Hercules and Telephus by an unknown artist, after an etching by Charles-Nicolas Cochin the younger, 18th century. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after an etching by Charles-Nicolas Cochin the younger, draughtsman and engraver, 1715-1790
This etching is a copy, in reverse, of a Roman wall painting, a fresco, found at Herculaneum in the 18th century. The subject of the painting is Hercules Watching his son Telephus suckled by a Hind. At the far right a goddess is seated on a ledge near a basket of flowers and in her right hand she holds a staff. Behind her is a faun, who holds panpipes and a shepherd's crook. At the left, a nude man, Hercules, stands before the goddess. A quiver, partially covered, rests on his right hip. A winged figure descends in a cloud at the upper left and points toward the goddess. In the foreground, a lion lies at the left, an eagle stands in the center, and a child, Telephus, suckles from a deer at the far right. In mythology, Hercules had a son by Auge, daughter of King Aleus of Arcadia. Upon discovering the infant at a temple of Athena, the king took the child and abandoned him on Mount Parthenius. Nursed by a doe, the child survived and was saved by shepherds who called him Telephus.
The engraver of the Miller etching is unknown, but the plate was included in a book by Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), Critical account of the situation and destruction by the first eruptions of Mount Vesuvius.... The Miller print was probably not copied directly from the Roman wall painting. It was apparently copied from an etching by Charles-Nicolas Cochin the younger (1715-1790), an engraver, who, together with Jérôme-Charles Bellicard (1726-1786), an architect and engraver, wrote and illustrated a book on Herculaneum in the 1750s. Cochin and Bellicard had accompanied Abel-François Poisson de Vandières (1727-1781), the brother of Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764), and future marquis de Marigny et de Ménars, on his tour of Italy in the years 1750-1751. From early November through late December of 1750, Monsieur de Vandières and his entourage stayed in Naples as guests of the French ambassador to the court of Charles III (1716-1788), King of the Two Sicilies.
Discoveries had previously been made at Herculaneum in the early 1700s but, after 1738, Charles III began serious explorations of the site. The excavations and the subsequent discoveries were carried out largely in secret. Foreign visitors were allowed into the tunnels beneath Herculaneum, but they were not allowed to draw or copy any of the artifacts while on site. Some fresco paintings and sculptures had already been removed from the site and had been placed in the royal palace of Charles III in Portici. These, too, were carefully guarded and access to them was monitored closely. Through the clandestine efforts of Monsieur d'Arthenay, secretary to the French ambassador, Monsieur de Vandières and the artists in his group were given rare access to the excavations at Herculaneum and the palace at Portici during their stay in Naples. The accuracy of detail in some of the drawings suggests that the artists received some plans and descriptions of the excavations secretly. Because of the severe restrictions, however, some of the drawings the artists made were done quickly, or from memory. Cochin made five drawings from memory of some of the fresco paintings at the palace at Portici, one of which is the painting, Hercules and Telephus, on which the Miller print is based.
Cochin made etchings from his drawings of the frescoes at Portici and they were published for the first time in Paris in 1751 in Lettre sur les Peintures d'Herculanum, Aujourd'hui Portici. (The Cochin etchings have the same orientation as the original frescoes, that is, they are not reversed.) They were subsequently reused, though unsigned, in a jointly authored book by Bellicard and Cochin on Herculaneum that included more than forty plates, most etched by Bellicard. Their book was published in six editions - three in English and three in French. There are several differences between the English and French versions. Bellicard wrote the preface to the London editions, while Cochin wrote the preface to the French editions. Though the texts are quite different, each author does explain that the book was organized into three parts with Bellicard writing the first and third sections on the architectural remains at Herculaneum and Cochin writing the second section which describes the wall paintings and sculpture. Both Bellicard and Cochin kept notebooks and made drawings of artifacts discovered at Herculaneum, but the majority of the plates in the six editions published in London and Paris were etched by Bellicard, the exceptions being the five unsigned plates by Cochin of the wall paintings, and Cochin's signed vignette of the arms of the Marquis de Marigny and, in the Paris editions, his plate of Mount Vesuvius. Bellicard's notebook is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Miller print is a mirror image of the original Cochin etchings in the 1751 and 1753 to 1758 publications. The original etchings by Cochin have a very light, sketchy quality. In particular, the background figures - the faun and winged figure in a cloud - are very faintly etched and have a "ghostly" quality. The Miller copyist has modified the original versions by adding more modeling to the figures, giving them more substance and three-dimensionality. Also added by the copyist are the fine vertical lines in the background which set off the wall painting. The Miller print is slightly larger than the Cochin originals, the dimensions of the wall painting itself being slightly larger in the Miller copy - about one-half an inch taller and about one-quarter inch wider. Other than being a mirror image of the Cochin originals and the slightly larger dimensions of the wall painting itself, the unknown artist of the Miller print has copied the Cochin etching very closely.
