Thomas Bludget de Valdenuit
Portrait of a Young Man, Believed to be Benjamin Woolsey Rogers, in Profile
Signed Vald, dated 1797 (ll), inscribed illegibly (ur), and dated 1797 on the reverse
Chalk on pink prepared paper
19 x 14 inches
Born in France, Thomas Bludget de Valdenuit came to America in the aftermath of the French Revolution, joining forces with his fellow countryman, Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Memin to create profile portraits with a physiognotrace. Invented in France in 1783-84, the device was designed to mechanically trace a sitter's portrait in profile. The partners offered a package deal: a silhouette portrait executed in black chalk on pink toned paper, a small engraved metal plate, and a dozen engravings. In their partnership, Valdenuit drew the initial likeness, and Saint-Memin produced the plate and prints. The business arrangement ended in September 1797 when Valdenuit returned to France.
The present work is believed to depict Benjamin Woolsey Rogers (1765-1859), part of a prosperous New York family that made a substantial fortune from the importation of hardware. Rogers himself served as a governor of New York Hospital and was a founder of the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane. An engraving of Rogers by Saint-Memin dated 1796 may possibly relate to the present work.
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