Holdfasts are one of the most essential items for bench work. But when were they invented?
It’s easy to date them to the 17th century, but what about before that?
Jeff Burks has been doing some research on this item and shared some of his notes with me. While there are still a lot of questions, we can at least date the holdfast back to the 16th century.
Here are Jeff’s notes:
This is the current state of my research into an illustration known as “Le Raboteur.” The source for this image was an oil painting by the Italian artist Annibale Carracci (1560-1609). I don’t have an exact date for the painting, but I know it was acquired as part of the Orléans collection in the beginning of the 18th century. It was subsequently bought by the Earl of Suffolk. On Oct. 11, 1856, the painting and eight others (including a Da Vinci) were stolen from Charlton Park. As far as I know, the original painting has never been recovered. So far I have found five different renditions of the painting as engravings. They are below. The painting depicts Christ and Joseph working at a carpenter’s bench with Mary looking on.
Le Raboteur – Conclave Triadis humanae 1670-1686 (shown above)
Etching published in Paris by Pierre Hallier, Print made by Jean Pesne
Inscription Content: Lettered in margin with title and ‘Anibal Carache Pinxit. P.Hlalier cum privil. Regis / Et se vend ches Pierre Hallier Marchand sur le petit pont proche le petit Chatelet à Paris’. Within the image ‘J. Pesne sculp.’ British Museum.
La Samaritaine / Galerie du Palais Royal
Print made by Jacques Couché 1786. Etching and engraving, printed from two separate plates.
Inscription Content: Lettered with production details “Annibal Carache Pinxit – J. Couché Sculpsit”, title, continuing: “De la Galerie de S. A. S. Monseigneur le Duc d’Orléans / A. P. D. R. / Ecole de Lombardie / I tableau d’Annibal Carrache”, size of original painting, and seventeen lines of description, in French. From the first volume of ‘Galerie du Palais Royal’, a set published between 1786 and 1808. This is the first of twenty-eight plates engraved after paintings then attributed to Carracci in the collection of the Duke of Orléans. British Museum.
Trade card of Delaplanche, a French ironmonger (magasin de quincaillerie et outils) with address. The image depicts the Holy Family and is modeled after Le Raboteur, with the addition of tools sold at the shop. The image is etched and the text is engraved. The card is undated, but Waddesdon suggests 1780-1800 because street numbers were introduced circa 1780. Waddesdon Collection.
Sainte Famille, Dite Le Rabouteur
Museé de peinture et de sculpture…Volume 11
Etienne Achille Réveil, Jean Duchesne 1831
The Illustrated London News printed a story about the theft at Charlton Park in its Nov. 8, 1856, issue. Included with that article was a woodcut engraving of the painting. The print was republished in ‘L’Univers Illustré’, 6 March, 1862, p. 108.
— Christopher Schwarz