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L’Eventail Cassé / The Broken Fan



Jean-Frédéric Schall (1752-1825)
L’Eventail Cassé / The Broken Fan
oil on copper
AGLC 367 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

The one aspect of 18th-century French painting  that has barely ever been the object of serious  study is that of the galant subjects of the last third  of the century, ranging in character from the suggestive  or mildly erotic to the gently pornographic.  It is better known and studied in the form of drawings  and prints than in that of oil paintings. Its  best-known practitioners were, indeed, primarily  either draughtsmen – such as the two illustrators  of the Monument du costume physique et moral de la  fin du XVIIIe siècle (1774 – c. 1781), Sigmund Freudeberg  (Freudenberger; 1745-1801) and Jean-Michel  Moreau (Moreau le Jeune; 1741-1814) – or practitioners  of gouache, such as Pierre-Antoine Baudouin  (who actually lived a little earlier, 1723-1769, but  whose works were often engraved later) and Jean-  Baptiste Mallet (1759-1835). Less known for his  paintings of this kind, much better known for his  little pictures of single, elaborately costumed (and  often dancing) women (see p. 110), is Jean-Frédéric  Schall. Ignored by both the Goncourts and Emilia,  Lady Dilke, he did not feature even in the most comprehensive  survey of 18th-century French art of the  last 50 years, France in the Eighteenth Century.       

The present painting contains a double enigma as  to its authorship. The composition was published  around 1785 by Louis-Marin Bonnet (1736-1793)  as a stipple colour print, the same way round, with  the title given here, but without any name of either  artist or engraver (see p. 282). It was not uncommon  for prints of slightly equivocal subjects  to omit the originating artist’s name or to substitute  a bogus one. Lot 6 in Bonnet’s posthumous  sale (7 November 1793), however, consisted of a  pair of paintings on copper, of the same size as the  present one (10 pouces x 8 pouces), one with the  title given here, and the other with that of its engraved  pendant, L’Amant Écouté (see p. 282). These  subsequently reappeared in the auction of G. Mühlbacher’s  collection, measured slightly differently  (probably by sight-size), but – curiously – as by  Jean-Baptiste Huet (1745-1811). This was almost  certainly because, their true authorship having  been forgotten, Huet’s name had become irrevocably  associated with the anonymous prints after  them. Huet, rather than Schall, may have been  assumed to be the author of the compositions because  of another pair of such subjects engraved by  Augustin Legrand (1765-1815) and published with  both his and Huet’s names by Bonnet, as La Déclaration  and L’Amant Pressant.       

Schall’s authorship of L’Eventail Cassé is, however,  further secured by a signed and dated variant of the  panel, of 1785, of the same figures, but in an outdoor  setting. This was published by André Girodie in  the sole serious study of the artist, when it was in  the collection of Alfred Lindon, who had acquired it  in the sale of E. Vincent in 1872; and it was included  in the exhibition devoted to Schall at the Hôtel  Charpentier, Paris, in 1929 (no. 21). More recently,  a larger version of this on panel, measuring 42 x  34 cm, signed and dated 1795, was in the 2002  catalogue of the Galerie Maurice Segoura, Paris  (pp. 164-165). Despite all this, however, a version  of L’Amant Écouté on panel was auctioned at Sotheby’s,  Monaco, in 1986 as by J.-B. Huet.         

The identity of the author of the composition of  L’Eventail Cassé is thus one enigma, albeit one in which  all indications point to his being Jean-Frédéric Schall.  The answer to the other enigma – was Schall himself  the executant of the present copper? – is a little less  clear-cut. Its dimensions are the same as those of the  copper in Bonnat’s posthumous sale, in which it and  its pendant were ascribed to him, but there appears  to be a palpable difference in the refinement of the execution,  not only of it, but of the later outdoor version  of 1795, when compared with, for instance, the pair  of paintings of a young woman dressing and undressing,  Le Lever and Le Coucher, which were together until  Mme André Saint’s sale in 1935, when the latter was  acquired by Sir Henry Deterding and given by him to  the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam the following year.  Could it be that the small paintings of L’Eventail Cassé  and L’Amant Écouté on panel (only the latter being at  present known from its auction at Sotheby’s, Monaco,  in 1986) were Schall’s original versions, and the  coppers (only the present one, of L’Eventail Cassé,  being known today) autograph replicas, made for  Bonnet’s engraver to work from – hence their having  remained in Bonnet’s possession until his death? 

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About the artist

He studied at the Académie Royal de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris under Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié. He worked in the Rococo idiom of François Boucher and Jean-Honoré Fragonard; he is known chiefly for his galant paintings of elaborately dressed women, usually dancing, in landscape settings and for his mildly erotic scenes.

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