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Jean Moyreau

(1690 Orleans – 1762 Paris)

Portrait of the Composer Jean-Féry Rebel. Etching and engraving after Antoine Watteau. 36.6 x 26 cm. Dacier/Vuaflart 104, Le Blanc (Moyreau) 23.

The son of Louis XIV’s court singer, Jean-Féry Rebel was given music lessons by Jean Baptiste de Lully at an early age and impressed the king with his violin playing when he was eight years old. He subsequently made a career as a violinist and harpsichordist at the Académie Royal de Musique and eventually became a royal chamber composer. His Caprices, to which the foremost dancers of his time danced with such great success that they still formed part of the standard repertoire two hundred years later, were an absolute sensation. Rebel is considered to be the founder of the dance symphony, which was soon also performed abroad. His last and most important work was the suite Les Elements of 1737 in which he described the creation of the world. This was so avant-garde in compositional terms that the first movement, Le Chaos, could not be performed at the time.

The impressive portrait on offer here, which is based on a drawing by Antoine Watteau, is remarkable for its vivid, psychological characterisation. The composer, portrayed at work at the harpsichord, appears stocky and almost dwarf-like, his gaze both haunting and melancholic. A very fine, crisp and contrasting impression with wide margins around the distinct platemark. Slight foxing and minor soiling in the white margin, otherwise in immaculate, pristine condition. From the collection of Dr. Otto Schäfer, Schweinfurt (not in Lugt), auctioned at Galerie Kornfeld, Bern, on 24 June 1992, lot 275.

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