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Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder

(1722 Haina - 1789 Kassel)

Venus and Cupid Sleeping under a Tent. Etching. 10.4 x 16.6 cm. Circa 1782. Nagler 5; exhibition catalogue Johann Heinrich Tischbein d. Ä., Kassel, 1989, 117.

This charming, intimate scene is redolent of the carefree spirit of the Rococo period. Its deft, confident lines lend the portrayal a pictorial quality despite its small format. It is likely that the print was conceived as a pendant to another etching Cupid Complaining to Venus about a Bee Sting (Nagler 6); a painted version of the same amorous subject was also produced by Tischbein around 1782. 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.

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. A very fine, clear impression with wide margins. Slight traces of handling, otherwise in excellent condition.

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