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Pier Leone Ghezzi

1674-1755, Rome

The painter and printmaker, Pier Leone Ghezzi, is generally regarded as the first professional cartoonist in the history of caricature. A member of the Accademia di San Luca from 1705 he was successful both as a painter and a book illustrator. In art history respects, however, these works are secondary in importance to his extensive drawn oeuvre of portrait caricatures. Ghezzi produced a total of some three thousand such cartoons. Innumerable members of Roman society and travellers had their portraits taken by him in the first half of the 18th century. Ghezzi’s lively, humorous cartoons were extremely popular; they were disseminated by means of reproductive prints - especially by Matthias Oesterreich - and exerted a defining influence on English cartoonists in the second half of the century.