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Gratitude & Happiness

Introducing an Interesting Art Form!

on April 10, 2015

I  is for Intaglio.

I remember in elementary school learning about how the Inuit told stories by carving into soapstone. I was fascinated by the figures that came out smooth with hints of green, grey or brown in that beautiful rock. In art class we got to make our own engravings in a bar of Ivory soap. Somehow it wasn’t quite the same, but our hands smelled good after. One of my friend’s grandfathers made beautiful carvings of nature from wood, often of birds and very lifelike.  I have great appreciation for the detail that goes into creating through a sort of recycling, turning one thing into another by etching and picking away until the image reveals itself. I wish I had that talent. For now, I will content myself with learning about the process.

Originally invented in Germany in the 1430’s to decorate metal armor, musical instruments, and religious symbols.

Intaglio is from the Italian intagliare, meaning to engrave or cut, deriving from the Medieval Latin intaliare.  Its first known use is 1644.

1. a: an engraving or incised figure in stone or other hard material depressed below the surface so that an impression from the design yields an image in relief,

b: the art or process of executing intaglios,

c: printing (as in die stamping and gravure) done from a plate which the image is sunk below the surface

2. something (as a gem) carved in intaglio. (Merriam – Webster Dictionary.)

In printing, intaglio is one of the four major classes of techniques. The others are lithograph, relief, and stenciling.  Among the various methods of printing in intaglio are: drypoint,engraving, etching, aquatint and mezzotint. Burnishing and scraping are also used.

The Process:

  • Printing is done from ink below the surface of the plate.
  • Ink is rubbed into the surface of the grooves and wiped clean.
  • A roller press embosses the paper into incised lines.
  • The plate is laid face up with a wet sheet of paper over it and a blanket for even pressure.
  • An upper roller is turned and the bed is drawn through.
  • The pressure presses the wet paper into the ink filled crevices of the plate and makes an image.

Since the ink forming the design is printed only from the recessed areas of the plate, you can tell that a print is intaglio if you see the indentation of the roller plate on the print.

Some famous intaglio artists: Alrbrecht Durer (Renaissance,) Edward Hopper, Lucas Van Leyden, Pablo Picasso, and Rembrandt. Rembrandt worked in drypoint and completed over 300 etchings. Picasso used steel plating.

A video showing the various methods of intaglio printing.



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