Narcissus Seeing his Reflection in a Fountain becomes Enamoured of Himself
Coloured engavingpublished 1 February 1775
About the work
This delicately coloured illustration shows a scene from ‘Metamorphoses’, a narrative poem by Roman poet Ovid (43BC-17/8AD), which describes the creation and early history of the world. The image has a thick, decorative border, drawn to resemble a three-dimensional frame, and descriptive lettering along the lower edge, which appears as though written on a title plate, attached to the frame.
The print is one of a series of 17 engravings, made after drawings by French artists Charles Eisen and Charles Monnet, which were first published in Paris between 1767 and 1770 as illustrations to ‘Les Métamorphoses d’Ovide’. However, this particular example comes from a set which have English lettering. As there is no known English version which includes the plates, it seems they were published without the accompanying text.
Such images were popular with those who travelled on the Grand Tour, to study ancient architecture, sculpture, Old Master paintings and classic literature.
About the artist
Charles Monnet, historical and portrait painter, and book illustrator, was born in Paris and studied there at the Académie Royale. Monnet exhibited regularly at the Académie and Salon exhibitions in Paris throughout his career and two mythological paintings were commissioned from him for the Palace of Versailles. Towards the end of his life he became Professor of Drawing at the École de Saint-Cyr, a military academy founded in Fontainebleau by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1803.
Line engraver William Walker I was born in Thirsk, in Yorkshire. He was the brother and pupil of the line engraver Anthony Walker (1726-1765) and he lived and worked in London, mainly producing bookplates. Walker’s other subjects include portraits, landscapes, topographical views, genre and allegorical subjects, engraved after the works of contemporary artists and the Old Masters. He is known as William Walker I to distinguish him from the two Scottish engravers, known as William Walker II and III.