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Jacques Fricquet

(1638 Troyes – 1716 Paris)

The Rest during the Flight with Saint John. Etching after Sébastien Bourdon. 19.6 x 26.4 cm. Ca. 1665–70. Undescribed. Watermark: Grape.

"Une carrière brillante et oubliée" were the words used by Jacques Thuillier to describe the artistic career of the painter and etcher Jacques Fricquet, who came from Troyes and was one of the few intimates of Sébastien Bourdon. His activity as an etcher has fallen so deeply into oblivion that his printed œuvre was apparently unknown even to the eminent connoisseur Robert-Dumesnil. It was not until a few years ago, in the exhibition catalogue Sébastien Bourdon. Catalogue critique et chronologique de l’œuvre complet (Montpellier-Strasbourg 2000/01), that Thuillier gave Fricquet’s prints the attention they deserve.

Fricquet had established contact with Bourdon around 1663, becoming first his pupil and later his close collaborator. Although separated by a generation, master and mentor soon developed a personal relationship, which is evidenced by Bourdon’s appearing as a witness at Fricquet’s wedding in 1669. In his paintings, which have only survived in fragmentary form, Fricquet shows his profound debt to Bourdon. His artistic language and iconographical repertoire are inconceivable without the latter’s example, while at the same time the great dependence he felt on his teacher reveals the limits of his talent. Following Bourdon’s death in 1671, Fricquet won considerable esteem. He acquired the title "Sieur de Vauroze", enjoyed artistic success and died a wealthy man in Paris in 1716.

It is likely that Fricquet was encouraged by Bourdon to dedicate himself to etching and was initiated by the latter into the technique. Thuillier describes a group of five etchings by Fricquet on the theme of the Holy Family, which are of such great rarity as to have remained unobserved in the critical literature (Sébastien Bourdon, 2000/01, p. 72). The present print belongs to this cycle and was probably executed between 1665 and 1670. The figure type and the compositional arrangement are directly inspired by Bourdon.

Friquet uses a simple, schematic etching technique, which nevertheless proves very effective in creating atmospheric chiaroscuro contrasts. The dramatic play of sky and clouds is rendered vividly by simple parallel lines and dense cross-hatching. In the case of the seated figures the free, open linework of the drawing conveys a sense of dynamism and vitality, while the flesh tints are modelled by cross-hatching and fine little dots.

A superb, vivid and tonal trial proof, printed with burr and before the cleaning of the platemark. This is probably the earliest known impression of this etching. In comparison to the impression in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris the leaves in the foreground and the stalk and bud of the thistle in the right foreground have not yet been covered with cross-hatching, while the name of the artist is still lacking on the stone plinth. Minor defects, otherwise in superb condition.

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