Skip to main content

Abraham Bosse

Abraham Bosse (1604-1676) was a native of Tours who died in Paris. He settled in Paris in 1632 and from that time “his activities were indefatigable” as both an engraver and a writer.  “Whatever their subjects, his prints almost invariably show the human figure in contemporary dress . . . Even such traditional themes as the Five Senses or the Four Seasons are treated as genre subjects, with careful attention given to costume and surroundings of the bourgeoisie participants, making them invaluable evidence for the social historian” (Harrison 468). Melville acquired all four prints of the Four Seasons—not in the edition published in Paris by Le Blond but in a German-language edition published in Nuremberg by Paulus Fürst.

Melville took special care in identifying these four prints by Bosse. On the lower left margin of each print he wrote Bosse’s name and date of birth (which he thought to be 1610); on three of the prints he also wrote “Tours,” the place of birth. He also wrote “The Four Seasons by Abraham Bosse—French painter—born 1610” on the first page of his copy of Mary Heaton’s 1879 essay on David Scott from the French journal L’Art (5, no. 2: 35-38). Perhaps he used her four-page essay to protect the four Bosse prints.

Bosse completed The Four Seasons around 1637. He combined etching and engraving in the manner of Jacques Callot, from whom he learned “the Italian manner of etching on a hard ground made from linseed oil and resin. This greatly facilitated the etching process and made for clarity and fineness in the etched line. For Bosse the aim of etching was to simulate engraving, and the practice of only finishing the plate with the engraver’s burin was one that reproductive printmakers used thereafter” (Harrison 468). In 1645 Bosse published his Traité des manières de graver en taille-douce, the first treatise ever to be published on the art of printmaking.

In 1648 Abraham Bosse gave a series of lectures on perspective at the Académie Royale, where he was soon “made an honorary member” but from which he was expelled in 1661 as a result of “vituperative arguments” resulting from his “rebellious spirit and unorthodox teachings” (Harrison 468). In 1649 Bosse wrote a now celebrated appreciation of Poussin as a painter of landscapes: “I have even seen landscapes that he made for pleasure, that should hold the first rank for this kind of work” (quoted in Rosenberg and Christiansen, p. 21). In 1651 Bosse elevated his profile as a political provocateur with the etching of David and Goliath in which his young David, standing over the massive head of the decapitated Goliath, was seen as “the triumphant Louis XIV” in relation to Mazarin in the battle of the fronde (Olson, Poussin and France, fig. 52, p. 109). In 1652 Fürst published the first German translation of Bosse’s Traité des manières de graver en taille-douce as Kunstbüchlein: handelt von der Radier- und Etzkunst

  • Works cited for Bosse:
  • Duplessis, Georges. Catalogue de l’oeuvre de Abraham Bosse. Paris: 1859.
  • --------. The Wonders of Engraving. London: Low and Marston, 1871 (Sealts no. 195).
  • Harrison, Colin. “Bosse, Abraham.” Grove, 4: 467-69.
  • Join-Lambert, Sophie, and Maxime Préaud. Abraham Bosse: savant graveur: Tours, vers 1604-1676 (Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2004).
  • Olson, Todd. Poussin and France: Painting, Humanism, and the Politics of Style. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.
  • Rosenberg, Pierre, and Keith Christiansen. Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.