Eye Candy for Today: Jean-Etienne Liotard’s Chocolate Girl

The Chocolate Girl, Jean-Etienne Liotard, pastel
The Chocolate Girl, Jean-Etienne Liotard

Pastel on parchment, roughly 20 x 32 inches (52 x 82 cm). Link is to zoomable version on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons; original is in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.

This is the most famous of 18th century Swiss artist Jean-Etienne Liotard’s beautiful pastel portraits and genre paintings, remarkable for its sublime modeling. August III of Poland, who purchased the painting in the mid-1700s, commented on the absence of shadows in the modeling of the face and compared it to the portraits of Holbein.

I’m also struck by the beautiful effect of the delicate texture of the pastel application.

The painting (and yes, I’m happy to call pastels of this nature “paintings”) shows a maid carrying a tray with a chocolate beverage — at the time a treat too rare and expensive for any but the wealthy.

The image became the inspiration for branding images in the 19th century for Droste chocolate tins, which used a knock-off by another artist, and Baker’s Chocolate products, which licensed the painting for that use (though today it has been reduced to a mere silhouette).

 
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4 Replies to “Eye Candy for Today: Jean-Etienne Liotard’s Chocolate Girl

  1. On 3 February 1745 Francesco Algarotti bought the painting in Venice from Liotard. In an unknown year (between 1747 and 1754?) the painting became part of the collection of August III of Poland. In a letter dated 13 February 1751 to his friend Pierre-Jean Mariette he wrote:
    “I have bought a pastel picture about three feet high by the celebrated Liotard. It shows a young German chamber-maid in profile, carrying a tray with a glass of water and a cup of chocolate. The picture is almost devoid of shadows, with a pale background, the light being furnished by two windows reflected in the glass. It is painted in half-tones with imperceptible graduations of light and with a perfect modelling…and although it is a European picture it could appeal to the Chinese who, as you know, are sworn enemies of shadows. With regard to the perfection of the work, it is a Holbein in pastel.`
    Very interesting !
    I copied the above from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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