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Benjamin Zix

(1772 Strasbourg – 1811 Perugia)

La Prise de Tabac. Etching. 21 x 12.3 cm. Nagler 4.

This humorous representation shows a shoemaker in his workshop taking a break from work for a pinch of snuff. The workshop is in a rather sorry state indicating that business is far from flourishing. Tools are strewn about, a mouse is creeping into a bowl on the floor and a spider’s web is visible in the open window. The whole has been treated in a varied and finely differentiated etching technique which produces a visually appealing chiaroscuro.

The painter, draughtsman and etcher, Benjamin Zix, was apprenticed to Christophe Guérin in Strasbourg and in 1792 joined the Rhine army, in which he enjoyed the patronage of General Balthus von Schauenburg. Following his demobilisation in 1800 he settled as an artist in Strasbourg, where he attracted the attention of Vivant Denon, Director-General of the Imperial Museums, who took him into his entourage. In the following years Zix travelled extensively in Denon’s retinue visiting, amongst other places, Munich, Vienna, Frankfurt and Weimar, where he drew a portrait of Goethe. Other journeys took him to Spain and Italy, where he fell ill and died in Perugia in 1811. As the official historiographer of the Napoleonic campaigns, Zix drew the battlefields, the occupied towns and the military events of the years between 1806 and 1810, thus preserving them for posterity. His drawing of the battlefield of Eylau probably served as the model for Gros’ famous painting at the Louvre in Paris. Zix produced a small corpus of prints including views of Alsace, military subjects and a few genre scenes.

The etching La Prise de Tabac is extremely rare and precious. A very fine, contrasting impression with wide margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. From the collection of King Frederick of Saxony (Lugt 971).

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