Metz 1734 — 1781 Saint-Denis

A Medieval French Town

83/4 x 133/4" (222 x 349mm). signed l/l Le Prince on mat

unknown collection (Baron de Thun?), Lugt 2963 and 2695;
Wolfhart F. Bürgi (1901-1989), Saint Gallen, (L.3400);
Claude Kuhn, Basel;
private collection, Switzerland.

Although Le Prince first studied in his native town of Metz, it was after arriving in Paris and working in the studio of Boucher, indeed becoming Boucher's best student, that he learned the style that would be his for life. In 1758 he went to Russia under the patronage of Catherine the Great, staying for five years at the Imperial Palace in St. Petersburg. During this time he also travelled throughout Finland, Lithuania and Siberia. When he returned to Paris, he had an abundance of studies and drawings depicting his foreign sojourn. These would inform his paintings and etchings of Russian subjects, making him the only French artist of the time whose work was derived from first hand experience. Le Prince was elected a full member of the Accademie in 1765. He is credited as the originator of aquatint in 1768 which revolutionized printmaking and would become so crucial to the works of later important printmakers such as Delacroix, Rowlandson and Goya.

Hopefully someone can identify this charming town of ancient and medieval structures which Le Prince has depicted. A workman loads his wagon, a passerby saunters down the road under several (Roman?) arches, the last of which appears to open into a courtyard with a monument, while atop the first arch, laundry is hung out to air-dry. In addition to some thatched rooves, one is intrigued by the elaborate Italianate door surround on the left and the classicisizing arched entrance to the monument in the far background.