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Bust of an Old Man, also called ’The Greek Priest’. Etching. 23.7 x 19.5 cm. 1782. Baudicour 1, Cuzin 406 GR.
François-André Vincent, who went on to achieve considerable fame as a painter of historical scenes, was first taught by Joseph-Marie Vien and then studied from 1771 under Charles-Joseph Natoire. As early as 1768 he won the renowned Prix de Rome for his painting of Germanicus Putting Down the Rebellion in his Camp. From 1771 to 1775 Vincent lived and worked as a pensionnaire at the Villa Mancini of the Académie de France in Rome. He regularly displayed his works at the exhibitions staged by the Paris Salon and in 1792 was appointed a professor at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture.
Despite the considerable recognition Vincent enjoyed during his lifetime due to his historical paintings – an area in which he competed successfully with no less than Jacques-Louis David – he is now known predominantly as a highly talented and sensitive portraitist. His corpus of etchings, on the other hand, is of exquisite rarity, as Prosper de Baudicour rightly points out. Nagler, Le Blanc and Baudicour record only two etchings in his hand, including the present impressive bust portrait of a bearded old man, which is also known as The Greek Priest. The print, which is not included in the collections of the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum or the Rijksmuseum, reproduces in reverse one of Vincent’s own paintings now in the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen of the Staatsgalerie at Schloss Johannisburg in Aschaffenburg (55.5 x 46 cm, inv. no. 6309). In the past the painting was erroneously attributed to Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, called Dietricy, but thanks not least to an inscription on the verso it is now recognised as an autograph work by Vincent (cf. Pierre Rosenberg, Poussin, Watteau, Chardin, David...: peintures françaises dans les collections allemandes, XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles, Paris 2005). The number 9 in pen and ink in the lower margin of the sheet establishes a link with another impression of this etching, now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts du Canada in Ottawa, which bears the number 16 inscribed in the same style. It can be assumed that both impressions originally formed part of the same edition and that the author himself was responsible for the numbering.
The impression on offer here, which has the artist’s name and the date 1782 inscribed at the bottom left, provides demonstrative proof that Vincent was an extremely talented etcher. The striking character head, which was undoubtedly inspired by ancient portraits of Homer, has a tremendous presence and is remarkable for its seriousness and contemplative melancholy. The technical execution is also of the utmost sophistication. The treatment of the fur coat and doublet is free and masterful, while the details of the physiognomy, hair and soft beard are treated with supreme delicacy. The neutral background consisting of narrow, very varied cross hatchings, which produce a flickering surface pattern, is of great graphical charm.
A superb, contrasting and rich impression with margins, partly with a deckle edge. Minor ageing and traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition. Literature: Jean-Pierre Cuzin, François-André Vincent: Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre, Paris 2013.Contact us for further information