The Battle of Rancagua

The Battle of Rancagua, fought in 1814, was part of the Chilean War of Independence, but it was not a happy one, ending as it did in defeat for the Chileans and the start of regained Spanish control over Chile. Nevertheless, Pedro Subercaseaux' painting of a charge led by Bernardo O'Higgins has become famous and it is this painting we're dealing with here this week.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Or, to be more precise, by the four engravings José Moreno Benavente made of this painting. We start in 1940, when Moreno Benavente made his first engraving of the scene, for a 5000 pesos banknote. This particular engraving was used again in 1949 and in 1953, and then again as late as 1967, on the 10,000 escudos banknote shown here.

I'm giving you the close-up of the actual engraving here, so as to better compare it to the one following, which is a different engraving of the same scene by Moreno Benavente, issued on a 5 escudos banknote in 1963, so that's 23 years later.


If you blow them up (click on them for a larger picture) you'll find that Moreno Benavente has managed to get much more precise detail into his 1963 engraving, which is, I would think, the sign of a more experienced engraver. The whole engraving has a better feel to it, though on the other hand I must say that the buildings on fire in the 1940 engraving are more dramatic and the play with light and shade is pretty good on that first one too.

We can repeat the exercise with the two stamp engravings Moreno Benavente made of this painting, because once again we have a huge time gap between the two. We go back to 1945, when a stamp set was issued to mark the death centenary of O'Higgins (in 1942). One of the stamps depicted the painting:

It was followed in 1965 by a relatively similar stamp marking the 150th anniversary of the battle (in 1964):

I think we can come to same conclusion: the latter engraving is the more fluid and detailed one, but again I find the fire on the original engraving more dramatic.

To end with, I found a great item to go with this little battle collection: it is a 'Season's Greetings' card made by the Chilean Mint in 1964. It is in the guise of a huge die proof, though I'm not sure whether the actual card was like this or whether it really is a proof printing of the card. However, it depicts the Rancagua stamp which at that time still had to be issued!

Nice, innit?!