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Jean Jacques François Lebarbier the Elder

(1738 Rouen – 1826 Paris)

The Golden Age or The Creation. Pen and black ink and watercolour. 32 x 43 cm. Signed and inscribed: “Lebarbier l’ainé in.”, on a block of stone on the left: “Lebarbier l’ainé in 1783”. Jacq-Hergoualc’h D. 564.

Jean Jacques François Lebarbier, a painter, draughtsman and art theoretician, studied under Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre at the Académie royale in Paris. He subsequently undertook the obligatory sojourn in Rome and travelled to Switzerland, where he struck up a friendship with Salomon Gessner. He was accepted (agrée) by the academy in 1780 and made a full member in 1785. Lebarbier was known principally as a history painter and drawer of illustration designs. He worked in a  refined and restrained classical formal idiom characteristic of the era of Louis XV.

This detailed, painterly drawing, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1783, served as the design for a colour etching by Jean-François Janinet (Portalis-Béraldi, p. 481, no. 64). Pastoral in character, it is based on a passage from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book I, 89–150). The precision of the drawing and the care with which it has been executed satisfy all the criteria for the model of an engraving. A contributory factor here is the refined, restrained colouring of the soft browns, greens and blues. Fully in keeping with the aesthetic taste of the late 18th century, it conveys a poetic atmosphere characteristic of the age of sensitivity.

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