I found this beautiful chalk-manner print of an original Carle Van Loo drawing last night at a bargain-basement price. Needless to say I snapped it up for my collection. Chalk-manner (also called crayon or pastel manner prints) are actually etchings made with a metal wheel called a roulette with a random pattern of variously sized points that was rolled over a copper plate coated with a protective wax ground. When the plate was etched in acid, the resulting pattern of dots provided a passable approximation of the original chalk drawing. Chalk-manner prints were made in as many as three colors -- black, red, and white -- from one or more copper plates worked either in etching or engraving, or in a combination of the two techniques. Special toothed tools -- roulettes, mattoirs (punches), champignons (literal translation "mushrooms), were used to create a dotted patters on the plate that suggested the grainy appearance of chalk strokes on paper.
There are two things going on here in this drawing at once: (1) a drawing from a famous artist from the 18th century and (2) an original print from very famous Master Engraver from the same time period. The engraver is Gilles De Marteau (1722 - 1776). De Marteau was born in Liege, France in 1722. After becoming a member of the Academy of Paris in 1769, he was appointed by King Louis XV to the position of Court Engraver. This prestigious appointment also provided him residential quarters at the Louver in Paris. De Marteau is considered by scholars to have been one of the most important engravers of his period. His innovative techniques in engraving, using various "casters", allowed him to achieve a quality that is similar to that of drawing. The level of beauty and perfection that he achieved, in chalk-manner etchings, provided him with the much deserved credit he received in the development of this new medium. The chalk-manner technique of printmaking was first used in 1735 by engravers Pond and Knapton in England and thereafter the French Engraver Jean-Charles Francois brought the technique to France.
Carle Van Loo (1705 - 1765) was born into a family of painters, but eventually his career overshadowed all of his famous relatives with his versatile artistic talents. He trained with an Italian painter and a French sculptor and made numerous trips throughout Italy and France. After his father's death, his training was placed in the hands of his older brother. They moved to Rome two years later and worked together on commissions. As a teen Van Loo won first prize in drawing at the Academe Royale and later took the prestigious Prix de Rome. He lived in Italy until 1733, painting religious and mythological frescoes. He then returned to Paris and painted portraits of the Royal family and decorated their apartments at Fontainbleau and Versailles. During his lifetime Van Loo was given the title of "Premier Painter to the King" under Louis XV and also became a noble to the court. His works are in numerous museums throughout the world.