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Pierre Brebiette

(1598 Mantes – 1650 Paris)

Fortuna Crowned by Jupiter, with Pluto and Neptune. Etching after Claude Vignon. 25.8 x 20.3 cm. 1624. BNIFF 174; Pacht Bassani (1992), 86 G. Watermark: Bunch of grapes.

Fortuna, the bringer of luck or in this particular case the goddess of chance, dominates the image in the centre of the composition, her left foot resting on a sphere. Her eyes are covered with a cloth. With a languid, almost indifferent gesture she accepts the gifts of the gods. Jupiter descending from above gives her a crown and a laurel wreath, while an almost humble Pluto offers her a dish filled to the brim with coins and gold chains. On her right, Neptune raises
his hand to present her pearls and a coral. Fortuna’s blindness and the precarious balance of her pose suggest the imponder ability of fate and its unpredictability as a bringer of luck or ill tidings. The chosen theme was probably well suited to Brebiette, as the intense little self-portrait he did in 1638 shows a gloomy, melancholy-looking man pensively resting his head on his left hand.

Brebiette’s wonderfully light and spiritually executed etching reproduces a lost painting by Claude Vignon, who was a close colleague and friend of the artist. The etching may have been done in Rome, where Brebiette lived until 1625. While still in Italy, the artist had entered into a close association with Vignon and the publisher François Langlois, known as Ciartres, which continued after Brebiette’s return to France (1626) and was to last until his death. Brebiette and Vignon complemented and inspired each other as artists. The spiritual, very lively etching style of the former proved to be an extremely apt instrument for neatly translating the tonal values and effective chiaroscuro of Vignon’s painting into the medium of printmaking. Brebiette’s occasionally satirical humour and eye for bizarre detail make him one of the most original etchers in early 17th century France.

A very fine, tonal impression printed on warmly patinated, untreated paper. A small correction in pencil (by the artist’s own hand?) to the elbow and right forearm of Fortuna. With narrow margins around the platemark. Slight aging, otherwise in perfect condition.

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