Catalogue de Tableaux, Dessins montés & en feuilles, Pastels, Email du célèbre Petitot; Bustes, Figures & Gaines de Marbre, Tables de Porphyre, Instrumens de Physique & de Géométrie, Clavecin de Ruckers, Forté-Piano & autres Instrumens; Estampes d’après les plus grands Maîtres…Planches gravées par Rembrandt, M. Watelet, & autres. Le tout provenant du Cabinet de feu M. Watelet, Conseiller du Roi, Receveur général des Finances d’Orléans… Par A. J. Paillet. Dont la Vente se fera au plus Offrant & dernier Enchérisseur par Me. Hayot de Long-Pré, Huissier-Priseur, le lundi 12 Juin 1786, & jours suivans, en son Appartement cour du Vieux-Louvre, pavillon de la colonnade à gauche.

Woodcut headpiece on leaf Ai. 8, 64 pp. 8vo, late 19th-cent. red cloth-backed marbled boards, title on spine. Paris: A. J. Paillet, 1786.

A rare sale catalogue describing the collection of Watelet (1718-86), the writer, voracious collector, and amateur engraver. Our copy is fully priced in a contemporary hand and with many buyers’ names, including that of Paillet, this sale’s expert, who was making purchases on behalf of Louis XVI. Benefitting from his inherited status as the fermier-général (tax collector) of Orléans, Watelet wholeheartedly pursued studies of engraving, gardens, and the fine arts. He was also the principal contributor to the Encyclopédie for articles on the visual arts. He devoted much of his wealth to the formation of an impressive collection of drawings, prints, and even copperplates engraved by Rembrandt himself.

“At his death, in 1786, Watelet owned 674 prints and 260 drawings by Rembrandt and his school. He also possessed eighty-one of the artist’s copper plates, some of which he retouched…Here the amateur was not content just to inventory and document the artist’s work; through his many copies and pastiches, Watelet embarked upon a learning process in which he strove to understand and then describe Rembrandt’s artistic gestures. The fact that he reworked some of Rembrandt’s copper plates in his possession attests to their radically different status at the time: not as masterpieces to be maintained intact but material resources to study.”–C. Guichard, “Chapter 5: Amateurs and the Culture of Etching” in Artists and Amateurs, Etching in 18th-Century France (2013), pp. 151-52.

The present catalogue lists a total of 374 lots. The paintings include works by Poussin, Le Moine, C. Vanloo, Natoire, Chardin, F. Boucher, Pierre, Doyen, Vernet, Greuze, Robert, etc. There are drawings by Giordano, Panini, Rembrandt, J. Ruysdael, J. van Goyen, van Dyck, etc. Watelet’s magnificent collections of prints by Rubens, Rembrandt, and Callot, and copperplates engraved by Rembrandt, are described at the end of the catalogue. One of the most prominent scholar-dealers of the time, Pierre-François Basan (1723-97), purchased the suite of copperplates at this sale.

A fine copy of a scarce and most interesting catalogue. Found in very few copies, the allegorical frontispiece was never bound in ours. Unidentified ink monogram on the front endpaper.

❧ Lugt 4061. N.B.G., Vol. 46, cols. 591-93. Kafker & Kafker, The Encyclopedists as Individuals: A Biographical Dictionary of the Authors of the Encyclopédie (1988), pp. 396-400.

Price: $1,750.00

Item ID: 7858