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The Sudarium of St. Veronica (The Holy Face)

Claude Mellan was a French artist widely sought after during his own time for his portraits. By the middle of the seventeenth century, his engraving technique had achieved an extraordinary virtuosity. He developed a distinctive manner of engraving that avoided cross-hatching. This print takes that idea to the ultimate extreme.

Choosing a traditional subject—the miraculous transfer of Christ’s visage to Veronica’s veil (The Sixth Station of the Cross)—Mellan applies his own form of magic. Not only does he avoid any overlap of lines, but he makes the entire image from a single line, beginning at the tip of Christ’s nose and moving outward in a continuous spiral. To achieve a range of tonalities, Mellan varies the thickness of the line.

Claude Mellan
French, 1598–1688
The Sudarium of St. Veronica (The Holy Face)
Engraving on paper
Sheet: 17 x 12 7/16 in. (43.2 x 31.6 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of the National Advisory Board in honor of Adelheid Gealt, 94.117