An English engraver in St Petersburg

Posted on 3rd December 2021 by simonbeattie

Something a little seasonal: this mezzotint reproduces Bartolomé Esteban Murillo‘s Rest on the Flight into Egypt. It is the work of James Walker (1759–1822), who had been recruited to go to Russia in 1784, where he was appointed engraver to Catherine the Great.  ‘Walker’s principal task was to engrave important pictures by old and contemporary masters in the imperial collection, but he also produced some forty-three portraits of the imperial family and the Russian aristocracy.  On 30 December 1786 he was made an associate of the Academy of Arts at St Petersburg, and in September 1794 a full academician.  His appointment as imperial engraver was renewed by Emperor Alexander I.  Walker returned to England from time to time to arrange publication of his engravings.  During one such visit, in 1792, when he also took out the freedom of the Russia Company, he published two parts of A collection of prints, from the most celebrated pictures in the gallery of her imperial majesty Catherine II, empress and autocratix of all the Russias.  These were retailed for him by the landscape painter William Hodges and the bookseller R. Blamire.  Back in Russia, Walker’s other duties included showing distinguished British and other foreign visitors round the Hermitage, and the training of pupils.  He returned to England with a pension in 1802, but twenty-four of his plates were lost in a shipwreck off Yarmouth’ (Oxford DNB).

For more details of the print, please see my latest e-list.

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