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Study Sheet with Heads and Figure Sketches. Etching. 11.7 x 14.2 cm. 1764. Baudicour 2; Inventaire du Fonds Français 2.
This entertaining study sheet, executed with light strokes and considerable verve, was made during the artist’s stay in Rome and is extremely rare. Julien was no more than an occasional etcher, producing just eight etchings all told. Two of these, including the one on offer here, date to 1764, the others following in 1773. Simon Julien, first studied in Toulon and then under Dandré-Bardon in Marseille. From 1758 he attended the Paris Academy, where he studied under Carle van Loo, and was awarded the coveted Prix de Rome just two years later. Little is known about Julien’s stay in Rome, which began in 1763 and lasted several years. As a pensionnaire of the Académie de France, he seemingly endeavoured to emulate the style of its then director, Charles Joseph Natoire. After his return to France, Julien distinguished himself at the Paris Salon in the 1780s with history paintings and allegorical and mythological compositions.
The present small study sheet derives its appeal from the abundance of spiritually observed details and the skilful compositional style. There are unmistakable echoes of 17th century Italian etching here, especially of works by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione and Salvator Rosa. A very fine, rich impression with inky platemark and even margins. The verso bears the signature of the collector Naudet “au Louvre 1786”. The latter must therefore have acquired the impression during Julien’s lifetime. Minor ageing, occasional traces of previous mounting on the verso, otherwise in excellent condition.
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