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Comte de Caylus, Anne-Claude-Philippe de Tubières

(1692–1765, Paris)

and Étienne Fessard. Sacrifice à Cérés. Etching and engraving after Edme Bouchardon. 27.3 x 58.8 cm. Circa 1738. Inventaire du Fonds Français 53 (Caylus), 26 (Fessard); Exhibition catalogue Edme Bouchardon (1698–1762): une idée du beau, edited by Anne-Lise Desmas, Édouard Kopp et al., Paris 2016, no. 181. Watermark: Letters.

Like its companion piece depicting Odysseus’ invocation of the spirit of Tiresias the present sheet showing a sacrificial offering to Ceres is based on a red chalk drawing by Edme Bouchardon. A common feature of both impressions is the oblong landscape format, which evokes clear associations with ancient bas-reliefs. This fascinating, multi-figure composition includes an elevated platform on the right, from which the statue of the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility has a commanding view; she is sat on a throne from which snakes protrude and symbolically holds a torch and three ears of corn in her hands. A bearded priest in front of her is placing the first sacrificial offerings on a round altar, while a group of other cult followers with well-stocked fruit baskets, carafes and a pig is approaching the sacrificial site from the left. Only a contre-épreuve of the original drawing for this etching, which like its companion piece was the product of cooperation between Comte de Caylus and Étienne Fessard, has come down to us and is now in the Louvre in Paris (inv. no. 24307). On offer together, as they are here, the companion pieces are of great rarity. A very fine, even impression with margins. Only minor ageing and traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition.

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