Huquier (1695-1772) was among the most prominent French engravers, printsellers and tastemakers of the mid-eighteenth century, designing or reproducing a prolific amount of ornamentation. The present collection of four suites, containing sixty hand-coloured engravings of birds, flowers, botanical arrangements and objects, presents the best Chinoiserie of the period. The first part is dedicated to Asian birds; of the other three parts, approximately twenty-five plates depict intricate and colourful floral arrangements, many in elaborate Chinoiserie-inspired vases; six depict Asian flora with birds in natural settings; the remaining show Chinese objects including vessels, snuff boxes and other objets d'art.
Besides being a talented designer and engraver, Huquier assembled an impressive collection of art, dispersed in three auctions in 1761, 1771 and 1772, including what is believed to be the largest collection of original watercolours by Oudry (1686-1755). An album of watercolours of birds by Oudry (and presumably from Huquier's collection) is now located at Harvard's Fogg Museum, and confirms that the images of birds in the plates present here were engraved by Huquier after Oudry. Besides having a relationship with Oudry, Huquier was known to have engraved Chinoiserie designs after Fraisse, Watteau, Boucher and others, suggesting other artists of the present engravings. However, given Huquier's own artistic talents, it is quite possible that many of the engravings are after his own work. The extra-illustration of a contemporary watercolour of plate 29, though unattributed, may be by Huquier.
The strictly contemporary hand colouring of the plates in this album is wonderful. The extreme high quality of the colouring, coupled with the contemporary inlaid presentation of the plates and the original watercolour, suggests that the album was assembled for a collector of note in the mid-eighteenth century.
A similar album, also containing sixty plates, sold in the 1772 auction of Huquier's estate (as lot no. 157, selling for 380 livres). In addition, a similar album of the same four parts comprised of 60 hand coloured plates, extra illustrated with 12 original watercolours in the rear, is located at the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, Paris. No examples of this work selling at auction since the 18th century have been found.
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