Le Billet Doux
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Paris: 1785, but later issue, probably 1820's. Engraving on wove paper. In excellent condition with the exception of a crease in the upper left margin outside the platemark and some small white spots in the image. Sheet size: 21 1/4 x 15 1/2 inches. A wonderful depiction of pre-revolutionary Parisian aristocracy by de Launay after a gouache by Nicolas Lavreince.A perfectly dressed, handsome young man suavely hands off a love letter to his perfectly dressed young sweetheart while he distracts the older woman: mother or aunt who chaperones. It is a wonderful moment that speaks volumes about aristocratic life prior to the revolution. What seems at first a charming and witty deceit also implies a world in which the pursuit of pleasure has become a way of life. In any event, the amorous back-hand takes place in a setting of utmost refinement: the room is a magnificent example of a Louis XVI interior with its massive mirror, elaborate moldings, carvings and furnishings, a harp, inlaid piano and cello. The characters are dressed to a degree, for a musical afternoon, that defies belief by modern standards: the lover who reaches awkwardly to get her precious missive is especially grand, with flowers and feathers in her hair, a dress festooned with garlands of artificial flowers, and rose-topped pointed silk shoes. Everyone exudes elegance and refinement in clothing, manner and gesture. All in all, a superb revelation of a long ago world, perfectly engraved by de Launay from Lavreince's incisive painting. Nevill, French Prints of the Eighteenth Century p. .