An early version of Chardin’s Singe Peintre was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 2008. In the catalogue note accompanying the lot, they date it to the early 1720s and note that it was a humorous theme he returned to throughout his career, with a companion piece of an antiquarian titled Singe Antiquaire. The most famous versions were exhibited in the Paris Salon of 1740 and are in the collection of the Louvre. In 1743, those versions were engraved by Pierre-Louis Surugue (c. 1686-1762) in Paris with the French verse by Pesselier in the lower margin. Monkeys in the popular imagination have the habit of mimicry while not always understanding the gestures they are copying. According to Sotheby’s the verse therefore suggests that an artist also engages in a monkey-like act of imitation, particularly if he derives his models from other artists rather than from nature. The offered print was produced in the 1750s or ’60s by the renowned mezzotint engraver, the Haids of Augsburg, who engraved their version in mezzotint and added the German verse alongside the French one.
Verses lower margin with rough translations:
Le Singe, Imitateur exact ou peu fidèle,
Est un animal fort commun:
Et tel homme icy bas, est le peintre de l’un,
Qui sert à l’autre de modèle.
The Monkey, exact imitator or not very faithful,
Is a very common animal:
And such a man here below, is the painter of one,
Who serves as a model for the other.]
Viel Menschen, auf der Erd, sind eben wie die Affen,
der hie, in einem Bild, den Mahler praesentirt:
sie pflegen sich gar offe in andre zu vergaffen,
weil das Exempel gleich zu ihren model wird.
Many people on earth are just like monkeys,
who here, in a picture, presents a painter:
they are often in the habit of gossiping with others,
because the example is about to become your model.]
Jean-Siméon Chardin was a French painter, considered one of the greatest European artists of the 18th century. He spent his entire life in Paris. Born into the artisan class, he was an apprentice painter to Pierre Jacques Cazes and Noël Nicolas Coypel. In the 1720s he was accepted into the painters’ guild and the Académie Royale de Peinture and began regularly exhibiting genre scenes and still lifes. Over the decades that followed he was an active member and officer of the academy and exhibited regularly in the annual Salons. His art was sought after by affluent and aristocratic collectors throughout Europe. According to the National Gallery of Art, “The lowly character of his subject matter and his bold, impastoed manner of painting ran counter to the prevalent rococo trend that dominated the Parisian art world in the early part of his career and to the academic classicism that developed during his last two decades. Yet Chardin remained admired and sought after until the end.” Today his works are in the collections of Louvre and other major museums around the world.
Johann Jakob Haid and Johann Elias Haid were members of a German family of artists and engravers active in the 18th and 19th centuries. Johann Jakob was a portraitist and engraver who studied with Johann Elias Ridinger. He taught engraving to his son, Johann Elias, who later worked in lithography as well, and executed works after Old Master artists such as Rembrandt and Cranach. The Haids worked together as J.J. Haid and Son. They produced numerous portrait prints and also made the engravings after botanical artist Georg Dionysius Ehret for a number of important collections of botanical prints edited by Trew and Weinmann.
Full publication information: J.J. Haid exc. A.V.
Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified with light remaining toning and wear. Old center vertical fold reinforced verso, professionally flattened, now unobtrusive.
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 4, p. 553.
“Jean Siméon Chardin.” National Gallery of Art. 2021. https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1127.html (8 November 2021).
“Jean-Siméon Chardin, Le Singe Peintre.” Sotheby’s. 24 January 2008. https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2008/important-old-master-paintings-including-european-works-of-art-n08404/lot.262.html (8 November 2021).
“Le Singe peintre.” Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010059561 (8 November 2021).
Lipperheide, Franz von. Katalog Der Freiherrlich Von Lipperheideõschen Kostümbibliothek. Mansfield Center, Connecticut: Martino, c. 1996 (reprint of 1896-1905 ed.). 32.
“The Painter 1743.” Metropolitan Museum of Art. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/770577 (8 November 2021).