bound volume (dimensions 54 x 38 x 7 cms) inscr. on plate b.r. "I. Smith ex:"; inscr. on page t.r. hand-written in brown ink "60" CRE SMITH, John; (English; 1652-1743) PUB SMITH, John; (English; 1652-1743) Part of William Hunter's original bequest, this is one of three volumes which together contain 488 mezzotints, almost all made or published by John Smith. About two thirds are portraits of eminent late Stuart, early Hanoverian persons. The remaining third are subject prints after a wide range of artists and subjects, from mythological and religious scenes after old Italian and Dutch and Flemish masters such as Titian and Rubens to fancy subjects after contemporary French and English painters.
Instrumental in raising the standard of mezzotint portraits, Smith was the first British printmaker to gain a European reputation, and examples of his work were essential for any serious first half of the 18th century European print collection. Hunter's set of volumes is a rare surviving example of a comprehensive collection of mezzotints compiled in the 1730s.
Smith published this print and may also be its author; it is one of 100 in the volume without an engraver's name and Smith was known to have acquired and republished many plates from his predecessors and contemporaries, including them in collections such as this to give context to his own work. Putti depicted playing with bubbles was a popular allegorical image, traditionally representing the transience of life and the vanity of earthly achievements. There are two other examples in this volume (Glaha 16683, 16758).