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Profile Portrait of the Empress Marie Louise. Etching after Pierre Paul Prud’hon on Chine appliqué. 27.8 x 25 cm. Beraldi (Flameng) 365; Goncourt 352, no. 24.
Léopold Flameng was a talented draughtsman and etcher who began his training at the age of ten in the woodcut class of the École Royale de Gravure in Brussels. Luigi Calamatta subsequently took him into his engraving class and gave him the opportunity to participate in his reproductions of works contained in the art collections in Florence and Versailles. Resident in Paris from 1853, Flameng developed into a versatile reproductive engraver and peintre-graveur and became an assistant to Charles Blanc at the Gazette des Beaux-Arts and the journal L’Artiste as well as in his book publications and engravings. A prolific artist, he produced acclaimed reproductions after old masters and contemporaries and in 1886 was awarded the honorary medal of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, to which he was admitted as a member in 1898.
Prud’hon’s portrait drawing of Napoleon’s second wife - Marie Louise, the daughter of Emperor Francis I of Austria - which Flameng reproduces here, probably arose shortly after their marriage in 1810. The small portrait has been etched with the utmost graphic delicacy. The empress with her still somewhat girlish features was married at the behest of her father. At the time he made the drawing Prud’hon was already the established portrait painter of the imperial family. Napoleon’s first wife Joséphine revered and sponsored him, as did Marie Louise, who supplied him with numerous commissions and took lessons from him in drawing. Flameng’s subtle etching technique with its fine stippling and narrow hatching gives the austere profile portrait a painterly softness and sensuality. This brilliant etching, made several decades after the drawing, was exhibited at the 1868 Salon and served as an illustration for the book entitled Napoléon et sa famille by Mathurin François Adolphe de Lescure, which was published the same year. A medal of the porcelain manufactory in Sèvres was minted after the same drawing by Prud’hon. The print is on offer here in a very fine, velvety impression before letters and before the reduction in size of the plate. Rare.