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François Hutin

(1686–1758, Paris)

The Death of Actaeon. Etching. 39 x 44.5 cm. 1743. Signed “fr. hutin. in. et inc:” probably in the artist’s own hand. Not in Baudicour, Le Blanc II, p. 407, Inventaire du Fonds Français 12.

This etching with the mythological depiction of Actaeon being dismembered by Diana’s dogs was made in Rome as a deco­rative design for the Chinea of 1743 and dedicated by the artist to Pope Benedict XIV. In the final state the inscription reads: “Prospettiva della Seconda Macchina ideata per rappresentare il nobile divertimento che la Maesta’ del Re…alle regie Caccie”. Altogether Hutin produced six designs for the fireworks structures assembled for the celebrations that were held annually from 1741 to 1743. All the designs were disseminated in the form of reproductive prints – three by the artist himself and three by the Spanish reproductive engraver, Miguel de Sorello (1700 – c. 1765), who was trained in Rome by Johann Jakob Frey. This takes Hutin’s printed oeuvre to a total of fourteen etchings – taking into account that the designs made for the years 1741 and 1742 were unknown to the authors of the Inventaire du Fonds Français.

The light, vibrant drawing style is characteristic of Hutin. The slim, elegant female figures move with the grace of dancers and thus help to mitigate the cruelty of the scene. Of equal sensi­ti­vity is Hutin’s etching technique with its dense and delicate hatchings. The influence of Italian models, especially the etchings of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, is unmistakable. The etching is on offer here in an unrecorded trial proof avant la lettre. The print is extremely rare and not included in the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. Impressions of the final state with the letters are to be found in the British Museum in London (inv. no. 1869.0410.1304) and the National Gallery of Art in Washington (inv. no. 2016.121.10).

A fine, nuanced impression with numerous fine needle scratches in the white margins, trimmed to the platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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