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The Chinese Masquerade. Etching. 31 x 43.1 cm. 1735. Le Blanc 25; Portalis-Béraldi III, p. 310; Baudicour I, 27.
This brilliant, briskly executed etching shows the carnival procession of the French pensionnaires in Rome in 1735. Two horses are pulling a magnificent carnival float filled with art students in Chinese fancy dress past the Marcus Aurelius Column in the Piazza Colonna. The students on board are accompanied by others on foot carrying drums, trombones and lances. Pierre has depicted the noisy, turbulent scene with considerable verve. Logically enough, his main interest is in the exotic protagonists, but he also demonstrates a feeling for narrative effect in his portrayal of the astonished Roman public. With a few deft strokes of his pen he succeeds almost effortlessly in realistically reproducing the buildings in the Piazza Colonna and yet evoking a sense of atmosphere. Billowing clouds enliven the sky.
Jean-Baptiste Pierre, who later achieved considerable renown in Paris as a history painter and etcher, received his training at the hands of Charles-Joseph Natoire and won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1734. From 1735 to 1740 Pierre lived and worked as a pensionnaire at the Académie de France in Rome. The Masquerade Chinoise is his undisputed masterpiece as an etcher. It underlines the special position he held in this field, since relatively little account was taken of printing techniques in the teaching programme at the Académie. Pierre dedicated the etching to the French ambassador in Rome, the Duke of Saint-Aignan. The appearance of the French students achieved the desired affect amongst the public and it can be assumed that Pierre’s creation met with a comparable response. Nonetheless, only a few impressions of the etching have survived. After his return to Paris, Pierre created a small printed oeuvre, but none of these works was able to match this eye-catching, evocative interpretation of the carnival in Rome.
A superb, rich and harmonious impression with an even margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in perfect condition.