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Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Wicar
Portrait of Antonio Duroni of Bergamo
Graphite on paper
Given by James Mackinnon, 2001

Wicar trained as a painter under Jacques-Louis David, and went on to have a successful career as an artist, curator and administrator.

As a draughtsman, he made a name for himself through the line drawings of paintings and sculpture in the collection of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, subsequently engraved and published in four volumes as the Tableaux, Statues, Bas-Reliefs, et Camees, de la Galerie de Florence et du Palais Pitti (1789-1807), and went on to have a successful career as a portraitist. Wicar was also an avid collector of drawings, and from the late 1780s, during his second stay in Italy, went on to amass a remarkable collection, including a significant group by Raphael which he later bequeathed to his home town of Lille. He bought several of these while working as Commissioner in Napoleon's Commission des Sciences et des Arts, advising on the sequestration of 'works of art and science' for the Muséum Central des Arts de Paris, though the extent to which he benefited personally from this role in terms of expanding his own collection has been a matter of debate.

This drawing is one of a large group of portraits of friends and acquaintances that Wicar made around 1800. Similar informally-sketched portraits are in albums in the Museo Napoleonico in Rome, the Accademia di Belle Arti in Perugia and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, the latter made some years earlier, during Wicar's second, extended stay in Florence (1789-1793). The inscriptions on the drawings do not always reveal a great deal about the sitter - in this case we know no more than his name and the town where the portrait was drawn - but they suggest that Wicar was in popular demand throughout the northern part of Italy, although he seems to have given up drawing informal portraits of this sort by the time he lived in Naples, between 1806-1809. Stylistically, they remain consistent throughout this period, executed on papers of roughly the same size and drawn in fine graphite line with a minimal background. As this portrait shows, Wicar used this spare graphic style highly expressively, to convey a powerful sense of psychological presence.


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