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Neptune and Amphitrite Surrounded by Nereids and Water Nymphs. Etching. 17.5 x 25.1 cm. 1784. Nagler 5.
In historical terms, the œuvre of the painter and etcher Franz Xaver Wagenschön marks the final phase of the Austrian Late Baroque. In view of the date of the present etching the stylistic idiom of this likeable minor master seems almost old-fashioned and retrospective. Not much is known about the artist’s personal career. He began his training at the Vienna Academy in 1751 (the note on study trips to Germany and Italy is probably due to a confusion with the portrait painter Franz von Fahrenschon, with whom he was often confused in the earlier literature). In 1770, Wagenschön was admitted to membership of the Vienna Academy for the painting Minerva as Patroness of the Arts. In the following two decades he distinguished himself as a painter of portraits and historical and allegorical scenes, which are stylistically indebted to the art of the Italian Late Baroque. The printed œuvre is small and inadequately researched. Nagler, whose catalogue of Wagenschön’s etchings is the most complete, emphasized the artistic quality and spiritual lightness of his etching style. This scene showing Neptune and Amphitrite has been executed in a spontaneous, almost sketchy manner, which lends the portrayal the freshness and immediacy of a pen drawing. The exotic rhinoceros, the hippopotamus and the friendly-looking crocodile in the right foreground are rendered with deft humour.
A very fine, contrasting and harmonious impression with narrow margins around the platemark.