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Lot n° 35

LEFEBVRE Jean-Baptiste, attributed to (before...

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LEFEBVRE Jean-Baptiste, attributed to (before 1719-after 1780) A visit to the dentist Oil on canvas, signed in the clock cartouche "Lefebvre pinxit". 79 x 101 cm Provenance: Cailleux collection in 1928. Exhibitions: La vie parisienne au XVIIIe siècle, Paris, musée Carnavalet, 1928, no. 69; Rétrospective de la ville de Paris, Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne, 1937; Le costume d'autrefois, Paris, Musée Galliera, 1938, no. 336; La vie familiale scènes et portraits, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 1944; La chirurgie dans l'art, Paris, Musée Galliera, 1951; Des dents et des hommes, Paris, Couvent des Cordeliers, 1992-1993, no. 97. Bibliography: A.& P. Baron, L'art dentaire à travers la peinture, Paris, 1986, p. 191 ; R. King, The history of dentistry: technique and demand, Cambridge, 1997, p. 10 ; C. Hillam, Dental practice in Europe at the end of the 18th century, Amsterdam and New York, 2016, p. 39, reproduced fig. 1.1 ; R. King, The making of the dentist, c. 1650-1760, London, reprint 2017, no. 6.2. The work is particularly noteworthy for two reasons. Firstly, it marks a radical evolution in the traditional representation of the dentist throughout art history. This is no longer a fairground or cabaret scene, in which the dentist or surgeon is usually seen as a charlatan. The dentist receives guests at home and appears dressed as a rich bourgeois, wearing a wig. On the other hand, it realistically portrays a major change in medical practice, particularly in the dentist's posture. Previously, to perform a surgical procedure, the practitioner operated with the patient on the ground, to benefit from the leverage. This realistic representation of the practice, the meticulous treatment of the details of the décor and costumes, and the personalization of the characters' features, suggest that this could be the portrait of a well-known practitioner from the Parisian aristocracy and haute bourgeoisie, such as Robert Bunon, Claude Mouton, Jean-François Capperon or Louis L'Ecluse. There are no known portraits of Jean François Capperon (1695-1760), but it is plausible that he is the dentist depicted in this painting, given his age, social status and notoriety: born into the Parisian merchant bourgeoisie, he quickly became a dentist and was appointed surgeon and first operator to the king. Louis XV showered him with honors (patents, gratuities, gifts of land in Paris and Versailles) before ennobling him in December 1745. In addition to the King and Queen, Capperon's practice included the Dauphin and his son the Duke of Burgundy; attached to the House of Pierre-Charles de Lorraine, he was also a dentist at the Ecole Militaire. The painting has sometimes been attributed to Nicolas Lefebvre, a portrait painter of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. A dozen 18th-century painters also bear this surname. The attribution to Jean-Baptiste seems the most reasonable, given the stylistic similarity between his known works and our painting, such as the Portrait de Marie-Thérèse Girard, née Bouchardon, which went on sale on September 24, 2021 in Paris (Me Marc-Arthur Kohn), no. 29. We would like to thank Stéphanie Guérit for contributing to the writing of this notice.