- Museum number
- Object: Abel François Poisson Marquis de Marigny
Portrait of Abel-François Poisson, Marquis de Marigny, after Tocqué; three-quarter length, standing directed to left, with right hand resting on maps, wearing fur-trimmed coat with sash and insignia of the Order of the Saint-Esprit; behind him, a curtain; coat of arms in lower margin; lettered state, before mention of the Académie. 1761
- Production date
Height: 492 millimetres
Width: 344 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Antony Griffiths and Frances Carey, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe', BM 1994, no. 1
In its final state, this print carries an extra line of lettering at the bottom: "Gravé par Jean Georges Wille pour sa réception à l'Académie 1761". In the same way as every painter had to produce a painting, every engraver on being 'agréé' as a member of the Académie, was given a portrait to engrave as his 'morceau de réception' before being admitted to full membership. It is a sign of Wille's high standing that he was given as sitter the Marquis de Marigny (1727-81), the brother of Louis XV's mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, when he was 'agréé' in 1755. Marigny, as his titles reveal, was the most powerful figure in the French art world, being in charge of the various academies, all royal building operations and the manufactories such as Sèvres and Gobelins. The engraving, which took six years to complete, is after a painting by Louis Tocqué that had been exhibited at the Salon of 1755.
The engraving is a spectacular example of the classic line-engraved portrait, in which not a single line is etched, and a very wide range of textures is created by different patterns of strokes of the burin. Prints such as this took years to complete, and were very expensive. On 24 October 1761 Wille stated that to engrave a portrait bust without hands, he would require 2400 livres, 100 impressions for himself, and eighteen months in which to complete it. Such plates took their toll, and in November 1764 Wille said that he had for several years been refusing to make any more portrait engravings as his eyes could not stand the strain. Subject plates were easier.
Impressions were printed in a sequence of states: in the case of this print, before coat of arms, with coat of arms, with the end of the sword added, with lettering added, and (finally) with the extra line at the bottom (examples of all but the first are in the British Museum). The early states were sold at twice - or more - the price of the final states. Wille's journal shows how serious collectors, such as his friend the dealer Basan, acquired states before lettering of every plate. It also shows that it was by no means unusual for him to receive orders for complete collections of his prints.
The fashion for such prints lasted well into the nineteenth-century, and W. H. Carpenter assembled a superb collection of Wille's work for the British Museum Print Room, of which he was Keeper from 1845-66. This impression was one of twenty-four proofs purchased in 1852, many of which cost five or six guineas apiece - more than most Rembrandt etchings at that time.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1994 Sept-Jan, BM, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe', no.1
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number