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Pierre-François Basan

(1723–1797, Paris)

Le Peintre. Engraving and etching after Louis Aubert. 29.4 x 22.3 cm. “F. Basan Exc.” Le Blanc 394, Inventaire du Fonds Français 39.

Pierre-François Basan worked as an engraver and etcher but nowadays he is known primarily as an extremely successful publisher of prints from European countries. He underwent his initial artistic training in his native Paris at the hands of his cousin, Étienne Fessard, and the renowned engraver, Jean Daullé. As a young man he was later in close contact with the famous Pierre Jean Mariette, who taught him a great deal about the art of engraving. Basan first appeared as a publisher of prints in 1754. In the course of his career he travelled regularly to other European countries, such as England, Holland and Flanders, where he established important business contacts that were to prove profitable in many respects. Returning from abroad he brought with him a large number of different printing plates, which he later used as templates for renewed print editions. Basan was particularly fond of the art of Dutch and Flemish masters and his name is still associated today especially with reprints of the works of Rembrandt. Basan later employed a large number of talented young engravers in his publishing house, but their names are missing on many of the impressions he issued.

The present very carefully executed engraving of a painter with his young assistant bears the address of Basan’s publishing house but not the name of the engraver. The composition is based on a drawing, probably executed in pastel colours, by the Parisian painter and draughtsman, Louis Aubert (1720 – circa 1790), the whereabouts of which are unknown. A very similar drawing by the artist dated 1747 is now in the Albertina in Vienna (inv. no. 12241; on Louis Aubert see Neil Jeffares, “Louis Aubert”, in: Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, London 2006). The caption on the engraving reveals that this exemplary drawing was once in the collection of Monsieur de Damery, Knight of the Royal Order of St. Louis and lieutenant-colonel of the infantry in Paris. This rare print is available in a fine impression with narrow margins around the distinct platemark, with a thread margin at the bottom. Minor staining, otherwise in excellent condition.

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