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Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre

(1714–1789, Paris)

The Flight into Egypt. Etching. 39.3 x 36 cm. 1758. Baudicour 2; Le Blanc (1854 ff.) 2 ; Portalis and Béraldi, p. 309; Nicolas Lesur and Olivier Aaron, Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre, 1714–1789: premier peintre du roi, Paris 2009, no. G32.

Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre studied under Charles-Joseph Natoire at the Académie Royale in Paris, spent five years in Rome as a pensionnaire at the Académie de France and subsequently became a much sought-after history painter. In 1770 he was appointed a director of the Académie in Paris and was nominated first painter to the king the same year. These prestigious functions made him one of the most influential artists of his time, paving the way for the rise of neo-classicism during the second half of the 18th century. Pierre was also a gifted and skillful printmaker, although this was no more than a sideline. He was introduced to the art of printmaking early in his career, probably through his acquaintance with Charles-Nicolas Cochin (father and son). After a period of relative inactivity, Pierre resumed printmaking in the mid-1750s. The subject of the Flight into Egypt, a recurrent theme in Italian painting which he had studied intensively during his stay in Rome, inspired Pierre’s work on several occasions (for example: Church of Saint-Sulpice, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen; Musée d’Art Moderne, Saint-Étienne).

The present rare print is executed in a very vigorous and versatile etching technique which shows the master in full command of his craft. In terms of its composition the impressive, large-format print clearly reveals the influence of Giambattista Tiepolo, in particular of his Scherzi which likewise depict the protagonists and picturesque landscape elements against an empty background. The bare tree trunk gives the composition a strong and impressive diagonal accent. A very fine, strong impression with small margins. Minor ageing, a small tip of the upper left corner made up, otherwise in very good condition.

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