Louis-Marin Bonnet (1736-1793)

An important 18th c. French Pastel-Manner Etching, titled, Tête de Flore, by Louis-Marin Bonnet, 1769. After François Boucher. From an old European estate and presented in its 18th century frame.

 

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Tête de Flore (Head of Flora), is considered to be one of the greatest achievements in 18th century French color printmaking. Using red, green, yellow, blue-green, light blue, bright blue, black, tan, brown, white, and pink inks, Bonnet created a method of  pastel-manner printmaking that utilized eight separate plates and thus was able to capture the depth and subtleties of a full-color pastel. Bonnet’s achievement was the first, and also the last successful attempt by an 18th century French printmaker at using this eight plate method of printmaking.

Bonnet created this etching after François Boucher’s pastel dated 1757. The 17 year old model, whom is represented as Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers and Spring, was none other than François Boucher’s daughter Marie-Émilie. A year after the pastel was executed Marie-Émilie married Boucher’s student, the rococo painter Pierre-Antoine Baudouin (1723-1769). In 1771 Bonnet created the companion piece to this print, Head of a Woman, also after François Boucher and depicting Boucher’s eldest daughter Jean-Élisabeth Victoire Deshays.

Bonnet’s etching, Tête de Flore, is also part of the permanent collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rijksmuseum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. It has also been exhibited at the MET, the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art.

We are thrilled to have acquired this wonderful and historically important etching!

Recommended reading…

For those with further interest in 18th Century French printmaking, we highly recommend the marvelous book titled, Colorful Impressions, The Printmaking Revolution in Eighteenth-Century France. Written by Margaret Morgan Grasselli of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, the book chronicles their 2003-2004 exhibit of 18th c. French prints and explores their historical importance and artistic value. Pages 68 through 71 of this book are devoted entirely to Louis-Marin Bonnet’s  Tête de Flore. Not only do these pages include photographs of the eight progress proofs but also Bonnet’s written account of his methodology!

The art scholar Jean-Adhemar states on page 135 of  his text, Graphic Art of the 18th Century; ” (published by McGraw-Hill);  “Louis-Marin Bonnet developed the process still further, and engraved in the ‘pastel manner’. He boasted of his ‘secret’ in 1769, but had begun using this method in 1767, after trying to perfect the process for several years. Bonnet was born in Paris in 1736 (and died at Saint-Mande in 1793), studied under Francois (1757) and then under Demarteau, and began by inventing a method of printing to give the effect of a drawing a deux crayons, on blue or grey paper (in about 1767). His process for imitating pastel drawings ‘complete with all the colours, both light and dark, completely deceives the eye and equals the originals for the freshness and liveliness of the tints.’  These are skillful facsimiles, which do indeed deceive the eye, especially when they are framed. Bonnet made reproductions after Boucher, and later Huet, but his most successful piece is undoubtedly the famous Head of Flora acheived by a combination of different techniques and eight separate printings.”

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Andrea Fisher Design

Andrea Fisher Design