On October 24, at the London Royal Academy of Arts opened a unique exhibition of Jean-Étienne Liotard (22 December 1702 – 12 June 1789) — the genius of pastel portraits, one of the most famous artists of the XVIII century. More than 70 rare works by the master can be seen until January 31, 2016. It is considered to be the first major exhibition of pastels and enamel portrait miniatures of the artist — an event in the artistic life of Europe because, for the purpose of preservation, Lyotard’s pastels are rarely exhibited. Soon, they will again be hidden in museums’ storerooms and private collections.
Pastel allowed Lyotard achieve soft and smooth transitions of color, exquisite chiaroscuro and elegant detailing. Lyotard’s portraits are simple and realistic, differing greatly from the pompous style of formal portraiture so popular at the French court.
This is the self-portrait of Jean-Etienne Liotard, “Laughing Liotard”, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneve, Switzerland.
Das Schokoladenmädchen (La Belle Chocolatiere) is the gem of a collection of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (art gallery) in Dresden, Germany. The painting was created in the 1740s at the Vienna court of the Austrian Kaiserin Maria Theresia at a time when Jean-Etienne Liotard had been commissioned to paint both the Kaiser and Kaiserin (empress and emperor). It is said that the model of the Schokoladenmädchen was one of the young ladies at court whose beauty led Liotard to put it on a canvas.
In 1883, Walter Baker & Company, he oldest producer of chocolate in the United States, adopted La Belle Chocolatiere as a company logo. This is how the story about the origins of the logo has been told in Choice Recipes, 1913:
“…There is a romance connected with the charming Viennese girl who served as the model, which is well worth telling. One of the leading journals of Vienna has thrown some light an the Baltauf, or Baldauf, family to which the subject of Liotard’s painting belonged.
Anna, or Annerl, as she was called by friends and relatives, was the daughter of Melchior Baltauf, a knight, who was living in Vienna in 1760, when Liotard was in that city making portraits of some members of the Austrian Court. It is not clear whether Anna was earning her living as a chocolate bearer at that time or whether she posed as a society belle in that becoming costume; but, be that as it may, her beauty won the love of a prince of the Empire, whose name, Dietrichstein, is known now only because he married the charming girl who was immortalized by a great artist.
The marriage caused a great deal of talk in Austrian society at the time, and many different stories have been told about it. The prejudices of caste have always been very strong in Vienna, and a daughter of a knight, even if well-to-do, was not considered a suitable match for a member of the court. It is said that an the wedding day Anna invited the chocolate bearers with whom she had worked or played, and in “sportive joy at her own elevation” offered her hand to them saying, ” Behold! now that I am a princess you may kiss my hand.” She was probably about twenty years of age when the portrait was painted in 1760, and she lived until 1825…”
The last years of his life Jean-Étienne Liotard spent in Confignon, near Geneva. He painted still-lives for the possession of which collectors and museums will be fiercely competing centuries later.
Lyotard died in 1789, before the French Revolution that effectively destroyed the old order and replaced it with new values, in life, social order and in arts alike. Jean-Michel, Jean-Étienne’s twin brother, a little-known artist, was ruined by the revolution and died in 1796 in abject poverty.