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Le Moufti from the series Caravane du Sultan à la Mecque / Mascarade Turque ... au Carnaval de l’année 1748. Etching. 20.3 x 13.5 cm. 1748. Baudicour 19; Gaethgens/Lugand 13.
During the carnival in Rome in 1748 the art scholars at the French Academy reconstructed in fancy dress the procession of a Turkish sultan in the direction of Mecca, a spectacle which was enthusiastically received by the general public. Vien recorded the carnival procession in a series of thirty etchings complete with a frontispiece. This was one of the most extensive graphic projects ever undertaken by a French pensionnaire in Rome in the 18th century; the preliminary designs are now in the Petit Palais in Paris (see Thomas Gaehtgens, Jacques Lugand, Joseph-Marie Vien 1716-1809, Paris 1988, p. 233 ff. and 281 ff.). The outstanding feature of the present sheet Le Moufti, which shows the legal scholar clad in splendid oriental dress holding a book in his hands, is Vien’s refined but expressive etching technique. This etching is without doubt one of the most successful and impressive works in the entire series.
Joseph Marie Vien, a history painter regarded as the pioneer of French neoclassicism, studied under Giral and Natoire and later went on to teach David. In 1750 the artist, who had been awarded the Prix de Rome in 1743, returned to Paris, where he developed a keen interest in antiquity and, encouraged by the Comte de Caylus, began experimenting with encaustic painting. He received a professorship at the Academy and in 1776 returned to Rome, where he spent the next ten years as director of the French Academy. In 1789 he was appointed director of the Paris Academy and made peintre du roi. Vien’s etching is available in a very fine impression with wide margins around the distinct platemark. Minor ageing, otherwise in impeccable condition.