mezzotint

mezzotint (mĕtˈsətĭnt, mĕdˈzə–, mĕzˈə–) [key] [Ital., = halftint], method of copper or steel engraving in tone. A Dutch officer, Ludwig von Siegen, is given credit for the invention of mezzotint c.1640. The process then came into prominence in England early in the 18th cent. Mezzotint involves uniform burring with a curved, sawtoothed tool by cradling it back and forth until the surface of the plate presents an all-over, even grain. This yields a soft effect in the print. The picture is developed in chiaroscuro with a scraper and a burnisher, every degree of light and shade from black to white being attainable. In pure mezzotint, no line drawing is employed, the result being soft without the sharp lines of an etching. Mezzotint was often used for the reproduction of paintings, particularly, in England, for landscapes and portraits. The process is essentially extinct today.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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