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Charles Nicolas Cochin the Elder

(1688-1754 Paris)

Laban and Jacob. Etching after Jean Restout. 54 x 39.2 cm. (1737). Inventaire du Fonds Français 244 before I (of II).

Charles Nicolas Cochin, son of the painter Charles Cochin, began work as a painter himself before turning his attention to printmaking at the age of twenty-two. Admitted to the Académie Royale in the summer of 1731, Cochin made a name for himself primarily as a reproductive engraver, producing technically flawless prints after Chardin, Watteau, Lancret and other prominent artists of his time. One of his first commissions was a contribution to the “Histoire et Description de l’Hôtel des Invalides”, a volume of reproductive engravings featuring illustrations of the ceiling paintings and sculptures in this prominent secular building.

Cochin’s extensive printed oeuvre comprises a large number of allegorical and religious scenes. They include the present print with the Old Testament depiction of Laban who, standing outside his house and in the presence of his two daughters, is explaining to his son-in-law Jacob why he was first married to his elder daughter Leah instead of being betrothed to the younger Rachel, with whom he was really in love (Genesis 29). The appeal of this large print, which is based on a painting by the history painter, Jean Restout (1692-1768), derives from the delicate, highly varied etching technique employed. Restout himself was made a member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris in 1720 and became its director in 1760. The present impression is an extremely rare trial proof unknown to the authors of the Inventaire du Fonds Français before all letters and before numerous re-workings, for instance in the sky and terrain. In the first state the print was to have had the artist’s signature added along with the title, information on the provenance of the original painting and the address of the publisher (see the state in the British Museum, inv. no. 1917,1208.2063). A very fine, silvery and harmonious early impression. Only minor ageing, otherwise in immaculate condition.

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