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Work Head and shoulders of a youth, shown in three-quarter profile, looking to his right

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Buste de jeune homme, de trois quarts, regardant vers la droite

Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN-Grand Palais - Photo S. Nagy

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Author(s):
Mancini Federica

This drawing executed around 1735 features remarkable intense tones, achieved through the use of black chalk heightened with white. The youth figure appears in several drawings by Piazzetta, a relatively sought-after Venetian artist whose drawings commanded good prices, according to Pierre-Jean Mariette. In his Abecedario, this important art collector describes the ease with which the artist painted and drew, notably large heads drawn from life.

Portrait of a small masterpiece

This small drawing is remarkably alive and fresh. The lines in black chalk are drawn with a studied effect: they are wide and vibrant in the clothing, steady and sharp in the details of the face, quick and numerous in the hair. The forms of the garment are rendered by spreading the black chalk, and the abundance of hair is emphasized in the same manner. The shadows of the face, dimples in the cheeks, and contours of the eyes are highlighted with this drawing technique, used skillfully by the artist in his chiaroscuro effects. Two works that are very similar to the Louvre drawing illustrate the frequency of these facial features in the work of Piazzetta. They also help us to date the work to between 1730 and 1740. These works are the Study of a Head kept in the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts (c. 1740) and a study for a Young Beggar in the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Drawings in vogue

Of the various themes treated by Piazzetta in his drawings, the portrait became the best known and most famous. Numerous surviving exemples, many of which have been attributed to the artist's pupils, were probably produced for commercial reasons. From the 1720s onward, prints and drawings were as highly rated as paintings, which had previously enjoyed undisputed primacy. Drawings corresponding to the light, gracious style of the 18th century were taken out of art lovers' trunks and hung as works of art. Piazzetta was one of the most successful artists to interpret this new wave in Venice. The fact that his works entered the leading collections of the time, such as Mariette's, which included this drawing, underscores Piazetta's preeminence in the Venetian and international milieu of this period.

Bibliography

Bacou R., in Venise au dix-huitième siècle, peintures, dessins et gravures des collections françaises, Musée national de l'Orangerie des Tuileries, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1971, notice 141.
Viatte François, in Le Cabinet d'un grand amateur P.-J. Mariette (1694-1774) : Dessins du XVe siècle au XVIIIe siècle, Musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1967, notice 102.
Knox G., in G. B. Piazzetta, Disegni, Incisioni, Libri, Manoscritti, Neri Pozza Editore, Vicence, 1983.

Technical description

  • Giambattista Piazzetta (1683-1754)

    Eros and Psyche

    1st century AD

  • Black chalk heightened with white on beige paper

    H. 9.5 cm; W. 10.6 cm

  • Acquired from Langlois in 1852

    395267

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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