This slide show displays Heemskerck’s great skill as a print designer. His print studies are characterised by a dense network of lines, dashes and dots drawn with a pen and brown ink, which the engraver followed in his work of skilfully transferring the image. His style as a draughtsman demonstrates great precision in the rendering of the individual figures.
A comparison of the original drawing (left) with the engraving (right) shows that a tracing method has been used when transferring the image to the prepared copperplate. Both works are about the same size and the engraver's design conforms to the original in detail. The drawing also shows obvious signs of tracing: along the contours can be seen fine lines incised into the paper by a metal-point stylus and some parts have been made clearer with a pen and black ink. The fact that the drawing is so well preserved and lacks any traces of chalk or wax on the reverse side of the paper indicates that a piece of paper coloured on the back was probably used in-between – similar to carbon paper –, which meant that the original drawing was not damaged during transfer.
After printing, the image in the copperplate engraving is reversed compared with the original. The areas marked in red in the slide show highlight the fact that some of the background figures in Heemskerck's drawing were not traced out in order to open up the composition, whilst other decorative details were added, such as the check pattern on the floor.
The transfer of the drawn image onto the copperplate brings about certain stylistic changes. Influenced by the linear systems of the original drawing, the engraver carefully followed Heemskerck's parallel hatching, using rhythmically swelling and diminishing lines in order to reproduce shapes and modeling.
Maarten van Heemskerk, Daniel intervening on behalf of Susannah (detail).
The corporeality and monumentality of the characters goes back to the original. The burin engraved lines were sufficiently deep and set close together so as to produce rich blacks in the most heavily-shaded areas, but the engraver's work has a hardness in its implementation that does not correspond with the more subtle lighting effects in Heemskerck's drawing. The delicate transitions between light and dark areas in the drawing were essentially lost in the engraving, as was the rich variation of material effects reproduced using Heemskerck's typical combinations of lines and dots.
See the slide show