Bernard Picart (Paris 1673 – 1733 Amsterdam)
Academy Study of an Arm
Red chalk, red chalk framing lines, watermark crowned shield with French lily, 235 x 375 mm (9.3 x 14.8 inch)
Signed and dated ‘B. Picart f. 1725’ (red chalk, lower right)
Private collection, The Netherlands
The prolific artist Bernard Picart was trained in the graphic arts by his father Étienne Picart, but the son’s acumen as a draughtsman, printmaker and print seller far surpassed his father’s.1 In the early 1690s, as a student of Sébastien Le Clerc the Elder, Picart worked in Paris and travelled to Antwerp and Amsterdam in 1696. Following the tragic death of his wife and children in 1708, Picart emigrated from France and settled first in The Hague, and then in Amsterdam. This fortuitous change of scene brought Picart into the accomplished orbit of Dutch publishing and printmaking, which was then at its zenith, producing both exemplary editorial projects and beautifully illustrated luxury editions.
Picart’s magnum opus, the nine-volume Cérémonies et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde. Représentées par des figures dessinées de la main de Bernard Picard was published in Amsterdam from 1723 to 1743, and focused on popular ceremonies and religious customs from around the world. In addition to providing the illustrations, Picart is also thought to be the author of the work. Picart’s publishing firm, on the Singel near the Munt, was continued after his death in 1733 by his wife Anne. The ‘veuve Picart’ published a catalogue of her husband’s works in 1734, the Impostures Innocentes.
The present drawing is a marvellous example of the academy studies Picart made after live models. The artist generally signed and dated his works, and sometimes donated them to friends and admirers, according to inscriptions and dedications on some drawings. He also used these drawings as models for his many students to copy to practise their hand, before they could embark on the more difficult drawing from life model.
Although our drawing only concentrates on the model’s arm and hand, Picart also made highly finished and large-scale studies of whole figures, such as that of 1719 preserved in the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam (see last fig.).2
SOLD TO A PRIVATE COLLECTOR, USA
1. For the artist, see: M.C. Jacob, 'Bernard Picart and the turn toward modernity', De Achttiende Eeuw, 37 (2005), pp. 3-16 and N. Bartelings, 'Bernard Picart, a French Engraver in the Dutch Republic', in: G. Maës and J. Blanc, Échanges artistiques entre les anciens Pays-Bas et la France 1482-1814, Turnhout 2010 (texts symposium Lille 2008), pp. 33-54.
2. Red, white and black chalk on grey paper, 650 x 533 mm; inv. no. S 140; S. Van Ooteghem, 'Cataloguing old master drawings in the Royal Library of Belgium. Two newly discovered drawings by Nicolaas Verkolje and Pieter Yver', Delineavit et Sculpsit, 37 (August 2014), pp. 51-58, fig. 7.