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JACQUES SABLET (MORGES, VAUD 1749-1803 PARIS)
JACQUES SABLET (MORGES, VAUD 1749-1803 PARIS)
JACQUES SABLET (MORGES, VAUD 1749-1803 PARIS)
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THE KAGAN COLLECTION
JACQUES SABLET (MORGES, VAUD 1749-1803 PARIS)

Portrait of a gentleman, full-length, in a landscape

Details
JACQUES SABLET (MORGES, VAUD 1749-1803 PARIS)
Portrait of a gentleman, full-length, in a landscape
oil on canvas
18 ¼ x 14 1/8 in. (46.4 x 35.9 cm.)
Provenance
with Thomas Agnews & Sons Ltd., London (according to a label on the reverse).
Anonymous sale; Bonhams, London, 5 July 2006, lot 115, as Attributed to Louis Gauffier, where acquired by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Like his elder brother, the painter François Sablet (1745-1819), Jacques Sablet first apprenticed with his father, Jacob, before leaving Switzerland for Paris, where he entered the studio of Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809). A gifted pupil, he was invited to accompany Vien to Rome in 1775, where, as early as 1777, he was awarded a prize from the Academy of Saint Luke. He would likely have remained in Rome indefinitely were it not for the anti-French revolts in the city in 1793 which prompted him to flee Italy and return to Paris, via Switzerland, in that same year. Apart from a trip to Spain in 1800-1801, which Sablet made with the painter Guillaume Guillon-Lethière under the patronage of Lucien Bonaparte, he remained in Paris and exhibited at the annual Salons until his death in 1803.

Although he painted a number of mythological and allegorical subjects and trained as a history painter, his early ambitions to be an artist in the Grand Manner proved disappointing. Success came when he turned to multi-figural genre scenes and small-scale, full-length portraits in which he set his sitters against the background of the Italian landscape. He was a sensitive portraitist, and his landscape settings are characterized by a delicacy of tones, fresh atmosphere, clear light and sparkling palette that compare favorably to those found in similar portraits by Louis Gauffier (1762-1801), who was working in Italy at the same time and would prove his principal rival.

Indeed, the present portrait of a young gentleman in riding costume was, formerly, misattributed to Gauffier. However, the elegant silhouette of the unidentified dandy, naturalistically rendered fall of daylight (which gives definition and volume to his figure) and the luminous sunshine playing across the Italianate landscape behind him, are entirely typical of Jacques Sablet’s portraits of the 1790s. Moreover, the sweet diffidence of the young man’s expression and the subtle, soft touch with which it is conveyed are characteristic of Sablet’s gentle portraits, qualities which distinguishes them from Gauffier’s cooler and more exacting likenesses.

Sablet’s clientele for portraits included ex-patriots living in Italy in the 1780s and 1790s, as well as wealthy aristocrats travelling through Rome on the Grand Tour. Among those who can be identified, several were British, including – notably – Thomas Hope, the celebrated collector of antiquities and patron of the neoclassical movement in the fine arts, whom Sablet portrayed playing cricket (Cricket Memorial Gallery, London). The subject of the present painting, thus far unidentified, was himself likely an English ‘grand tourist’, to judge from the particular cut and fashion of his riding costume.

The attribution to Jacques Sablet has been endorsed by Anne van de Sandt (in private correspondence with the present owner, 11 January 2007).

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