Faithorne, William

, a very celebrated engraver, was born in London in the early part of the seventeenth century. He was the pupil of Peake, the printer and printseller, who was afterwards knighted, and worked with him three or four years. At the breaking out of the civil war, Peake espoused the cause of Charles I.; and Faithorne, who accompanied his master, was taken prisoner by the rebels at Basing-house, whence he was sent to London, and confined in Aldersgate. In this uncomfortable situation he exercised his graver; and a small head of the first Villiers, duke of Buckingham, in the style of Mallan, was one of his first performances. The solicitations of his friends in his favour at last prevailed; and he was released from prison, with permission to retire on the continent. | The story of his banishment for refusing to take the oath to Oliver Cromwell, would have done him no discredit, had it been properly authenticated, but that does not appear to be the case. Soon after his arrival in France, he found protection and encouragement from the abbe* de Marolles, and formed an acquaintance with the celebrated Nanteuil, from whose instructions he derived very considerable advantages. About 1650, he returned to England, and soon after married the sister of a person who is called “the famous” captain Ground. By her he had two sons, Henry, who was a bookseller, and William, an engraver in mezzotinto.

He now opened a shop opposite the Palsgrave -head tavern without Temple-bar, where he sold not only his own engravings, but those of other English artists, and imported a considerable number of prints from Holland, France, and Italy. He also worked for the booksellers, particularly Mr. Royston, the king’s bookseller, Mr. Martin, his brother-in-law, in St. Paul’s church-yard, and Mr. William Peake, a stationer and printseller on Snow-hill, the younger brother of his old master. About 1680, he retired from his shop, and resided in Printing-house-yard: but he still continued to work for the booksellers, and painted portraits from the life in crayons, which art he learned of Nanteuil, during his abode in France. He also painted in miniature; and his performances in both these styles were much esteemed. These portraits are what we now find with the inscription “W. Faithorne pinxit” He appears to have been well paid for his engravings, of which lord Orford has given a very full list. Mr. Ashmole gave him seven pounds for the engraving of his portrait, which, if not a large one, or very highly finished, could not at that time have been a mean price. Unfortunately, however, for him, his son William dissipated a considerable part of his property, and it is supposed that the vexation he suffered from this young man’s misconduct, tended to shorten his days. He died in May 1691, and was buried by the side of his wife in the church of St. Anne, Blackfriars. In 1662 he published “The Art of Engraving and Etching.

Portraits constitute the greater part of Faithorne’s engravings. He worked almost entirely with the graver in a free clear style. In the early part of his life, he seems to have followed the Dutch and Flemish manner of engraving but at his return from France he had | considerably improved it. Some of his best portraits are admirable prints, and finished in a free delicate style, with much force of colour; but he did not draw the human figure correctly, or with good taste, and his historical plates by no means convey a proper idea of his abilities. His son scraped portraits in mezzotinto, and probably might have acquired a comfortable subsistence, but he neglected his business before he had attained any great degree of excellence, and died about the age of thirty. 1


Walpole’s Anecdotes —Strutt’s Dictionary.