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Edme Bouchardon

(1698 Chaumont – 1762 Paris)

after. Nouveau Livre d’Enfans. Six etchings by Pierre Aveline. Each approx. 39 x 27 cm. Circa 1742. Inventaire du Fonds Français 40–45; exhibition catalogue Edme Bouchardon (1698–1762): une idée du beau, edited by Anne-Lise Desmas, Édouard Kopp et al., Paris 2016, p. 260. Watermark: Letters.

Edme Bouchardon is now regarded as one of the most creative and versatile 18th century French artists and above all as an outstanding forerunner of Neoclassicism. Trained by the sculptor, Guillaume Coustou the Younger, Bouchardon was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome in 1722 and spent the next ten years in the Eternal City, where he devoted most of his time to producing portrait busts and marble replicas of ancient statues. Having returned to Paris, he was made a member of the Académie royale and was also appointed court sculptor to Louis XV. In addition to his activities as a sculptor Bouchardon was a brilliant draughtsman who supplied designs for various kinds of artworks, including medals, gravestones and prints. 

The six delightful depictions of children in the Nouveau Livre d’Enfans made by the Parisian etcher and engraver, Pierre Aveline (1702–1760), are based on equilateral red chalk drawings by Edme Bouchardon. The artist made the drawings in the late 1730s as designs for a part of what is now his best-known masterpiece – the Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons erected in the Rue de Grenelle in Paris between 1739 and 1745. The monumental fountain is one of the largest and most splendid of the thirty public fountains the city authorities had built in the 18th century to provide drinking water for Parisians. Its artistic execution marks the transition from Rococo to Neoclassicism. Bouchardon based his designs for the fountains on Roman models. Its façade consists of elaborate columns and pilasters, niches and portals and is decorated with the statues of the four seasons. Beneath these statues are the four seasonal reliefs for which Bouchardon made his red chalk drawings. Each of the etchings, which Aveline has transposed in masterly fashion, has two depictions of geniuses in different positions and features different attributes such as grapes, scythes and flower wreaths as references to the different seasons portrayed. 

The complete series on offer here was published by Gabriel Huquier and announced in the December 1742 edition of Mercure de France. Superb, contrasting and differentiated impressions with margins around the distinct platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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