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Jean-Baptiste le Prince

(1734 Metz – 1781 Saint-Denis-du-Port)

Full-length Portrait of a Woman in Traditional Russian Dress Facing Right. Red chalk. 34.5 x 19.5 cm. Monogrammed at bottom right: "LP".

Jean-Baptiste Le Prince is mainly known for two different historical achievements. He is considered to be the inventor of the aquatint printing technique and was also the initiator in France of a short-lived craze for „Russerie", which competed with the then prevailing vogues of "Chinoiserie" and "Turquerie". Le Prince had set off for Russia in 1757 and remained there until 1762, travelling in regions where few western voyagers had ventured before. During his stay he produced countless studies and sketches of scenes from Russian life, which, after his return to Paris and his admission to the Académie, were to form the basis of his art so to speak. Most of these russeries were meticulously executed genre scenes – paintings, drawings and aquatints – whose exotic choice of subject and attention to ethnographic and anecdotal detail made them very popular.

The present sheet is stylistically related to two drawings, one of which is in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (see Suzanne Boorsch, John Marciari, Master Drawings from the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven 2006, No. 68, pp. 203–205) and the other – dated 1760 – in a private American collection. Common to all three drawings is a similar compositional mise-en-page. The individual figures dominate the picture plane, and the artist deliberately dispenses with a detailed landscape as background or any genre-type minutiae. The sweeping and masterly chalk technique and the hatching patterns used are reminiscent of Le Prince’s mentor, François Boucher. Moreover, the attentive drawing style suggests that these studies were done directly from life. In our drawing the figure of the young woman in traditional Russian dress exudes serenity and a statuesque monumentality. She wears a long outer garment closed over the bust and a fur-lined veil which leaves most of her face in shadow, giving her an air of pensive melancholy.

With a contemporary inscription in pen on the mount: "Le prince fecit 1760". With the stamp of the Galerie Cailleux, Paris.

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