Mezzotint is an engraving method that emerged in the 17th century, producing prints of smooth transitions of tone and deep, velvety black areas.
The mezzotint approach gained significant popularity in 18th-century England, especially for reproducing portrait paintings. In the mezzotint process, the metal printing plate is textured by moving a serrated metal tool over its surface. Each depression retains ink, resulting in a solid black image if printed as-is. However, the artist achieves a range of dark and light tones by progressively smoothing and burnishing different parts of the rough surface, reducing their ink-holding capacity.