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Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder

(1722 Haina – 1789 Kassel)

Venus and Amor Sleeping under a Canopy; Venus with Amor as a Honey Thief. Two etchings. Each approx. 10.4 x 16.6 cm. Circa 1782. Nagler 5, 6; Exh. cat. Johann Heinrich Tischbein d. Ä., Kassel 1989, nos. 117, 118.

Both of these charming scenes, which are designed as companion pieces, radiate the verve and light-heartedness of the Rococo age. Rendered with brisk, confident strokes of the etching needle, the scenes are painterly in character despite their small format. The expert manner in which Tischbein brings together the slumbering figures of Venus and Cupid, the tree stump with the shady canopy and the accurately sketched vegetation to form a pleasing and harmonious composition is reminiscent of the stylistic élan of Giambattista Tiepolo’s Scherzi di Fantasia, with which Tischbein must have been familiar. The refined etching technique has a light Venetian touch. A subtle sense of humour also characterises the scene with Venus and Cupid as honeythief. Pointing to the bee sting on his arm, the little god of love seeks consolation from his mother. Venus comforts him by pointing out that the wounds from his arrows are even more painful than bee stings.

Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder studied in Kassel and continued his training as an artist in Frankfurt am Main, Paris, Venice and Rome. In 1752 Landgrave Wilhelm VIII of Hessen-Kassel appointed him court painter. There followed further appointments, one as a professor at Kassel’s Collegium Carolinum (1762) and another as director of the Academy there (1776). Tischbein was among the leading portrait painters of his day, his art perfectly reflecting the refined aesthetic of the period of court patronage. Fine, nuanced impressions with wide margins. Slight traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition. As companion pieces the two sheets are rare.

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