ATTRIBUTED TO PHILIPPE-JACQUES DE LOUTHERBOURG (1740-1812)
SOLDIERS PLAYING CARDS, A MILITARY CAMP BEHIND
Pen & ink with wash and black chalk, highlighted with white chalk, on buff paper
28.2 x 38 cm
Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 1989, Lot 156;
Anonymous sale, Bernaerts, Antwerp, 2005 (not traced)
Private collection, Switzerland
Philippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg, often known by his anglicised name Philip-James, was a remarkably versatile artist whose works and manner of both drawing and painting present a complex and rich oeuvre that often defies strict categorisation.
Born the son of a miniature painter in Strasbourg, Loutherbourg was sent to Paris at the age of fifteen to study under the history painter Carle Vanloo, the engraver Johann Georg Wille, and the battle painter Francesco Casanova. One can detect the influence of all three artists in his early works in the composition, colouring and handling of the drawing. Indeed, the present sheet was formerly misattributed to Pierre-Alexandre Wille, likely a mistake by a former cataloguer intending to link the work to the other Wille, Loutherbourg's teacher.
Showing talent from an early age, Loutherbourg was accepted into the Académie Royale while still a teenager, and he contributed over eighty works between 1763-1771 alone. Loutherbourg emigrated to London that year, perhaps the result of an unhappy marriage, and he would remain in England for the rest of his life, swiftly adapting to his new clientele and market. Loutherbourg’s works were distributed widely through the many engravings in both Paris and London, and he regularly produced drawings intended specifically for reproduction.
Our work almost certainly dates to the first part of the artist’s career, with the soldiers’ distinctive, almost caricaturish physiognomy, continental uniforms and the colouring of the work suggesting the still-strong influence of Loutherbourg’s teachers Vanloo and Wille in particular. The faces of the two figures to the furthest left in the foreground are especially close to several of those in an etching after Loutherbourg titled Playing Tric Trac (Baudicour II.50.23).