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Johann Anton de Peters

(1725–1795, Cologne)

Young Woman in a Park Landscape. Black chalk, brush drawing in grey and brown. 32.6 x 23.4 cm.

The charming portrayal of a pretty young woman sitting in a relaxed pose on a stone bench in a pleasure garden is a characteristic piece by the Cologne-born painter and miniaturist, Johann Anton de Peters. The young girl bashfully holds a hand in front of her attractive décolleté with a look that is both coy and coquettish. The little cross she holds between the fingers of her left hand can be seen as an allusion to her virtuousness. Nonetheless, the overriding impression is one of gallantry and permissiveness. The young woman and the scenery surrounding her are treated in a light, fluid style reminiscent of Boucher, which gives the delightful subject matter freshness and spon­taneity.

Johann Anton de Peters went to Paris around 1745 and did not return to his native city until the late 1780s. He pursued a successful career as an artist in France. He was raised to the peer­age by Louis XV around 1763 and appointed court painter by King Christian VII of Denmark on the occasion of the latter’s visit to Paris in 1768/69. Peters undertook the obligatory journey to Rome, where he became a member of the renowned Accademia di San Luca. In Paris, Peters enjoyed friendly ties with his fellow German, Johann Georg Wille, who gave him commis­sions for miniatures. Peters was profoundly influenced in his painting and drawing by his great models, Watteau, Lancret, Fragonard and, in particular, Boucher. His court-style Rococo paintings – gallant scenes and depictions of everyday life along with bib­lical and mythological subjects – were fully in keeping with the zeitgeist of the ancien régime and, as mentioned above, earned him a noble title. The Revolution put an inglorious end to Peters’ artistic career, however, forcing him to return to Cologne, where he died in his sister’s house in 1795.

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