Framed French Etchings
D: 16" x H: 1"
In art, the Rococo period was one of nature scenes, pastel colours, and idyllic depictions of life. Love was a common theme, often expressed in a playful nature. The game “blindman’s buff,” for example, where one player would be blindfolded and then had to try and find their so-called lover, reflected this playfulness. However, other individuals often helped the two lovers find each other, thus revealing the strategic nature of these love matches. This is the game depicted in the right-hand etching, which recalls the work of Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), a famous 18th-century French painter, who conveyed this game in artworks on two occasions: once in 1750–1752 (Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo) and again in 1775–1780 (Timken Museum of Art, San Diego). The etching on the left recalls Fragonard’s third painting in his series “The Progress of Love,” The Lover Crowned (The Frick Collection, New York), which he completed in 1771–1772. In comparing the current print to Fragonard’s painting, we see the similar natural setting, the female figure placing a crown on her lover, and reclining figures observing this moment. In the etching, one could read the arrow held by the male figure, dressed in green with a blue cape, as cupid’s arrow, suggesting the match is complete. In the early stages of printmaking, colour could only be added by hand once the print was made, as has been done here. While owners sometimes coloured their prints, it was more common to have this task outsourced to a professional. Determining who coloured these etchings may be difficult; nevertheless, these pieces offer a fascinating glimpse into print history and 18th-century French art.
At this time in France, Joseph-Michel Montgolfier (1740–1810) and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier (1745–1799) undertook the first confirmed piloted ascent by man. The aviation pioneers invented the Montgolfière-style hot air balloon, and launched Jacques-Étienne into the air on November 21, 1783. He flew approximately 3,000 feet above Paris, for a distance of 9 kilometres. After a 25-minute flight, he landed safely among some windmills outside of the city limits.