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Johan Frederik Clemens

(1748 Gollnow – 1831 Copenhagen)

Half-length Portrait of the Danish Painter Jens Juel. Etching in crayon manner. 28.9 x 23.2 cm. 1801. Not in Nagler, Heller-Andresen or Le Blanc.

This portrait of the celebrated Danish portraitist, Jens Juel (1745–1802) is based on an autograph drawing which was trans­ferred to the printmaking medium with splendid sensitivity by his friend, Johan Frederik Clemens. The etching was made a year before Juel’s death and is rare. The artist is portrayed
in half-length and his clothes display a nonchalant elegance. In keeping with the fashion of the time he is wearing a modest frock coat with broad lapels and a loosely tied neckerchief. The large, expressive eyes in his gentle face with its high forehead look at the observer with a thoughtful, slightly bemused gaze. His sparse hair is very well rendered, with the thin strands and individual curls falling from his left temple onto the high collar of his coat. The crayon technique used by Clemens with its fine tonal gradations emphasises the soft curves of his face and creates a gentle chiaroscuro effect.

Johann Frederik Clemens, who hailed from Germany, was a lifelong friend of Jens Juel and ranked among the most success­ful engravers of his day. Trained by Johann Martin Preisler, he spent several years studying in Paris, Geneva, Berlin and London. In Paris, where he stayed from 1773 to 1777, Clemens was greatly influenced by the elegant French style and enjoyed the patronage of Johann Georg Wille. After returning to Copen­hagen, he was appointed court engraver in 1779, while Juel was made court painter a year later. A further trip abroad in 1788 took him to Berlin, where he stayed for four years and maintain­­ed friendly contacts with famous artists such as Johann Gottfried Schadow, Christian Bernhard Rode and Daniel Chodowiecki. In 1786 Clemens was made a member of the Copen­hagen Aca­demy in absentia, later becoming a respected and influential representative of this institution. After 1813 the artist worked as a professor for engraving at the Academy’s school and through his teaching activities made a substantial con­tribution to the spread of printmaking in Denmark. A superb, nuanced impression with margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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