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Paul Troger

(1698 Welsberg – 1761 Vienna)

Apotheosis of Pallas Athene. Etching. 19.4 x 25.9 cm. 1724. Nagler 19; Aschenbrenner/Schweighofer 295.

This magnificent work brimful of Baroque verve was described by Nagler as rare. The fairly large format is unusual for Troger who mostly etched on small plates. Although this is an early work, Troger is already at the height of his ability. The scene pulsates with impetuous vitality and scintillating ideas. The lofty subject matter notwithstanding, Troger’s interpretation is far from solemn. There is the ghost of a smile on Pallas Athene’s face as she surveys all the pranks being played around her by a host of unruly and playful putti. They romp about in uninhibited fashion, perform capers with garlands and climb all over the place. In the left foreground a putto grapples with an open folio while another stumbles around helplessly, blinded by the huge helmet he is wearing. Troger’s consummate etching technique is correspondingly spontaneous and free, narrow hatched patterns and stippling alternating with light, untreated parts. A strong, flickering chiaroscuro invigorates the exuberant scene.

Surprisingly little is known about Troger’s youth and the period between 1716 and 1724. What is certain is that he undertook a study trip to Italy lasting several years during which he stayed in Bologna, Padua and Rome, where the present etching probably arose in 1724. The artist was undoubtedly inspired by Italian designs. In stylistic and iconographical terms the print is reminiscent of comparable etchings by Pietro Testa. Superb, vivid and tonal impression with thread margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in mint condition. From the collections of Franz Degenhard (Lugt 658a), Philipp Herrmann (Lugt 1352a) and with an unknown collector’s mark.

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