a girl carries a tray with a porcelain chocolate cup and a glass of water
© SKD, Foto: Wolfgang Kreische

“The most beautiful pastel ever seen.” The Chocolate Girl by Jean-Étienne Liotard

The exhibition focuses on one of the most famous works in the collection of the Dresden Gemäldegalerie, The Chocolate Girl by the Swiss artist Jean-Étienne Liotard (1702–1789). Liotard enjoyed enormous success as a pastel painter; even Rosalba Carriera, whose mastery of the medium had helped transform it into a serious and highly-admired art form, declared The Chocolate Girl to be “the most beautiful pastel ever seen”.

  • DATES 28/09/2018—06/01/2019

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It was thanks to the art dealer Count Francesco Algarotti, who purchased the picture in Venice in 1745, buying it directly from the artist for the Dresden collection of Augustus III, that the gallery first began to show works by contemporary artists. The pastel medium suited the Rococo taste for lifelike, brilliant portraits and allowed Liotard to create flawless, porcelain-smooth surfaces. The great popularity of the picture, however, also rests on the fact that it depicts a simple, unidentified housemaid, a hitherto rare motif. The clear-eyed precision of Liotard’s observation anticipated not only the art of the Enlightenment but also nineteenth-century Realism.

a girl carries a tray with a porcelain chocolate cup and a glass of water
© SKD, Foto: Wolfgang Kreische
Jean-Étienne Liotard, The Chocolate Girl, c. 1744

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Equally worthy of mention are the countless adaptations and appropriations of the motif for other, often trivial purposes. Of no less interest is the eccentric painter himself. A true cosmopolitan, he travelled far and wide, sported a luxuriant beard, exotic clothing and a turban and called himself "Le peintre turc". The exhibition's epilogue showcases Hann Trier's take on Liotard's masterpiece. Painted in 1991, Trier's three-part sequence "La Tasse au chocolat", reinterpreted The Chocolate Girl for the twentieth century.

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