A dramatic and imposing maritime view of Fingal's Cave, a natural wonder off the coast of Scotland in the Hebrides, renowned for its striking rock formations of faceted vertical pillars of basalt. Amidst rolling breakers under the midday sun, a rowboat is steadied by two men standing on the rocks holding a rope at the entrance to the cave. The cave's vast size -- 72 feet high and some 270 feet deep -- is conveyed by deep linear perspective. The unique geological structure, topped with a scrubby layer of soil and plants, makes for a highly unusual composition. Fingal's Cave captured the imagination of Enlightenment thinkers and Romantic artists alike, and was celebrated in works by the poet James MacPherson, the composer Felix Mendelssohn, the painter J.M.W. Turner and the novelist Sir Walter Scott.
The cave was part of ancient Celtic lore, but had been forgotten until it was rediscovered by the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks in 1772, who published an account in his Voyage in Scotland and the Hebrides. Several years later, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a French naturalist specializing in volcanic geology, took part in an expedition to the Hebrides, and at the Isle of Staffa made precise measurements of the cave and described the mineralogy of the formations he found there, which he was the first to identify as having a volcanic origin. These results were published in 1797.
Knip was commissioned to make two paintings for Faujas' collection, one of Fingal's Cave and the other a view of Staffa. Picquenot, member of the Rouen Academy, engraved them at the same size as the paintings. The engravings appear in the official French government registry of prints on September 26, 1804. An 1805 reference work published in Paris states "The price of these two prints is 24 francs. They are accompanied by a descriptive text by M. Faujas-de-Saint-Fond.” This 1805 work reprinted Faujas's text in its entirety "to make clear the interest of these two prints, which deserve the highest praise" (Landon).
Compared with contemporary photographs of the site, however, the proportions of the cave in the print have been made more geometric (and thus more dramatic) in the print, the relative height of the pillars lengthened, and the opening shown relatively wider. Though an inscription on the print says it was "painted after nature" by Knip, he apparently either relied on sketches by Faujas or others on his expedition, or exercised artistic license in his portrayal.
Josephus Augustus Knip was a Dutch painter and draftsman, known for his landscapes and animal paintings. Knip came from a family of artists, including his father, Nicolaas-Frederik Knip, who trained him. He went to Paris in 1801 and spent seven years there. After winning the Dutch Prix de Rome in 1808, he went there and produced over 500 works, mainly neoclassical wash drawings of monuments and landscapes. These drawings became the basis of later paintings and large gouaches. Knip returned to the Netherlands in 1813 and lived there the remainder of his life, aside from a four-year residency in Paris. Blindness ended his career in 1832. Today his works are in many museum collections, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam and Britain's National Gallery of Art.
Michel Picquenot was a French etcher and engraver, born near Rouen, who apparently had publishing and printselling establishments in both Rouen and Paris.
Barthélmy Faujas de Saint-Fond (1741-1819) was a French geologist. He originally trained as a lawyer, and admitted as an advocate to the parliament or local legislature, but geology was his passion, and he began studying rock formations on his own. In 1776, his scientific studies were recognized by the naturalist Buffon, who invited him to Paris. He left the practice of law and was appointed assistant naturalist to the natural history museum by Louis XVI, and later became royal commissioner for mines. Faujas' main contribution was to the study of volcanic rock and a theory of the origin of volcanoes. He wrote several books and essays on geology and also published a two-volume work on the balloon experiments of the Montgolfier brothers. In 1785, he was named king's commissioner to factories, armories and royal forests, and in 1793 became the first professor of geology at the Jardin des Plantes, remaining there until he was almost 80 years old. Faujas retired in 1818.
Full publication information: "Dédié a Monsieur Barthelmy Faujas de Saint Fond, Picquenot. Peint d'après nature par J.A. Knip. Gravé de meme grandeur du tableau original qui est dans le cabinet de Monsieur Faujas de St. Fond. Gravé par Picquenot, de la Société des Sciences, d'Agriculture, Lettres et Arts de Rouen. A Paris chez Picquenot, Graveur rue des Carmes, N. 26. la porte cochere en face du Portail des ci-devant Carmes."
Condition: Generally very good with the usual light toning, wear, soft creases. Few short marginal tears restored. Margins a bit short -- close or within platemark and close to printed titles in bottom margin. Overall with bright colors and attractive, the above condition aspects typical for separately issued prints of this period.
"Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond." Wikipedia. 8 September 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barthélemy_Faujas_de_Saint-Fond (14 October 2011).
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 5, pp. 276-277 (Knip); Vol. 6, p. 667 (Picquenot).
Dylan, Nicholas Jackson, ed. "Fingal's Cave." Atlas Obscura. http://atlasobscura.com/place/fingal-s-cave (14 October 2011).
"Images of France Print Index." The ARTFL Project. http://artfl-project.uchicago.edu/content/image-france (14 October 2011).
Knip, Josephus Augustus. Union List of Artist Names Online. 2004. http://www.getty.edu/vow/ULANFullDisplay?find=knip&role=&nation=&prev_page=1&subjectid=500115271 (14 October 2011).
Landon, C.P. Nouvelles des Arts, Peinture, Sculpture, Architecture et Gravure. Vol. 5. Paris: L'Imprimerie des Annales du Musée, 1805. pp. 137-149.