“To the friend of curious and interesting things”

Among Douce’s portraits of artists, there is a silhouette of the Swiss engraver, publisher, and art dealer Christian von Mechel (1737-1817):

Christian von Mechel, Amicis Sacr: Christ. a Mechel Civis Basileensis, 1791, etching and engraving (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The print is annotated with Mechel’s dedication to Douce:

I beg dear Mr Douce, the friend of curious and interesting things, to allow the shadow of his new friend from Switzerland to follow him home in his absence. / London, 15 September 1792 / Chr. de Mechel

Between 1780 and 1795, Mechel published the four parts of his Oeuvre de Jean Holbein, ou, Recueil de gravures d’après ses plus beaux ouvrages, accompagnés d’explications historiques et critiques. The first volume, dedicated to George III, contains Mechel’s take on Holbein’s Dance of Death:

Christian von Mechel, Le Triomphe de la Mort, 1780, etching and engraving (©Pitts Theology Library, Emory University)

In 1833, Douce published his own study on the subject. He included Mechel’s work on his list of copies after Holbein’s prints (see no. XI, p. 132):

Douce’s Dance of Death

A copy of Mechel’s Oeuvre de Jean Holbein can be found among the books that Douce bequeathed to the Bodleian. But eight plates originally produced for Mechel and never published were kept by Douce with his prints of the Dance of Death:

Cancelled plates for Christian von Mechel’s ‘Le Triomphe de la Morte’, 1771 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

They include a different title-page and the mount on which they are pasted has been annotated by Douce: ‘These and the 4 following were originally engraved for M. de Mechel’s work, but cancelled and never published’.

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