A portrait of Claude (facing right) was drawn by the artist Sandrart, who saw Claude between 1628 and 1635 in Rome. The portrait was engraved by Collin, in Sandrart’s Teutsche Academie, Vol.I, Part II, 1675. Our portrait of Claude (facing left) closely resembles the engraved portrait “after Sandrart” by Josiah Boydell. The mezzotint was used as the frontispiece to the Earlom Boydell edition of the Liber Veritatis; published from 1774 – 1777.
Claude exerted considerable influence on landscape artists of the 18th and 19th centuries. The English painter Turner was especially indebted to Claude and tried to outdo his grand compositions. Claude was highly regarded by the British public through his drawings and paintings of the Italian landscape.
Claude Gellée was born in the Duchy of Lorraine but left around 1612 for Germany, then Rome, where he became a studio assistant to the landscapist Agostino Tassi. He visited Naples and returned to Nancy before settling permanently in Rome around 1628. He sketched in the Roman countryside with Poussin. Ideas from the drawings he made were integrated into oil paintings finished in the studio.
Claude recorded his compositions in drawings, in the ‘Liber Veritatis’ (Book of Truth), now in the British Museum, for the sake of authenticating his paintings. Scottish and English aristocrats on the 18th-century Grand Tour bought many of his works. Patrons who suspected their Claude painting was a forgery consulted the ‘Book of Truth’ as it worked on “the principle of falsification, not verification. On a trip to Paris, in 1720, William Cavendish, 2nd Duke of Devonshire, purchased the Liber Veritatis. Cavendish was one of the élite British collectors of the eighteenth century.
Once in London, the Liber Veritatis was “dismantled and reconstructed” as an album. In 1774, Richard Earlom dismantled the Liber Veritatis to begin making engravings of the drawings. The process Earlom used was common during the eighteenth century—etching with mezzotint in sepia ink. Earlom created two volumes of the Liber Veritatis each holding 100 plates, which were published from 1774 – 1777 by John Boydell.