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Dominique-Vivant Denon

(1747 Chalon-sur-Saône – 1825 Paris)

The Kiss. Lithograph. 22.4 x 35.1 cm. 1813/18. TIB 121 (Supplement), 465.

Dominique-Vivant, Baron Denon, was involved in a wide variety of activities and commissions in the course of his life as a diplomat, writer, museum director and collector, but his abiding passion was art. From his days as a student he regularly worked as a draughtsman, medal maker, etcher and lithographer, acquiring the requisite artistic skills mainly through his own endeavours. Appointed Director-General of Museums in France in 1802, he was the first director of the Louvre and, as assessor from 1805 of the European cultural assets confiscated by France, he became “Napoleon’s Eye”. Denon left an extensive printed oeuvre of his own. He made his first lithograph in 1809 in the Munich studio of the brothers Aloys and Carl Friedrich Senefelder. Having resigned from his position as Director-General of the Paris Museums in 1815, he dedicated himself to mastering the art of lithography.

This charming print of a couple locked in a passionate embrace is modelled on a painting by the Venetian Baroque painter, Pietro della Vecchia (1602/03–1678), which is now in the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg (see Bernard Aikema: Pietro Della Vecchia and the Heritage of the Renaissance in Venice, Florence 1990, cat. no. 199). The closeness of della Vecchia’s works to the art of the Venetian painters of the Cinquecento is readily apparent here. The quality of the historical model notwithstanding, Denon’s interpretation radiates great artistic freshness and spontaneity. A very fine, even impression with wide margins, partly with deckle edges. Minor ageing and minimal traces of handling, otherwise in very good condition.

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