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William Tell Holding his Shield Aloft. Pen and black ink and watercolour. 24 x 15.5 cm. Circa 1810.
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As a young man Moritz Michael Daffinger trained as a porcelain painter, enrolling in 1802 at the Academy in Vienna, where he studied under Hubert Maurer, a painter of portraits and historical scenes. Having completed his studies, he began a prolific and highly successful career as a porcelain painter and miniaturist, whose popular ivory portraits fetched substantial prices.
Daffinger was a talented and versatile draughtsman. His sketchbooks from the period around 1808, in which he used his romantic powers of imagination to depict scenes from dramas by Schiller and Shakespeare, testify to his considerable illustrative talents. The same is true of this work from about 1810 in which the expert, accurate linework and the handling of the heroic figure are reminiscent of the drawing style of contemporaries such as Peter von Cornelius. The truculent posture of the young William Tell radiates fierce determination and dauntlessness. His eyes wide open and his wavy hair stirred by a gust of wind, he is staring at an imaginary opponent. The colouring with delicate, finely differentiated watercolours reveal a pictorial sensitivity; a filigree ornament with a gossamer gold embellishment decorates the right shoulder of Schiller’s hero.