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François Forster

(1790 Le Locle – 1872 Paris)

Aeneas Tells Dido of Troy’s Misfortune. Engraving after Pierre Narcisse Guérin. 55.9 x 66.2 cm. (1828). Inventaire du Fonds Français 16, Apell 13 III.

Having initially trained as an engraver of watches, the Swiss engraver and lithographer, François Forster, departed in 1805 for Paris, where he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts and studied under Pierre Gabriel Langlois. In 1814 he won the coveted Prix de Rome, but at first could not undertake the study visit to Italy to which the award entitled him. A scholarship from the Prussian state eventually enabled him to spend two years studying in Rome. After returning to Paris, Forster regularly exhibited his works at the Salon and received numerous honours. He became a French national in 1828 and was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour ten years later. Forster’s engravings, including many historical reproductive engravings as well as portraits and book illustrations, are notable for their clear linework and refined use of the burin. This impressive depiction of Aeneas addressing Queen Dido as she rests on a recamière is based on a painting made in 1815 by Baron Pierre Narcisse Guérin now in the Louvre Collection in Paris (oil on canvas, 292 x 390 cm, inv. no. 5184). A close examination of the refined, differentiated engraving technique, the distinct elegance of the figures and the extremely subtle tonal gradations makes it clear why the artist is now considered one of the foremost representatives of academic engraving in the 19th century. The Inventaire du Fonds Français lists a total of fourteen states of the print, although it does not provide any detailed information on the individual states. Only one later state is mentioned in which the letters of the caption are filled. Other impressions of the print also have the publisher’s address in the lower margin. The impression on offer here is, therefore, probably an earlier state with the open lettering and before the addition of the publisher’s address. The print bears the stamp of both Pierre Narcisse Guérin (Lugt 2203) and of Forster (Lugt 4188), which is inscribed in pen and brown ink with the number 22 in the upper section. At the bottom right it also has a dedication written in pen and brown ink in the artist’s own hand to Henri Laurent, Graveur du Cabinet du Roi (1779–1844), which includes Forster’s signature (cf. Lugt 941b). A very fine, clear and nuanced impression, trimmed to the platemark. Minor traces of handling, slightly foxed verso, otherwise in excellent condition.

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