Peddling Copperplate Engravings (1766)
Although the beginnings of universal elementary education had led to a gradual rise in literacy among the general population, the graphic arts continued to play a significant role in popular instruction in the eighteenth century. In fact, the proliferation of books, newspapers, and other printed matter only increased the demand for illustrations. In this scene, a vendor presents an assortment of copperplate engravings to a peasant couple and their son. Whereas townspeople could obtain art prints from booksellers and art dealers, rural dwellers had to rely on itinerant vendors. The eighteenth century produced numerous master engravers, one of the most famous being Daniel Chodowiecki (1726-1801), whose works depicted virtually all aspects of German life during the reign of Frederick II (“the Great”) of Prussia (r. 1740-86). Copperplate engraving by Antoine Louis Romanet (1742-after 1810) after a painting by Johann Conrad Seekatz (1719-68), 1766.