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Louise Pithoud

(active around 1792 in Paris)

Male and Female Bacchants Erecting a Statue. Etching, aquatint and lavis manner after Jean-Guillaume Moitte. 21.2 x 51.8 cm. Circa 1792.

Sometime between 1790 and 1795 the Parisian sculptor and draughtsman, Jean-Guillaume Moitte, produced a series of frieze-like drawings against a black background featuring classical-style motifs frequently taken from the world of mythology which are remarkable for their exquisitely refined linework and subtle light and dark contrasts. Moitte’s drawings subsequently served as models for works by various better and lesser known reproductive printmakers. In addition to such renowned figures as Jean-François Janinet and Pierre-Michel Alix they included the now almost forgotten Louise Pithoud. She was one of the artists whose reproductive prints helped to introduce Moitte’s designs to a broader public. The few etchings she made after designs by Moitte are now her only known works.

One of Pithoud’s extremely rare fond noir etchings is on offer here in an exceptionally fine state of preservation. In technical terms it is a quite remarkable work. The artist dispenses almost entirely with contour lines and employs a sophisticated com­bined technique. In addition to aquatint she uses various fine etching needles of the kind that are also deployed in the crayon manner in order to convey the nuanced chiaroscuro gradations in the original drawing into a differentiated system of very fine graining and stippling. Even the wafer-thin contour lines consist of layers of very delicate stippling. The composition was first mentioned by Jules Renouvier in 1863 under the heading Bacchants et Bacchantes dressant un Terme (in: Histoire de l’art pendant la Révolution, Paris 1863, p. 47, no.7). It was also Renouvier who established a link between the monogram “L….P….” and Louise Pithoud. The etching, which has “No. 11” inscribed in the bottom right-hand margin, forms part of a series of etchings after Moitte published in 1793 by Taunay and Demarteau, all of which were evidently made by Louise Pithoud. It is not known how many etchings this series encompassed, since only a few individual prints have survived. Gisela Gramaccini, the author of the catalogue raisonné for Moitte, was unable to trace an impression of the present etching for her catalogue and therefore described it as ‘lost’ (see Gisela Gramaccini Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1746–1810). Leben und Werk, Berlin 1993, vol. 2, no. 178). Moitte’s preliminary drawing entitled Un sacrifice is now in the collection of the Musée Magnin in Dijon; it bears the artist’s signature and is dated 1792. The Bibliothèque Paul Marmottan in Paris possesses a second version of the drawing.

A very fine, contrasting impression with margins. Minor age­ing and handling marks, otherwise in excellent condition.

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