The following group of works by Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808) consists of fifteen paintings, drawings and pastels from various periods and in different techniques, offering a great overview of the artist’s oeuvre. The ensemble was formed by Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva, Ana Maria’s father. Though Ricardo’s collection focused on decorative arts, he did also show great interest in the drawings of the French-born Pillement, which likely stemmed from the fact that the artist had an important influence on the applied arts in Portugal. This is clearly noticeable, for example, in the ceramics produced by the Lisbon based factory Real Fabrica da Louça (M. Gordon-Smith, Pillement, Krakow, 2006, pp. 319-333). Besides ceramics, Pillement’s fanciful rococo and chinoiserie images where used for all kinds of other objects including wallpaper, furniture and textiles.
Pillement’s career was unusually cosmopolitan. He started travelling when he was only seventeen years old and continued moving around Europe throughout his life. After a sojourn in Spain, he moved to Lisbon in 1750 where he received an offer from Abbot de Mendonça, then Secretary of State, to become the First Painter to the King. However, Pillement’s urge to travel was so strong that he declined the offer. Instead, he continued his peripatetic career, moving on to London, then Italy, Vienna, Poland and France before paying a second visit to the Iberian Peninsula in 1780. He stayed there for nine years before returning to France.
During his time in Portugal, Pillement executed some of his largest and most ambitious works. The two large pastels, dated 1782, offered in lot 70, are amongst the greatest examples from this period. The use of pastel enabled Pillement to capture both the coolness of a misty morning or the warmth of a sunset with exceptional subtlety. The two energetic landscapes Pillement executed ten years later, in 1792, are fine examples of Pillement’s more dramatic style (lot 71), while works such as A gypsy family by a pond and A herdsman in a rocky river landscape (lot 73) are more intimate than his large pastels. The group also offers two drawings depicting chinoiserie designs in the rococo style for which Pillement is so well known (lot 74).
The overall quality of this group reflects the connoisseurship of the collector who brought them together over half a century ago.