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Frédéric Cazenave

(circa 1770–1843, Paris)

Marie Antoinette, Reine de France et de Navarre. Etching in crayon manner after Jean-Jacques-François Lebarbier. 61.3 x 40.6 cm. 1787. Not in Inventaire du Fonds Français.

The painter and engraver, Frédéric Cazenave, who is known  to have been active in Paris from the time of the Revolution, mostly worked in stipple engraving and crayon manner, a technique in which he was immensely skilled, often executing his works in colour. His best-known prints stem from the Empire period, when Cazenave made reproductive engravings after designs by contemporary artists such as Louis-Léopold Boilly, Jean Baptiste Regnault and Pierre Paul Prud’hon. This arresting portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette after a drawing by Jean-Jacques-François Lebarbier is a companion piece to a portrait of Louis XVI, the composition of which was likewise oval-shaped. The portraits date to around 1787 shortly before
the outbreak of the French Revolution and thus a few years before the royal couple’s tragic death. Ironically, in 1801 and 1814 the same Cazenave produced two sheets after Benazech and Bouillon depicting the trial of Marie Antoinette and the
execution of Louis XVI (Inventaire du Fonds Français, Graveurs du XVIII Siècle, 8, 9). The present life-size portrait, by contrast, is free of any political associations and shows the queen in all her elegance and nobility.

Cazenave has stippled the etching ground to produce a masterful imitation of a chalk drawing. The differentiated handling of the chalk parts, which are drawn and washed in the original design, gives the eyes, complexion, hair and clothing a deceptive texture in the print. As a result the portrait has a presence which is little short of compelling. A superb, contrasting impression, before the title. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition. Very rare.

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