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Johann Gottfried Schadow

(1764–1850, Berlin)

The Vigano Dancing Couple. Zincography on ivory-coloured wove paper, reworked with pen and sepia. 20.2 x 31.5 cm. With a dedication to Emil Bendemann in the artist’s own hand. 1837. Mackowsky 133.

The present study sheet is an exquisite rarity in the artist’s printed work. The indefatigable Schadow, who continued to be productive to an advanced age, had experimented with zincography since 1827 and made some prints in this technique, which is related to lithography. The Vigano Dancing Couple forms the chronological close of this group of works and, in view of the extensive reworking in sepia by the artist, may be considered unique. The design was based on three etchings (Mackowsky 26, 31, 38) from Schadow’s eponymous etching cycle, which dates to around 1797 and whose subjects were now united in a single composition. Numerous details of the present proof have been reworked by the artist. In comparison to the impression in Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinett details of anatomy, hairstyles and clothing as well as the shadows under the feet of the dancers were supplemented or slightly modified in pen. The fluidity of line vividly reflects the lightness of the dancers’ movements.

When they made their Berlin debut in 1796 in the opera Ariana by the court conductor Righini, the Italian Vigano Dancing Couple was received by the audience with an enthusiastic storm of applause. What was completely novel was the combination of mime and dance and Maria Vigano’s choice of costume, as she had renounced the usual elaborate gown and coiffure in favour of a translucent, classical-style tunic and a casual hairstyle. This theatrical experience inspired Schadow shortly afterwards to make the aforementioned cycle of twenty-one etchings, in which he captured for posterity the individual movements and dance steps of a pas de deux with great artistic conviction. The charm of the beautiful soloist Maria Vigano must have made a big impression on the artist who, tradition has it, had a definite weakness for ladies of the stage. "Actresses," wrote the eighty-year-old artist, "are for me the most interesting creatures and usually draw everyone’s attention to themselves; the others just have to wait" (quoted after Hans Mackowsky, Schadow’s Graphik, Berlin, 1936, p. 30).

There is a very fine and informative dedication in the artist’s own hand to Emil Bendemann, the brother of the painter Eduard Bendemann, who was also Schadow’s son-in-law. It reads: "Berlin in January 1796. Opera Ariana by Righini, wedding of the king’s two sons / The Viganos called from Vienna, He and She, both their dancing and gestures show the natural sequence of their / emotions. Her beautiful face shows now roguishness, now pensive longing and melancholy / sweetly smiling she flew to meet her beloved / whirled round suddenly ... / and rejected him. / December 1837, in the album for my young friend Emil Bendemann Dr. G. Schadow Director". Schadow has given expression to the emotions of the lovers and the eternal interplay between courtship and rejection with great insight and tenderness.

In perfectly mint condition.

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