Johann Gottlieb Prestel (German, 1739-1808)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection
The career of Johann Gottlieb Prestel began modestly, since it was only during his apprenticeship with a carpenter that his talent in drawing was noticed. His Wanderjahr brought him to Venice, where he made the acquaintance of the portraitist Giuseppe Nogari. Nogari accepted him as a pupil, though Prestel ultimately finished his studies with other masters. A trip to Rome in his late twenties proved decisive, not only because of the experience of ancient sculpture and architecture, but also because it brought Prestel into contact with contemporary painters, including Pompeo Batoni. He returned from his years in Italy to Nuremberg in 1770 where, except for an interlude in Zurich, he spent the next twenty-three years as a reproductive printmaker. He moved to Frankfurt am Main in 1793.
The striking modernity of this drawing lies in the dynamic use of the brush and in the depiction of personality. The image is laid out in angular lines of black chalk, with spiky lines defining the artist’s perruque or wig. Black ink and slashing lines of gray wash reinforce the image, while the artist’s pensive expression and downcast eyes give hints to his inner life.