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T(homas?) Bertrand

(active during the second half 18th century in Paris)

Half-length Portrait of the Actor Thomassin as Arlecchino. Etching. 40.8 x 31.1 cm. Le Blanc I, p. 323, Inventaire du Fonds Français II, p. 464.

The actor Thomassin, whose real name was Tommaso Antonio Visentini (1683–1739), has gone down in the history of the Commedia dell’Arte as the famous Arlecchino, a role he played at the Comédie-Italienne in the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris. His impudent lazzi – improvised comic routines in the Commedia dell’Arte – delighted the audiences and incensed the critics. Thomassin looks out at the beholder with a mocking, selfassured smile on his face. The black mask in his right hand and the foxtail beret have traditionally been Arlecchino’s distinguishing attributes. The rhyme beneath the portrait draws a parallel between Thomassin’s impersonation on the stage and the preservation of his expressiveness in the picture. The etching is one of just two known works documenting the artistic activities of the artist T(homas) Bertrand in Paris and is extremely rare. It is based on a portrait in pastel made by Maurice Quentin de La Tour in 1739 (Besnard / Wildenstein 1928, 506). Bertrand has used softly stippled gradations made with a burin and etching needle to transfer the vividness of the picture to the print, which is on offer here in pristine condition with wide margins around the platemark.

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