Item of the Week: Vue de la bataille

Published: May 24, 2010

Earlier this month, volunteer extraordinaire Ashley Johnston re-discovered this gem of a piece while inventorying the library’s art collection, most of which has languished in a storage room since our renovation several years ago. A gift of bookseller and friend-of-the-Clark Ken Karmiole, this hand-colored 18th-century engraving of a naval battle mounted on heavy board is transformed into a much more dynamic work known as a vue d’optique when lit from behind.  Portions of the original engraving and its mount have been cut away in several strategic areas and pieces of hand-painted semi-translucent paper inserted in those spots.  It appears that the original engraving was not produced for this purpose, but was hand-colored and altered by its owner.  The original title, “Vue de la Bataille Navale des Flottes Russes et Turques pres de Scio ou le Vaisseau de L’Admiral fut brulée le 5 Juillet 1770,” was cut from the bottom of the engraving and pasted on its back.

Our photographs don’t really do the piece justice — the fact that it is framed behind glass adds a tricky element of reflection — but you are always welcome to visit and see for yourself!

Vue d'optique lit from behind in a normally lit room
Vue d'optique lit from behind in a very very dark room

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