In 1783 Desprez's work was brought to the attention of the Swedish King, Gustav III, who was looking for someone to take charge of the stage decorations for the historical dramas he was then planning. The King made Desprez an extremely generous offer, and the artist moved to Sweden in 1784. There, despite initially primitive working conditions and much resentment from the resident Swedish artists, his first designs for the première performance of Queen Christina were a sensation, and for ten years he continued to produce magnificent set designs, architectural plans and historical paintings. Following the assassination of King Gustav in 1792 Desprez's fortunes declined and his attempts to obtain commissions from other European courts failed. He died in penniless obscurity in 1804.
Although we have not been able to connect the present work securely with one of Desprez's theatrical projects, the drawing itself is extremely impressive, both in composition and technique. The theatricality and inventiveness of design throughout is typical of the extraordinary imagination and revolutionary ability that Desprez possessed to transform the stage into a vast and magnificent panorama. A very comparable design of this type by Desprez was sold, New York, Sotheby's, 13 January 1993 (lot 134), and others featured in the 1992 Stockholm exhibition of the artist's work.1
1. Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Louis Jean Desprez, Tecknare, Theaterkonstnär, Arkitekt, 1992, pp. 65-96
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