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# 29854

Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855) "Portrait of two playmates", extremely important work!

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Fantastically drawn, it is an extremely important and very rare (it is practically impossible to find at the current antique market works of this artist dating before 1800!) large portrait drawing by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, the best European miniaturist of the turn of 19th century. A similar drawing with portrait of Mme de Staël (1797) belongs to collection of the Louvre (see our image nr. 7). Likewise, our drawing was made in the last years of the 18th century, the argument for it being not only the date of comparable Louvre piece, but also the important for Isabey stylistic characteristic - the floating gauzy veil above the girls' heads. As Marion W. Osmond in her book "Jean Baptiste Isabey /The Fortunate painter" (London, 1947) writes, "this artist's vogue of the floating veil with which he draped the heads of his sitters may have been inspired by Napoleon's wife (since 1796 - sic!) Josephine".
"The First Consul liked women to wear white dresses, and to please him his wife ordered fine muslins from India at a great cost, muslin so fine and clear and transparent that it had to be worked under water in case the threads should break. According to the Duchesse d'Abrantes, this muslin when worn gave out a delicate steamy air, and Josephine's fine figure looked beautifully out of a celestial film, so to speak…
…One time Isabey saw Josephine in one of her snow-white muslins… A muslin scarf was flung over her dazzling shoulders; it was so transparent that it looked ethereal. The artist's eye approved and commended this picture. He resolved to reproduce it…"

Our two young ladies appear to be very close friends: they are united by the shared waist-belt (the band of friendship?).

Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767 Nancy - 1855 Paris) was the most famous of all European portrait miniature painters of the turn of the 19th century. In 1785 he went to Paris to study under David, but the great master had just left for Rome. At first in a tight financial situation, Isabey finally was ordered to paint miniatures of the children of King's brother, Count D'Artois. By means of this commission he came to court, met the Queen Marie-Antoinette and obtained an apartment in Versailles. In 1786 David returned from Rome, accepted Isabey as pupil without payment and favoured him in every way. At the time of Revolution the artist already acquired significant clientele in Paris. He portrayed most of Convention members, became one of the intimates of Mme Bonaparte's house. Isabey was a drawing master of Hortense and Eugene de Beauharnais; he controlled the ceremony of Napoleon's coronation and organized festivities for the Empire.
In 1806 Isabey was appointed "Peintre dessinateur du cabinet de S.M. l'Empereur, des ceremonies et des relations exterieurs", and in the following year - "Premier peintre de la Chambre de l'Imperatrice". From 1809 Isabey had a studio in the porcelain factory in Sevres. When in 1810, Napoleon married Marie-Louise, Isabey became drawing master to the latter. In 1812 he went to Vienna to do the portraits of the Imperial Family. He returned there again in 1814 to paint the Congress of Vienna on the order of Talleyrand. He returned to Paris in 1815. With a begin of Restoration he went to London. On his return in 1820 Louis XVIII appointed him miniature painter and "inspecteur dessinateur, ordonnateur des fetes et spectacles". Charles X gave him the title of royal draughtsman and painter and appointed him officer of the Legion d'honneur in 1825. In 1837 Louis-Philippe appointed him Assistant Keeper of the Royal Museums and gave him an appartment at Versailles. He also had the favours of Napoleon III from whom he obtained a pension of Frs. 6000.

Our additional images show several other portrait drawings by Isabey.

Provenance: Sothebys Monaco, 25 June 1976, Lot 423 (see our image # 13) ; Sotheby's London, 30th May 1977, Lot 23 (see our image nr.14); private collection, Berlin.


Condition: good; few dot-like foxings; originally drawn in oval on a four-angled sheet, it was later cut off (with signature outside of drawing) and laid on a mount

Creation Year: late 1790s

Measurements: UNFRAMED:30,0x24,0cm/11,8x9,4in FRAMED: 47,6x39,9cm/18,7x15,7in

Object Type: Framed miniature

Style: Portrait Miniatures

Technique: charcoal and watercolor on paper (oval)

Inscription: signed: Isabey

Creator: Jean-Baptiste Isabey
To see other works by this artist click on the name above!

Creator Dates: 1767 Nancy-1855 Paris

Nationality: French

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