Charles Dominique Joseph Eisen (French, Valenciennes 1720–1778 Brussels)
Oil on wood
Oval, 25 3/8 x 21 1/4 in. (64.5 x 54 cm)
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1906
Not on view
Eisen was a book illustrator trained by his father and in the Paris studio of the engraver Jacques Philippe Le Bas (1707–1783). Comparable features of his graphic works secure the attribution to him of these playful putti.
Charles Dominique Joseph Eisen's first training was in Brussels and Valenciennes with his father, the painter François Eisen (1695–1778). In the early 1740s he entered the studio of the Parisian engraver Jacques Philippe Le Bas (1707–1783) and later he enjoyed the favor of Madame de Pompadour (1721–1764), to whom he taught engraving. It was perhaps through her that Eisen was given various royal titles, such as painter and draftsman of the King's cabinet. He appears to have been a controversial figure: his refusal to pay the entry fee to the Académie de Saint-Luc on the grounds that he was too exceptional an artist led to the seizure of his studio in 1748, although he successfully sued and was admitted in 1750.
Painting was a secondary activity for Eisen; he was primarily a draftsman and illustrator, providing illustrations for about 400 books during his lifetime. He exhibited as many drawings and engravings at the Académie de Saint-Luc as he did paintings, and comparable features of his graphic works secure the attribution of these medallion figures. Here putti cluster around a fictive stone medallion, and the awkward treatment of their shoulders and bulging foreheads is distinctly Eisen's style. He enlivens the scenes with playful poses, swirling clouds, and flickering light.
[Francesca Whitlum-Cooper 2010; updated by Katharine Baetjer 2013]
[Georges Hoentschel, Paris, until 1906; sold to Morgan]; J. Pierpont Morgan, New York (1906)
Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. "Salvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 3–August 11, 2013, no. 32.
Nicole Hoentschel et al. Georges Hoentschel. Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 1999, ill. pp. 176, 179 (gallery installations), reproduces photographs of it hanging in Hoentschel's gallery on Boulevard Flandrin.
William DeGregorio inSalvaging the Past: Georges Hoentschel and French Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide et al. Exh. cat., Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture. New York, 2013, p. 94, no. 32, ill. (color), dates it 1760–70.