Conference Programme

Neptune and Coronis, Vieira Lusitano, 1724: Obras em Foco.
National Museum of Ancient Art, 2017

Presentation summary: Francisco Vieira de Matos (1699-1783), also known as Vieira Lusitano, was a central Portuguese artist in the 18th century who was appointed court painter in 1733. Although mainly active as a painter, the exceptional quality of the compositions and line drawing of Vieira Lusitano’s etchings make him a significant national author in the field of artistic printmaking. The lecture co-presented by Alexandra Markl (historical context) and Constança Arouca (technical context) was based on the analysis of the artist’s composition of the theme Neptune and Coronis through the etched copper plate, a print from an epoch edition (1724) and a preparatory drawing from the National Museum of Ancient Art, in Lisbon. Printed during the artist’s second stay in Rome (1721-1728), it portrays an episode from the second book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses when Coronis is pursued by Neptune and Minerva transforms her into a bird so that she can escape the god.

Abstract (Technical presentation): the technical context was presented through an illustrated description of the workshops, printmaking processes and tools used during the Seicento and Settecento, contrasting engraving and etching. It was followed by a close observation of Vieira Lusitano’s drawing, matrix and print, pointing different technical aspects of etching both as technique and practice: drawing transference, inverted drawing, line and cross-hatching, corrections and amendments, editions and printmaking abbreviations.
A highlighted aspect of the technical presentation was the possibility to show two different stages of etching comparing the museum’s print with other editions. In a first state we can read the following dedication: « / Alessandro di Gusmã / Giache VS. gradi beni= / gnam il quadretto da me / dipinto or di quel gli con=/ sacro anche il pensiero, e / benche rozzo servirà pur / alm in testim di qũto viva / oblig. a VS. Ill a chi mi sottos / Vin. ser. Fran V.». In the second state the copper plate was scraped and burnished and then etched with the following words: «Se Palas divide ancioza/ Coronis do Rey do Mar, / he por ella assim rogar/ fogindolhe rigorosa; Que fora couza orroroza, / e tirania sem par/ quando aquizece apartar/ se lhe foce, amante, esposa/ Fran. V.ra Luzit. inv. pinxit/ et. sculpsit Romae. / 1724». The printmaker's abbreviations etched in the end of the text were also referred: inv. (designed by or originally drawn by); pinxit (painted by); sculpsit (engraved).