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Portrait of the artist 1798

Joseph Fischer

* 1769 in Vienna † 1822 in Vienna

Etching and aquatint in brown. Size of sheet: 13.2 x 22.8 cm.

Literature: Nagler, vol.5, p.14;

          "German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe", BM 1994, no. 49.

Extraordinary image of the artist with an injured foot looking at a drawing. Very fine impression with small margins. 


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In 1796 Fischer enrolled as a volunteer in the Austrian cavalry, and became an officer. He fought in the campaigns in north Italy against the young General Bonaparte, where he was wounded in the foot. This self-portrait shows him lying in bed nursing his injury, in a striking self-dramatisation that eminently belongs to early Romanticism. But the idea was not original. On 1 January 1798 Anthony Cardon had published in London a stipple after a drawing by Richard Cosway of the Polish General Kosciuszko lying on a couch paralysed on one side. Kosciuszko was the hero of the Polish rising against the occupying Russians, and had arrived as a publicity-shy celebrity in London on 30 May 1797. Cosway was said to have made his drawing through a keyhole, and this print was rushed out as soon as possible; Benjamin West also made a painting from memory in 1797, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798, but never engraved (Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley, 'The paintings of Benjamin West', New Haven 1986, cat.650). It is evident that Fischer knew Cardon's print, and based his self-portrait on it. (Antony Griffiths and Frances Carey, 'German Printmaking in the Age of Goethe', BM 1994, no. 49)

Condition report is available on request. 


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