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Print - The Air Pump
  • The Air Pump
    Green, Valentine, born 1739 - died 1813
  • Enlarge image

The Air Pump

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (engraved)

  • Date:

    1769 (engraved)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Green, Valentine, born 1739 - died 1813 (engraver)
    Wright of Derby, Joseph, born 1734 - died 1797 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Mezzotint on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case MB2C, shelf DR108, box SS37

Valentine Green (1739-1813) was mezzotint engraver to George III (ruled 1760-1820). Printmakers reproducing paintings used mezzotint because of its ability to create subtle gradations in tone. The printmaker applies a rocker to the surface of the printing plate to create a burr (roughened surface) that will hold ink and print a deep, even black. Different tones are then created by scraping away the burr so that it will hold varying amounts of ink. The printmaker is, in effect, scraping the image out of darkness. This made it a particularly suitable medium for rendering the dramatic lighting effects for which the painter Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797) was famous.

Physical description


Place of Origin

England (engraved)


1769 (engraved)


Green, Valentine, born 1739 - died 1813 (engraver)
Wright of Derby, Joseph, born 1734 - died 1797 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Mezzotint on paper


Height: 47.8 cm, Width: 58.3 cm

Descriptive line

Valentine Green (1739-1813) after Joseph Wright of Derby; The Air Pump; 1769; mezzotint.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Baker, Malcolm, and Brenda Richardson (eds.), A Grand Design: The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London: V&A Publications, 1999.


Printing ink



Subjects depicted

Science; Enlightenment




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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