Agostino Lauro and the Strange Engraver’s Daughter

It is hard to select the single factor that makes The Engraver’s Daughter by Agostino Lauro (1806–1876) so strikingly unusual in the history of engraving, but perhaps the rendering of the leaves is a good place to start. There are thousands of individual leaves and leaflets in the densely wooded forest setting, and exceptional attention has been paid to botanical morphology. We can clearly understand the growth patterns, vascular systems and relative maturity of every segment of each of the many species depicted. As the layers of space recede into the darkness of the forest, this sharp focus is maintained. In this, Lauro’s print departs from all other graphic depictions of massed foliage: instead of schematic rendering, generalization and stylization he offers startling specificity.

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