About this artwork
One of the most accomplished color printmakers of his era, Charles Melchior Descourtis produced a body of work that is small and relatively unknown. Descourtis learned his method of multiple-plate color printing from Jean François Janinet and like him used toolwork on the plate rather than aquatint, an acid immersion process used to create general areas of shading.
In this print, Virginie decides to return home to Mauritius after several miserable years in Paris, where she has agonized over her separation from Paul. However, a typhoon strikes her ship within sight of the island. In line with 18th-century French ideals of virtue in women, she refuses to remove her clothing and swim to safety in front of the sailors, and so she drowns in the shipwreck. Her body is eventually found amid debris washed up on the shore, and Domingue and the narrator discover that she kept a locket with a portrait of Paul close to her, even until her death.
- Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- Charles Melchior Descourtis
- Paul and Virginie
- Made 1795
- Etching and engraving, from four plates, in yellow, blue, red and black, on paper
- 373 × 410 mm (image); 415 × 470 mm (sheet, cut within platemark)
- The Joseph Brooks Fair Collection