Jean Étienne Liotard (Swiss, Geneva 1702–1789 Geneva)
Red and black chalk on off-white laid paper, verso worked in black chalk (in area corresponding to the sitter's jacket on the recto)
Sheet: 9 1/2 × 7 3/8 in. (24.1 × 18.7 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, 2000
Not on view
Born in Geneva and largely self-taught, Liotard spent a great part of his life travelling, capturing the likenesses of Europe’s upper classes with a steady and penetrating eye. His portraits, typically executed in chalk or pastel, exhibit a quasi-scientific clarity of observation, more suggestive of Enlightenment curiosity than of Rococo artifice. In the present sheet, attention is focussed on the face, where a soft network of hatching in red and black chalk gently mark the topography of the sitter’s features as revealed by the fall of light. The thoughtful yet formal pose, with eyes gazing evenly into the distance, conveys a calm authority. The identity of this handsome and self-assured man unfortunately cannot be stated with certainty. A tradition within the family records of the previous owner identified the sitter as a member of the André family, bankers in Geneva and Paris. Such sheets would have been considered finished works, as suggested by Liotard’s practice of applying colored wash on areas of the verso corresponding to hair, flesh, and clothing. Presumably, this was intended to subtly enhance tonal variations on the recto of the sheet. (Perrin Stein)
Descendent of the André banking family, Geneva and Paris, until 1999 (per Christie's); sale, Christie's, New York, January 28, 1999, lot 153, to Wrightsman; Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, New York, from 1999; her gift in 2000 to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Donor: Jayne Wrightsman
Carmen C. Bambach, Colta Ives, Nadine Orenstein, Michiel C. Plomp, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1999-2000." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 58, no. 20, Fall 2000, p. 33, ill.
Pierre Rosenberg, Elizabeth E. Barker, George R. Goldner et al. The Wrightsman Pictures. Everett Fahy, New York and New Haven, 2005, cat. no. 61, ill.