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Full-length portrait of Prince Alexander Beloselsky, seated at a desk. Engraving. 61.8 x 41.3 cm. Nagler 3, Heller-Andresen 29 I (of III).
This fine portrait of a scholar reproduces a painting that was evidently a collaborative effort of Giovanni Battista Casanova and Crescentius Seydelmann, two artists working in Dresden at the time. The sitter is Prince Alexander von Beloselsky (1752–1809), who in 1789 was Russian ambassador to the Saxon court. This aristocratic figure is presented full-length as an homme savant at work in his study. Beloselsky was not only a diplomat, but also an enlightened thinker and author of a philosophical treatise, published in London in 1791, with the cryptic title Dianyologie ou tableau philosophique de l’entendement, in which he explored the possibilities of human cognition. He is known to have corresponded with Immanuel Kant. The prince’s pose recalls a prophane evangelist awaiting the spark of divine inspiration before committing his thoughts to paper. The study is opulently appointed. A heavy velvet curtain provides the background to the picture, while an elegant Louis XVI bookcase is filled with scholarly volumes and folios. The statue of Chronos dragging two children to their deaths is a reminder of the finiteness of human existence.
Christian Gottlieb Schultze shows himself here to be a very capable engraver. His technique is varied yet concentrated, being characterized by a clever use of light effects which lend the portrayal a metallic lustre. The artist was trained at the Dresden Academy, where, according to Nagler, he “made the most felicitous progress”. In 1772, having been granted a royal stipend, he went to Paris where he made the acquaintance of Jacques Philippe Lebas and Augustin de Saint Aubin. No less a figure than Pompeo Batoni tried to persuade the talented artist to accept a post in Rome. After spending ten years in Paris, Schultze finally returned to his native city to take up an appointment as engraver to the Saxon court.
A superb, sharp trial proof, before all letters and before the coat of arms; with thread margins around the platemark. Old pencil annotations in the margin. Minor ageing and staining, otherwise in perfect condition. From the Collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, Vienna.