Article L' Ouie (Hearing) by Georg Balthasar Probst, engraver, 1732-1801

Detail from L'Ouie (Hearing) by Georg Balthasar Probst, 18th century
Detail from L'Ouie (Hearing) by Georg Balthasar Probst, 18th century. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.

This is an interior of a large music room with arched windows along the left and at the back. Two rows of four Corinthian columns, front to back, divide the room into three parts. Musicians play stringed instruments just inside the columns along the center of the composition. The audience is seated at the right before a long wall having two paintings and two large doorways. There are small groups of musicians in the foreground, some choristers and an organist in the center background, and various figures stroll or converse along the perimeter of the room. Among the instruments seen here are: trumpets, violins or violas, double bass, bass viol, French horns, possibly a bass recorder or a bassoon, flute, organ, harpsichord, and timpani. The red coats and black hats were hand-colored using a stencil. The greens, yellows and pinks were hand painted in watercolor.

This etching is called an "optic view" ("vue d'optique") because it was meant to be seen through a special optical box having a convex lens which would enhance the sense of three-dimensionality. Many of these optic prints were architectural views of cities such as St. Petersburg, Venice, or Amsterdam, and often the prints had texts in Latin, French, Italian and German as is the case of the Miller print because they were meant to be exported to different cities in Europe. The prints had long, perspectival views and were brightly colored, and entertainers set up optical boxes in the streets for passersby to look at them. The French word, L'Ouie, meaning Hearing, at the top of the Miller etching is reversed. When viewed through an optical machine, the text would appear in its correct orientation. Besides being an engraver, Probst was also a publisher in Augsburg and he made many such optic prints.[1] This etching was included in The Pipers: An Exhibition of Engravings, Watercolors and Lithographs from the Dayton C. Miller Collection, Library of Congress, March 1977.

About the Artist

Georg Balthasar Probst, engraver, 1732-1801
Georg Balthasar Probst was a German engraver and publisher from Augsburg. Many other members of his family were also printers and publishers at the same Augsburg firm. He was known especially for his optic prints of city views from around the world, but he also engraved portraits.[2]


  1. The description of optic prints given here, and especially Probst's role in producing them, is based on a text online published by the George Glazer Gallery External Link of New York specifically regarding an optic print of St. Petersburg by Probst. [back to article]
  2. A very nice short biography of Probst and his family's publishing business is available online in the same Web site, the George Glazer Gallery External Link of New York. The life dates for Probst are from this source. The article includes some additional bibliography on Probst and on optic prints. [back to article]

About this Item

L' Ouie (Hearing) by Georg Balthasar Probst, engraver, 1732-1801
Subject Headings
-  Articles
-  Songs and Music
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