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Attributed to Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (1741-1814)
Attributed to Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (1741-1814)

'L'accord parfait': a lady playing the harp for two young men

Details
Attributed to Jean-Michel Moreau le Jeune (1741-1814)
'L'accord parfait': a lady playing the harp for two young men
oil on panel
11 x 9in. (28 x 23cm.)
Provenance
Private collection, France, since the 1950s.

Lot Essay

One of the most important works of printmaking in the 18th century was the illustrated book Monument du Costume Physique et Moral de la Fin du Dix-Huitième Siècle, based on a text that has been attributed to the libertine author N.-E. Restif de La Bretonne. The illustrations were published in 3 series of 12 prints each, the first by Sigmund Freudenberg (1775), the second and third series by Moreau le Jeune (1777, 1783). Moreau provided, in carefully finished drawings that were then parceled out to various engravers, an incomparable pictorial record of the fashionable dress and manners of Parisians in the final years of the ancien régime.

The most famous of Moreau's illustrations for the book appeared as number 20 in the second series, L'accord parfait ('Perfect Harmony'). Etched and engraved by I.-S. Helman in 1777, it depicts the heroine of the story, Cephise, in a peignoir, playing the harp for the pleasure of two elegantly attired young men. The harp was, of course, the favorite instrument of 'ladies of quality' as it was said to emit a harmonious sound even when indifferently played.

The present lot is an exquisitely finished, painted version of L'accord parfait. Moreau, younger brother of the landscape painter Louis-Joseph Moreau (known as l'Ainé), trained as a painter with Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain, with whom he traveled to St. Petersburg in 1758. Following a year-long appointment as professor of drawing at the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, Moreau returned to Paris, and seems to have virtually abandoned painting in favor of drawing and printmaking.

The present painting would appear to be Moreau's only surviving work in the medium. It follows the composition of Helman's engraving to the letter, as does his drawing of the subject in pen and brown washes, which is signed and dated 1776, and was formerly in the collection of Mrs Hubert Chanler (sale, Sotheby's, London, 10 June 1959, lot 40). The present painting, like the drawing, is in the same direction as the print.

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