(from Italian meaning: incised)
An imprint produced by a method in which ink is rubbed into the grooves of a design made in a (usually metal or collaged) printing plate. Printing is carried out, often on damp paper, using an etching press to force the damp paper into the inked grooves of the plate to pick up the impression. Developed since the 16th century, intaglio processes have been used by artists such as Dürer, Rembrandt and Goya and lend themselves to fine line work as well as to deeply textured or embossed images.
A print produced from a smooth metal plate, the surface of which the artist covers with an acid-resistant ground. He/she then draws a composition into that ground with a fine etching needle or other tools – the marks made thus scraping away the acid- resistant ground to reveal the bare metal. The plate is then immersed in a tray of acid. Wherever the ground has been scratched away, the acid bites grooves into the exposed metal. When the etching process is complete, the plate is removed from the acid tray and washed clean of acid. If printing intaglio (the traditional method for printing etchings though, occasionally, they are relief printed) he/she rubs a thin layer of printing ink into the etched grooves of the plate. He/she then places a sheet of damp paper, face down, onto the inked plate, and takes a printed impression using an etching press to exert the high, rolling pressure needed to force the damp paper into the plate’s etched grooves, thus picking up the wet ink and transferring image to paper. The process was developed in medieval Europe where it was first used to decorate metal armour. Photo-etching processes were developed from the 1820s onwards.
A print produced by cutting into a (traditionally) metal plate with sharp tools rather than using acid to eat away the image. Engravings are printed intaglio by the same means as etchings, mezzotints, drypoints, etc (see below).
Drypoint: an intaglio print produced from a smooth plate (often copper), into the surface of which the artist scratches a design using a sharp metal needle. No acid is used in this process. When the image is complete, he/she rubs a thin layer of printing ink into the scratched grooves of the plate. He/she then places a sheet of damp paper, face down, onto the inked plate, and takes a printed impression using a press to exert the high rolling pressure needed to force the damp paper into the grooves, thus picking up the wet ink and transferring image to paper. The needle raises a fine burr of metal at either side of each groove and this prints with a characteristic ‘furry’ line. The burr breaks down after a few printings making it difficult to produce a large edition from a drypoint plate and, for this reason, lines in later prints may sometimes appear less dense/rich than in earlier ones.
An intaglio print with effects resembling watercolour washes, produced from a copper plate upon which particles of resin ground are laid, melted to adhere as miniscule spots of acid resistance, designs masked out with varnish, and etched with acid.
An intaglio process in which a complex textured surface is laboriously created on a metal plate using a multiple-toothed rocker tool. The pitted surface the rocker creates holds ink and prints as a rich, dense, velvety black. Having created this texture on the plate, the artist then uses metal scrapers and burnishers to flatten out selected areas of the plate. In this way, developing an image from dark to light, tones are manipulated which effectively create a sense of a drawing in light, looming out of darkness, as the ink cannot be held on a polished surface. The invention of the technique is usually attributed to the German amateur artist, Ludwig von Siegen, who produced what appears to be the earliest known mezzotint in 1642.