About the Artist
Charles-Nicolas Cochin the younger, draughtsman and engraver, 1715-1790
Charles-Nicolas Cochin the younger was born in and died in Paris. Both of his parents were engravers, and other relatives and close friends of the family were artists. Cochin was a much honored artist and held important administrative positions in the court of Louis XV. His artistic oeuvre was prodigious. From 1737 onward, he documented all of the festivals and celebrations at the court - births, marriages, and funerals. He also illustrated more than 200 books from 1737 to 1790, more than fifty of which were commissioned from his friend, Charles-Antoine Jombert, a publisher. Because of his connections at court, Cochin was chosen as one of the companions to Abel-François Poisson de Vandières (1727-1781), the brother of Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764), and future marquis de Marigny et de Ménars, on his tour of Italy in the years 1750-1751. This was an enormously important journey for Cochin and his fellow engraver and architect, Jérôme-Charles Bellicard (1726-1786). The books they produced jointly on Herculaneum in the 1750s were the first published observations with illustrations of the excavations of the recently discovered sites near Naples destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Both artists were appointed to influential positions at court by the Marquis de Marigny on their return to France. Cochin was appointed Keeper of Drawings in the King's collection, Secretary in Perpetuity of the Académie Royale, and administered all of the arts programmes for the court from 1755 to 1770. In addition to his administrative duties, Cochin produced drawings for book illustrations and wrote books on art theory but, after 1770, he lost much of his influence at court.
- See the Greek Mythology Link Web site by Carlo Parada, which includes a detail from the original wall painting from Herculaneum. The original fresco is now in the Museo Nazionale in Naples. A black and white illustration of it can be seen in Christian Michel, Le Voyage d'Italie de Charles Nicolas Cochin (1758), facsimile edition, Rome: Ecole Française de Rome, Palais Farnèse, 1991, fig. 1, with Cochin's original text on p. 180. LC call number: N7420.C64 1991. A color image of the fresco can be viewed online. [back to article]
- Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), Critical account of the situation and destruction by the first eruptions of Mount Vesuvius: of Herculaneum, Pompeii, and Stabia: the late discovery of their remains: the subterraneous works carried on in them ... in a letter, (originally in German) to Count Bruhl, of Saxony, from the celebrated Abbé Winckelmann, ... illustrated with notes, taken from the French translation. London: Printed for T. Carnan and F. Newbery, jun. ..., 1771. (Though this book is in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress, the Library's copy does not contain any plates. A copy of this book is at the Beinecke Library at Yale, call number 1996 437, which contains ten etched plates. Plate IV appears between pages 18 and 19 and the measurements of the plate impression and image itself match the Miller print exactly. Information provided by Ellen Cordes, Head of Public Services, Beinecke Library, Yale University, 13 May 2005.) [back to article]
- The three London editions were published in 1753, 1756 and 1758; the three Paris editions were issued in 1754, 1755 and 1757. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress has two London editions (1753, 1756) and two Paris editions (1754, 1755). The London editions are titled: Observations upon the Antiquities of the town of Herculaneum, discovered at the foot of Mount Vesuvius. With some Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Ancients. And a short Description of the Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Naples. By Mr. Bellicard, Architect, Member of the Academies of Bologna and Florence. Enriched with Forty-two Plates, designed and engraved by the Author. London: Printed for D. Wilson and T. Durham, at Plato's Head, in the Strand, 1753. LC call number: N5775.B4 Pre-1801 Collection. The call number for the 1756 London edition by the same publisher, but with some additions, is: N5775.B42 Pre-1801 Collection. The text describing this wall painting is on pages 62 to 64 of both London editions. The etched plate for the 1753 edition is between pages 62 and 63; all of the plates for the 1756 edition are at the end of the book. The French editions are titled: Observations sur les Antiquités de la ville d'Herculanum. Avec quelques réflexions sur la peinture & la sculpture des Anciens; & une courte description de quelques Antiquités des environs de Naples. Par messieurs Cochin le fils & Bellicard. Paris: Ch. Ant. Jombert, 1754. LC call number: DG70.H5B44. The 1755 edition has slightly different pagination and arrangement of the plates: DG70.H5B44 1755. The etching of the wall painting is plate 16 in both the 1754 and 1755 editions; it faces page 36 in the 1754 edition, and faces page 39 in the 1755 edition. [back to article]
- For an excellent discussion of Bellicard's and Cochin's tour of 1750-1751, see an essay by Alden R. Gordon, "Jérôme-Charles Bellicard's Italian Notebook of 1750-51: The Discoveries at Herculaneum and Observations on Ancient and Modern Architecture." Metropolitan Museum Journal 25(1990): 49-142. The original Hercules and Telephus etching by Cochin on which the Miller print was based, as well as his four other etchings of the wall paintings at Herculaneum are reproduced on pages 70-71. A discussion of the history of the six editions of Bellicard's and Cochin's Observations at Herculaneum is found in the Appendix on pages 141-142. [back to article]
- For additional biographical information on Cochin, see an article by Christian Michel in Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online (subscription only). For a listing of all of the books to which Cochin contributed illustrations, see also Christian Michel's book, Charles-Nicolas Cochin et le livre illustré au XVIIIe siècle, avec un catalogue raisonné des livres illustrés par Cochin 1735-1790. Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1987. LC call number: Z4.H53, no. 18. [back to article]