawing of himself riding with the gentlemen of la maison de son altesse in the King’s entry procession. []