22 Items in this Learning Collection

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The Engraver, Laurent Cars (1699-1771)

Accession Number

The Engraver, Laurent Cars (1699-1771)

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
oil on canvas

19 15/16 in. x 15 7/8 in. ( 50.6 cm x 40.3 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
March 28 2009
Unlike Oudry’s very formal and official portrait of Pierre Bachelier elsewhere in this gallery, Perronneau’s close friendship with the French printmaker Laurent Cars (1699–1771) is evident in this portrait. Mid-eighteenth century France was dominated by the Enlightenment—a time when rationality, logic, and restraint began to dominate social and philosophical discourse. Above all else, Cars is depicted as a man of some intellectual presence; Voltaire’s “smile of reason” seems to embody the character of this sitter.
In addition to his works in oil paint, Perronneau became, after de La Tour, one of the eighteenth century’s most accomplished pastel portraitists. This likeness of Laurent Cars, in its coloration and relaxed intimacy, could well have been executed in pastel, revealing how increasingly interchangeable the two media became. The layering of hues, particularly in the nearly iridescent gorge de pigeon (literally pigeon’s throat, but referencing any color known for its changing reflectivity) of Cars’ jacket, is evocative of the pastellist’s approach.

Subject matter
Perronneau here depicts his friend, the engraver and printseller, Laurent Cars. Cars was admitted to the Académie Royale in 1733 as an engraver and he made numerous engraings after paintings by noted painters in France of the era. Around the time that Perronneau painted this portrait, Cars abandoned engraving to devote more time to selling engravings.
After de la Tour, Perronneau was known as one of the most accomplished pastellists in France during a time when pastel enjoyed great popularity. The freedom and verve of this work, particularly the iridescence of the sitter's coat and scarf and the intimate pose devoid of emblems of the sitter's status, are all attributes that are common with pastel portraits of the time.

Physical Description
A man in a powdered wig is shown in a bust-length pose, looking to the right. He is dressed in a silk coat with a blue and bronze-colored silk scarf at his throat.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Collection Area

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men (male humans)

& Author Notes

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