Monday, March 8, 2010

You could see this in Maastricht, but won’t......

....because it happens to be in my gallery collection in New York.

It is a wood carving by Aubert-Henri-Joseph Parent (1753 Cambrai - 1835 Valenciennes) also known as Aubert Parent. A critic of the late eighteenth century pronounced "One hardly expects to see such delicacy united with elegance in such a small space”. Come and see for yourself.

The only comparable artist was the Dutch master Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) who had won the patronage of the English court with his bravura wood carvings. While Gibbons was known for his robust realism, Parent combined the accuracy of scientific observation with a refinement and delicacy in tune with the taste of the late 18th century.

Louis XVI was a fan, hanging a Parent carving, presented to him on the occasion of a royal visit to Parent’s home town of Valenciennes, in his private dining room in Versailles. This of course led to patronage in court circles. When things got too hot for Parent during the French Revolution he fled to Switzerland, where he became a lecturer on Classical art at the University in Basel and directed archeological excavations. Later he went to Berlin where he received a pension from Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, and finally returned to France in 1813. Describing himself as a Sculptor, Designer and Academician he never gave up carving.

His work was much in demand and his amazing talent as a wood carver garnered him admiration all over Europe. Today one can find some of his few surviving works in major museums around the world including the Getty, the Metropolitan, the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, the Trianon de Versailles and the well known sculpture museum in Frankfurt, the Staedel. Another is recorded at the Schlossmuseum in Berlin.

When I acquired the present present work at Sotheby’s, London, many years ago they showed it upended and did not realize that it was signed on the lower right in graphite, aubert parent fecit 1827.

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