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Felix Maria Diogg (1762-1834)

Felix Maria Diogg (1762-1834)

Portrait of a Man

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Portrait of Jean-Jacques Mercier – 1818

Felix Maria Diogg was a Swiss painter and is considered the most important Swiss Classicism portraitist. Born 1 July 1762 in Andermatt, in the canton of Uri, was a son of a carpenter, painter, gilder and farmer. The great fire of Andermatt in 1766 forced the family to move to Tschamut in the canton of Graubünden where the abbot of Disentis, Columban Sozzi, paid attention to the talent of the boy. In 1780 Sozzi enabled Diogg to travel to the painter Johann Melchior Wyrsch who ran an art school in Besançon. From 1785 to 1788 Diogg travelled to Firenze, Roma and Napoli in Italy. In 1788 he returned to Switzerland, but went again on the move one year later.

Felix Christoph Fuchs Cajetan, painter and writer in residence in Rapperswil, prompted Diogg to come to Rapperswil where Diogg was introduced to the influential families and received numerous portrait commissions. Even in his early career Diogg was travelling: he painted in Appenzell, St. Gallen and Herisau, from 1799 to 1809 in Bern and western Switzerland, later in Alsace and in Karlsruhe where he portrayed the Russian Empress Elizabeth Alexeyevna in 1814. In 1816 Diogg lived in Frankfurt am Main, but the Zürichsee region remained the centre of his sphere. Felix Maria Diogg died in Rapperswil on 19 February 1834. Diogg painted probably more than 600 portraits, but only slightly more than 300 survive. This inventory provides a snapshot of the Swiss "upper class" between the French Revolution and the beginning of Restoration, beyond the aristocracy to the upper-middle-class people. His Classicism style ranges between distant stylization and committed realism. Representatives from different walks of life interested Diogg primarily as individuals; social category attributes and anecdotal elements recede.

Diogg's way of working is characterized by three-quarter views against a neutral, dark background; Diogg sought a natural effect and seems to have mapped directly onto the canvas without preparatory studies. His main focus was the face, especially the eyes, which gave life to his paintings. The clothing was simple in accordance with contemporary fashion.

Jean-Jacques Mercier (1750-1827) was a prosperous industrialist, also known as Jean-Jacques I. The Mercier family originated in Millau (France), a major tanning centre in the Middle Ages. Like many Huguenots (French Protestants), the Mercier brothers Pierre, Jean and Antoine emigrated to the industrial Flon district of Lausanne. They founded the Mercier tannery in 1740. They quickly made a name for themselves and the tannery prospered. The Mercier family became citizens of Lausanne of Lausanne in 1773, entrenching their name in the area for many generations. Three generations of Jean-Jacques Mercier succeeded him at the tannery until its closure in 1898, each bringing greater prosperity to the family through their political and economic involvement. The Merciers can thus be compared to other great industrial dynasties such as the Sandoz or Suchard families.

Oil on canvas, recently restored, unsigned. There is an inscription in French on the back of the canvas with the text: "Jean-Jacques Mercier born 18 January 1750. Painted by Diog(g) on 18 June 1818". Another annotation with the name of the owner of the painting: "Mr. Mercier, Vevey, Geneva". Gilded wooden frame, with minor imperfections.

Sources: Wikipedia; Au peuple vaudois: 1803-1903 Payot, 1903

Artist: Felix Maria Diogg (1762-1834).
Medium: Oil on canvas.
Condition: Very good condition.
Dimensions: 67 x 53 cm. / 26 ¼ x 21 in.
Frame: 75 x 61 cm. / 29 ½ x 24 in. Gilt wood, very good condition.
Provenance: France.

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