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Self-portrait. Black chalk. 36.5 x 27 cm. Circa 1750. Watermark: Basle crozier with the letter B attached.
This charming, sensitively observed self-portrait shows the Mannheim artist at the age of around twenty-five. He looks out at the observer with a somewhat dreamy, melancholy gaze. His winsome, still very young-looking face with its soft eyes and distinctive bulbous nose is framed by bushes of wavy hair tied on top of his head with a jaunty ribbon bow. Very intimate and personal in character, the work radiates a great vitality, making the person portrayed appear almost tangible. The linework is correspondingly delicate and skilful. The differing strength of the chalk hatching produces soft transitions and subtle light effects in the hair and complexion.
Johann Franz von der Schlichten, scion of a family of artists from the Netherlands, studied under Felice Torelli in Bologna and from 1745 to 1748 under Sebastiano Conca in Rome. The present self-portrait thus has a certain Italian touch. From the spring of 1751 the talented artist was director of the Electoral Art Gallery in Mannheim and from 1769 a teacher at the Academy there. Active in Mannheim throughout his life, he produced vedute and genre pictures in the manner of the 17th century Dutch Feinmaler. Signed “Von der Schlichten” on the verso, possibly in the artist’s own hand, with an old annotation in chalk: “Eigenh. portrait von ihm / selbst gezeichnet”.