Lille (Flanders now in France)
Known for his mezzotints, Wallerant Vaillant was also an accomplished painter, draftsman and etcher during the 17th century. He created portraits in oils, mezzotint and chalk, and his paintings and prints include history and genre scenes and a few still-lifes. Some of his best works show apprentices learning to draw in art studios. The first professional mezzotint artist, his work had a great following. Vaillant was born in 1623 in the then-Flemish city of Lille (conquered by France in 1668). Among his siblings, four of his brothers went on to become artists. He began his apprenticeship with Erasmus Quellinus the Younger (1607-1678) in Antwerp at the age of fourteen. Ten years later Vaillant joined the artists’ Guild of St. Luke in Middelburg, in the Dutch province of Zeeland, on the seacoast northwest of Antwerp. He was in Amsterdam in 1649 when he painted the portrait of the well-to-do Amsterdam merchant Jan Six (1618-1700), who is better known through the etched and oil portraits by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). Vaillant is also documented as being in Amsterdam in 1652. In addition to paintings and life-sized chalk portraits, he made several etchings during the first phase of his career. In 1658 Vaillant was first in Heidelberg, where he painted a portrait and then in Frankfurt, where he sought business from the dignitaries gathered there for the election of Leopold I (1640-1705) as Holy Roman Emperor. Among those gathered was Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine (1619-1682), an amateur artist who had learned the very new technique of mezzotint. Scholars believe that Prince Rupert taught Vaillant how to make mezzotints, and that they collaborated on making prints. Vaillant also created works for Emperor Leopold I. He left Frankfurt for Paris in 1659, where he worked for the Marquis Antoine-Pierre de Grammont (1614-1698) and painted portraits of several members of the French royal family. Vaillant did not create any prints during his time in Paris. By 1665 he had returned to Amsterdam, and spent the rest of his life there, although he was still a member of the Guild in Middelburg. Vaillant then began producing mezzotints in volume, eventually creating more than 230 mezzotint plates. Some of these were after his own paintings and designs, others were after works by contemporary Dutch and Flemish artists, and many were after Italian Renaissance and Baroque masters. He was probably given dual portrait commissions, since a number of his portraits are both oil paintings and mezzotint prints. With mezzotint Vaillant was able to reproduce the tonal nuances of paintings and wash drawings, such as the drawings of the contemporary Dutch artist Jan de Bisschop (1628-1671). Vaillant’s prints were very popular, and were copied by artists for over a century. He died in Amsterdam in 1677, and was buried on September 2 of that year. (TNB 11/2012) Selected bibliography: Ackley, Clifford S. Printmaking in the Age of Rembrandt. Exhibition catalog, pp. 272-274. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1981. Griffiths, Antony. “Wallerant Vaillant,” exhibition review. The Burlington Magazine, vol. 123, No. 940 (July, 1981), p. 431. Weustman, Gerdien. “The Mezzotint in Holland: ‘Easily Learned, Neat and Convenient,’” Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Vol 23, no. 1, pp 63-89 (1995).