Fancy Pieces: Genre Mezzotints by Robert Robinson & His Contemporaries

The decorative painter and stage designer Robert Robinson (active 1674–1706) may be counted among the pioneering figures in the history of British mezzotints. During the last two decades of the seventeenth century, Robinson produced some three dozen prints, which reflect an artistic personality of great originality and charm. In contradistinction to the exalted genres of history painting and portraiture, the majority of Robinson’s mezzotints belong to a more informal and popular class of images known as fancy pieces. The subject matter of these works ranged from architectural caprices to rustic landscapes and still lifes. Robinson’s fancy pieces provided a fascinating glimpse into the effervescent taste of the English baroque, a world captivated by the stage spectacles of Henry Purcell and the elaborate interior designs of Sir James Thornhill.

View works from the collection included in this exhibition here.


Approximately sixty prints from the Center’s collection were chosen for this exhibition by James Ganz, a doctoral candidate in the History of Art at Yale.

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Print made by Robert Robinson, after Edward Cooper, Banquet Piece with Lidded Cup and Poultry (detail), 1683–95, mezzotint on paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund