Flemish engraver Jacques Coelemans masterfully translated great works of art into clear and coherent prints. Much sought-after, Coelemans’ works remain as interesting insights into the art world of the 17th and 18th centuries.
Coelemans was born in Antwerp, and it was here that he first began his engraving career. Antwerp was, at the time, one of the beating hearts of printmaking, which had been sweeping across Europe since the 15th century. In the 16th century, printing firms became established in their dozens as people recognised the power of engravings which reproduced works of art in print for large audiences. There perhaps could not have been anywhere better for Coelemans to learn the art of engraving, and indeed, he was tutored by one of the best, Frederik Bouttats the Younger (b. 1620).
Although details are murky, it seems probable that Coelemans’ was earning him a growing prospective client base. Indeed, in 1690 he would move to live and work in Aix-en-Provence, France, under the commission of Jean-Baptiste Boyer d’Éguilles (1645-1709). This influential art collector, who was also the Attorney General of the Provence region, instructed Coelemans to reproduce his entire art collection in engravings.
Thus began Coelemans arduous and painstaking work. The process of translating a work into lines engraved upon a metal sheet, which would then be printed in ink, was a time-consuming process which required the utmost precision and skill. Not only that, but Coelemans would be reproducing the works of the grand masters such as Rubens and Titian.
The finished engravings possess a clarity of both visuality and technicality. Strong lines strike out the grand scenes of Baroque masterpieces or the detailed and precise likenesses of the sitters of portraits. Shading adds sense and depth to landscapes, heightened expression to dramatically charged scenes. Coelemans ability to translate the painterly techniques which created masterpieces into the language of engraving is uncanny and highly skilled.
Coelemans published the finished plates after Boyer d’Éguilles’ death, with a final number of 118 prints made from his engravings. These were seemingly well received, for they were re-published once more in 1744, following Coelemans’ own death. A lasting legacy, copies of these prints remain to this day and provide a fascinating look at the masterful skill required from engravers.
Born in Antwerp, Belgium.
Studied at the Antwerp Guild of Saint Luke under Frederik Bouttats the Younger.
Became a member of the ‘Jesuit Confraternity of Bachelors.’
Moved to Aix-en-Provence, France.
Died in Aix-en-Provence, France.