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Louis Joseph Le Lorrain

(1715 Paris – 1759 St. Petersburg)

The Holy Family. Etching after Jean François de Troy. 28.6 x 20.2 cm. 1742. Not in Le Blanc or Portalis-Béraldi, Inventaire du Fonds Français 3.

Louis Joseph Le Lorrain, a painter of architecture and histo­rical scenes, studied under Jacques Dumont, called le Romain, at the Paris Academy, which awarded him its prestigious Grand Prix in 1739, when he was still only a young man, and made him a full member in 1756. A regular participant in the Paris Salon exhibitions of the 1750s, Lorrain earned a reputation for his religious and allegorical compositions and architectural paintings. His renown was not limited to France, however. In 1758, Tsarina Elisabeth of Russia invited him to St. Petersburg, where he was appointed rector of the newly founded Academy of Arts. Le Lorrain produced a small but high-quality printed oeuvre which includes the present rare etching with a depiction of the Holy Family.

The etching reproduces a no longer extant painting by the Parisian artist and Academy director, Jean François de Troy (1679–1752), which was done in 1742. Lorrain probably made the etching in Rome, where de Troy had been in charge of the Académie de France since 1738. The composition, which is
full of Baroque pathos, shows the Virgin and Child with Joseph praying under the watchful eye of God the Father, who looks down on the Holy Family from the heavens above. The purist approach and simplicity of the picture lend it a remarkable dignity. Joseph, who is absorbed in prayer, is shown in a pose verging on the poignant, while the infant Jesus, illuminated by the bright light, reveals a touching lack of concern. Among the very few printed works by Le Lorrain this sheet is of the utmost rarity. Completely unknown to Le Blanc, Nagler and Béraldi, it is recorded exclusively in the Inventaire du Fonds Français. A very fine, contrasting impression with narrow margins around the distinct platemark. Minimal traces of handl­ing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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