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Simon-François Ravenet the Elder

(1706 Paris – 1774 London)

An Academy. Engraving after John Hamilton Morti­mer. 51 x 42.5 cm. 1771. Le Blanc 47; Sunderland 49.

Simon-François Ravenet was taught the art of engraving by Jacques-Philippe Lebas in Paris. His immense talent soon secured him recognition and major commissions. Among his first projects were the engraved illustrations for Jean-Baptiste Massé’s volume entitled Grande Galerie de Versailles, which reproduces the monumental decorative paintings by Charles Le Brun at the palace in Versailles. In 1743 Ravenet was invited to London by William Hogarth to make two of the engravings for his Marriage à la Mode series. London became a second home for Ravenet, who founded a school for line engraving there and was soon commissioned to produce engravings by the city’s pre-eminent publishers. They included John Boydell, London’s leading publisher of engravings, as well as Robert Sayer and John and Paul Knapton. It was Boydell who commissioned the present print showing an academic life class.

The engraving provided the frontispiece for the second volume of Sculptura Britannica / The Most Capital Paintings in England, published by Boydell: it reproduces a painting by the English artist, John Hamilton Mortimer. Reveal­ing a keen eye for psychological characterisation, Ravenet shows the art students completely absorbed in their work. The painter in full length on the left is probably meant to be Mor­timer. An amusing detail is presented in the person of the art connoisseur to the left of the painter, only half of whose face is visible. He is critically viewing the painter’s work on the easel. At this time Ravenet himself played an important role in London’s nascent art institutions. He was a committee member of the Society of Artists and later named one of just six associate engravers of the Royal Academy, which was found­ed in 1768.

A very fine impression with even margins. Minor ageing, otherwise in excellent condition.

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