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Shepherd Couple from Antiquity. Red chalk. 17.7 x 29.8 cm. Signed and dated: “C. Metz 1794”, mounted on an album page, which is also signed and dated in pen and brown ink.
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Conrad Martin Metz initially underwent training as a painter in his native city of Bonn but, being colour-blind, he turned his attention after a while to drawing and engraving. He consequently moved to London, where he was introduced to the art of printmaking by no less than Francesco Bartolozzi. Metz remained in the city for twenty years, earning himself a reputation as an accomplished reproductive engraver. From 1801 the artist lived and worked in Rome, where he successfully continued his activities as a printmaker.
Metz created a substantial body of prints consisting almost exclusively of reproductive engravings after Italian Renaissance masters. Among his outstanding achievements in this field is a faithful reproductive print of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel which comprises fifteen large folio sheets.
The present work, which dates to the artist’s London period, has been executed in a sensitive and graceful drawing style reminiscent of Bartolozzi’s elegant classicism. The pastoral scene, which can be interpreted as an allegory of the stages of life, is remarkable for the lustre achieved by the red chalk technique which produces the subtlest tonal nuances. The pretty shepherdess gazes fervently at the ephebe at her side, whose feminine gracefulness corresponds fully with the classical ideal of beauty in the late eighteenth century. In the left foreground a herd of little lambs is gently teased by a little putto. Behind him are sat two venerable old men who resemble ancient philosophers. The sensitive intimacy of this idyllic pastoral scene evokes a carefree Arcadian age.