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Georg Friedrich Schmidt

(1712 Schönerlinde – 1775 Berlin)

The Artist’s Wife, Reading. Etching. 23.5 x 17.8 cm. 1761. Nagler 113, Wessely 106 III.

This lovingly and sensitively executed half-length portrait shows the artist’s wife, Dorothee Luise Videbant, seated at a table with a book. She wears a light, low-cut dress of simple elegance and a filigreed neckerchief of black lace. A coquettish plumed lace bonnet and two costly earrings attest to the subject’s middle class origins. The wife of the artist has just raised her eyes from her open book to look at the beholder, while her left hand is raised in a finger-wagging gesture. This intimate scene, which reproduces a painted portrait of Schmidt’s, is not only attractive and memorable from an artistic point of view, but also gracefully conveys an image of the times. The artist’s wife is not reading any of the then popular sentimental romances, but studying the writings of Frederick the Great, the philosopher of Sans Souci. Dorothee’s pose testifies to a new female self-confidence reflecting the world of the enlightened Prussian bourgeoisie during the reign of the “roi-philosophe”.

Together with Daniel Chodowiecki and Johann Wilhelm Meil, Georg Friedrich Schmidt was one of the most significant graphic artists of the Prussian Rococo. He was also a gifted and subtle portraitist. From 1737 to 1743 the artist had lived and worked in Paris, where he had 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 etching was executed in 1761, Georg Friedrich Schmidt was to live and work in Berlin for the rest of his life.

A superb, differentiated impression with wide margins around the distinct platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in perfect, unrestored condition.

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