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Jean-Baptiste Regnault

(1754–1829, Paris)

Head of a Bearded Man. Etching, on grey-green laid paper. 13.4 x 10.7 cm. Not in Baudicour, Le Blanc 2.

Before embarking on his career as a painter Jean-Baptiste Regnault travelled as a young man with his father to America and Africa and served for several years in the navy as a ship’s boy. After returning home he turned his attention to painting, for which he soon demonstrated a considerable talent. In 1768 he joined his teacher Jean Bardin on a journey to Rome, where he spent several years studying the newly emergent classicist trend. In 1776, when he was just 22 years of age, Regnault was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome for his painting Alexander and Diogenes. Back in Paris he studied under Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié and Joseph-Marie Vien and was appointed a member of the Academy in 1783. Regnault regularly exhibited at the Paris Salon. His often highly commended works are mostly devoted to mythological and historical topics and on rare occasions deal with religious themes.

While he was a prolific painter, Regnault’s activities as an etcher resulted in no more than a handful of works which are now hard to find. Prosper de Baudicour knew of only one etching by the artist and Le Blanc also records just three works, two of which bear the signature “Renaud”. The present character head of an old man was probably conceived as a counterpart to the Portrait of an Old Woman, which is also recorded in Le Blanc (Le Blanc 3). The format is small but the work is highly expressive nonetheless. The head of the man with his unruly hair, flowing beard and dark, threatening look on his face stands out starkly from the shadowy, densely hatched background. Regnault’s etching style is highly sophisticated and reveals the utmost technical finesse.

A very fine, contrasting impression with even margins around the distinct platemark. In pristine condition. From the collection of Alexandre-Pierre-François Robert-Dumesnil, author of the Peintre-Graveur Français (Lugt 2200).

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