Thursday, July 12, 2007

Chalcography Collection of the Louvre Museum, a selection

Engraving the World: A Selection from the Chalcography Collection of the Louvre Museum is held at the Singapore Art Museum, from 4 May to 22 July 2007. It is jointly presented by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and the Singapore French Festival ’07 Voilah!

I have so far caught this exhibition on at least four different occasions. What makes this exhibition worth a visit?

Jean-Baptiste Nolin
after Arnould de Vuez
Coronelli's Celestial Globe
etching and burin

The word chalcography is Greek in its origin and it basically means "writing on copper". With this definition in mind, visitors to the Engraving the World: A Selection from the Chalcography Collection of the Louvre Museum exhibition can expect to see prints and more prints that would illustrate the art and technique of copper engraving.

In my humble opinion, Engraving the World: A Selection from the Chalcography Collection of the Louvre Museum is an exhibition worth a visit for its historical and artistic value. It presents a selection of prints from plates that were engraved from the 16th century to the present day.

At this exhibition, one can catch a glimpse of a print of the now demolised Tuileries Palace. At first sight, the print below may look plain monochrome. However, if one were to examine the print more closely, one can start to appreciate the delicacy of the linework and the precision of details on this work, and many other works from this chalcography collection. In addition, the print below gives one some insights to the floor plan of the ground of the Tuileries Palace.

Israel Silverstre's
View of the Tuileries Palace from the Garden and Plan of the Ground Floor

Being quite a novice to chalcography, I have found it very helpful to join one of the museum's guided tours. On 6 July 2007, I joined the museum's Assistant Curator, Patricia Levasseur de la Motte on a tour of this exhibition and it gave me insights to the appreciation of this form of art.

More tours with Assistant Curator, Patricia Levasseur de la Motte will be held on 13 and 20 Jul (Fri), 7.30 p.m. - 8.30 p.m., Meeting point: Singapore Art Museum, Lobby. Free. To register, please call 6332 3220 or email

On the left, Assistant Curator, Patricia
sharing with members of the guided tour about the print by Friedrich Schroeder.

The art and technique of copperplate engraving requires much skills and precision. Look at the close-up photo of Gérard Audran's (1640 - 1703) The Dome of Val de Grace: The Holy Trinity and its Principal Mysteries. The photo below will not do much justice to the intricacy of the lineworks, so it is highly recommended that you could make a visit to the exhibition and take a look at the many prints yourself.

The Dome of Val de Grace: The Holy Trinity and its Principal Mysteries

Are you wondering what these visitors are looking at?

These are what they are looking at: An original copper plate and its corresponding print. You would notice that the engraver had engraved the reverse image on the copper plate so that its corresponding print would be realised in the right orientation. This is one section of the exhibition that I recommend all visitors to check out.

Do also check out the nearby section where there is a write-up on the various copperplate engraving techniques. There is even a video show about 20 minutes in duration that shows the process of one of the techniques of engraving and printing. A must-watch for any novice who is curious to learn about the techniques of engraving.

Before anyone starts to think that this collection is strictly an exhibition of works in monochrome, here's a work which was printed in one colour and other colours were being added later. There is an interesting history behind this print that you see below and other related prints of the set of engravings classified in this exhibition under the category of The Carousel of 1662. I could say that art can be used as a form of propangada.

Francois Chauveau's
First Quadrille, plate 1
Marshal Gramont, General Field Marshal

Not forgetting, a number of the contemporary prints below commissioned by the Chalcography of the Louvre are also in colours and offer a good break from the monochromatic nature of the other prints.

If you were to visit this exhibition, please do spend sometime taking a good look at the prints from the following sections:
  • The Cabinet Du Roi
  • The Carousel of 1662
  • The Maze at Versailles
  • The Festivities of Versailles
  • Map of Paris (Turgot's Map)
  • Description of Egypt

Actually, every single section from this exhibition is interesting in its own way. The prints from this exhibition contain such intricate work and artistry that it would be helpful to set aside sufficient time to take closer look at these fine details. If not, visitors could consider making a few separate visits to this exhibition.

Engraving the World: A Selection from the Chalcography Collection of the Louvre Museum is held at the Singapore Art Museum from 4 May – 22 July 2007.

Museum opening hours are as follow:
Mondays to Sundays, 10.00 a.m. - 7.00 p.m.

Admission Charges
For the period of 4 May to 22 July 2007
Adult : $8.00
Student (student card to be produced) : $4.00
Senior Citizen (above 60 years) : $4.00

Free Admission
On Fridays, 6.00 p.m. - 9.00 p.m.
On Weekdays, 12.00 noon - 2.00 p.m.

For more information, please visit:


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Acknowledgements: Special thanks to the Singapore Art Museum for granting me the permission to take non-flash photography of this exhibition.