Le Bassin [Philibert - Emmanuel de Beaumanoir de Lavardin]
34 cm x 25.6 cm (13 3/8 in. x 10 1/16 in.)
Robert Nanteuil and Anonymous
(Rheims, 1623 - 1678, Paris)
Medium and Support:
Engraving with etching
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Karen G. and Dr. Elgin W. Ware, Jr. Collection, purchase from the Leo Steinberg Collection
Nanteuil, the greatest of all French portrait engravers, was the printmaker to the court of Louis XIV. He created the earlier portrait of Philbert-Emmanuel de Beaumanoir de Lavardin, bishop of Le Mans, in 1660. During the 1660s Beaumanoir de Lavardin developed a reputation as an atheist. He was formally denounced by the Church leadership after his death in 1671. Sometime after the decline in the bishop’s reputation, an anonymous artist transformed the sitter into a type of quack doctor that was popular in Dutch genre painting, which was appropriate for an individual whose name became synonymous with fraud. In the new print, Le Bassin, an unknown, different artist added etching to the engraved plate to change various details. The bishop of Le Mans was provided with a fur lined mantel that academics wore, and an oversized hat and pincenez. Various pills and sprigs of flowers are arranged on the parapet. The artist also added a bottle containing a tartar emetic, a "vomitive medicament," that indicates the contents of the chamber-pot. The inclusion of tartar emetic adds a distinctly Parisian twist. This (potentially deadly) remedy made of antimony caused a 100-year paper war between the rival medical faculties of Paris and Montpelier, which ended in the humiliation of the Paris School of Medicine in 1666.