Fetching etchings

Charles Philippe de Büren (1759-1795) was the first son of Charles de Büren (1731-1787) and Cornelia Jacobea van Assendelft (1733-1799). He was a member of the Grand Council of Bern and the Baron of Vaumarcus. Like his father before him he spent time in Holland as part of a Swiss regiment serving the house of Orange. He was an amateur painter that focused on nature scenes and found beauty in everyday life. His love of art was most surely fostered by his mother whose family were important art patrons during the Dutch golden age, and who had asked that her husband build her a studio at the castle in which to paint.

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Charles Philippe’s parents painted in 1760 by Guillaume de Spinny

In 1783, Charles Philippe married his very distant cousin Charlotte Elisabeth de Büren (1765-1837) daughter of Philippe de Büren (1727-1808) Governor of Aigle and Elisabeth de Freudenreich (1747-1832). Charlotte would later remarry Claude Dubois of Valangin.

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Charles Philippe and Charlotte Elisabeth painted in 1791 by Joseph Marcellin Combette

While Charles Philippe painted oils, he was most well known for his set of etchings “Etudes aprés Différents Maitres” or Studies after different masters executed in 1791. His subject matter for his etchings were rural scenes and animals almost exclusively.

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A heritage renewed

It is rare that you have the opportunity to make something new with a family heirloom, six years ago I had that chance.

2010 was a banner year for meeting new family members, and I pondered for a long time on how to further connect my new family to our collective heritage. How about an etching from Charles Philippe? While the copper plates for his original nature works sadly no longer exist, one heraldic plate created in 1780s by my great-great-great-great-grandfather still does.

I first tried a local print house in San Francisco, but the results were not what I had in mind. Upon hearing of my vision, my late cousin Bill Harsh who was a skilled artist and printmaker came to the rescue. I ventured over to his studio in Benicia and after a lengthy tutorial I was off and running; inking the etching plate, cleaning it, giving it a good “coup de main” and cranking it ever so deliberately through the press. To make the gift more authentic, the prints were made on Swiss linen paper from the 1730s.

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An etching printed in 2010 by the great-great-great-great-grandson of the artist from a 230 year-old plate on 280 year-old paper. It was a good day,  and I had the black fingernails to prove it.

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