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Georg Friedrich Schmidt

(1712 Schönerlinde near Berlin – 1775 Berlin)

Self-portrait with Spider at the Window. Etching. 23.4 x 17.7 cm. 1758. Jacoby 141; Wessely 103 III.

Together with Daniel Chodowiecki and Johann Wilhelm Meil, Georg Friedrich Schmidt was one of the most significant printmakers of the Prussian Rococo. He was also a gifted portrait painter. From 1737 to 1743 he lived and worked in Paris, where he associated with artists such as Nicolas de Larmessin and Hyacinthe Rigaud. He was friends with Johann Georg Wille, whose style he comes very close to in quite a few of his portrait drawings. Despite his Protestant origins, Schmidt was admitted to the Académie Royale by royal decree in 1742. After spending some years in St. Petersburg at the court of the Empress Elisabeth, where the present self-portrait was done in 1758, Georg Friedrich Schmidt lived and worked in Berlin for the rest of his life. This self-portrait, which closely follows Rembrandt’s famous Self-portrait Etching at a Window of 1648, testifies to the reawakening of interest in the great Dutch master, which had commenced in the 1730s. Schmidt has added a few sensitively observed, genre-like details, such as the bottle and wine glass on the desk, the sword and violin on the wall behind him and the spider spinning its filigree web. There is no lack of local colour either. Through the open window it is possible to pick out the onion-shaped dome of a church behind a Russian log cabin. A very fine, nuanced impression with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in perfect condition.

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