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Joseph Ducreux (Nancy 1735-1802 Paris)
Joseph Ducreux (Nancy 1735-1802 Paris)

Self portrait, bust-length, grinning at the viewer ('Le Moqueur')

Details
Joseph Ducreux (Nancy 1735-1802 Paris)
Self portrait, bust-length, grinning at the viewer ('Le Moqueur')
pastel
16½ x 12½ in. (42 x 31.5 cm.)

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Harriet West
Harriet West

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Lot Essay

This unpublished pastel is a striking addition to a long list of self-portraits, both in pastel and oil, that Ducreux produced throughout his career. Some are relatively conventional, but the majority are repeated physiognomic studies of extreme gestures. There are four basic types: Le Rieur is shown laughing, Le Baîlleur, yawning; Silence, ou Le Discret, holding a finger to his mouth, while Le Moqueur smiles, pointing directly at us. The present pastel belongs to the latter type, although Ducreux has reversed the image, removing hat and body (and thus gesture).
Ducreux was Maurice-Quentin de La Tour's pupil and saw himself as the natural heir of the great pastellist. His self-portraits not only echo those of La Tour, but emphasize an uncanny physical resemblance with his teacher. In the present work, Ducreux uses a unique technique, described by Neil Jeffares as 'finished unfinishedness', clearly inspired by La Tour's famous 'préparations' for his finished pastels, leaving most of the background empty, thus letting the viewer see the untouched brown paper.

We are grateful to Neil Jeffares for his kind help in preparing this note. He has suggested a date for the pastel of the early to mid 1790s.

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