This striking image is a counterproof of one of Liotard’s most famous drawings, the remarkable depiction of the merchant Francis Levett in Tatar costume, drawn in Istanbul in around 1738 now in the collection of the Louvre.
Liotard made some of his most sensitive and beguiling drawings in black and red chalk whilst staying in Istanbul. Two of the most spectacular depict the English trader and member of the Levant Company, Francis Levett seated in Tatar costume, the present composition and another study by Liotard now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The latter sheet was used by Liotard in preparation for an oil of Levett and Hélène Glavany, now in the Louvre. The present composition was engraved by Johann Christoph Reinsperger. A number of counterproofs after Liotard’s most beautiful Turkish drawings survive, suggesting he consciously replicated his own drawings either to retain a copy or to aid in their reproduction; the present counterproof might have been used by Reinsperger to produce his print.
Liotard’s drawing of Levett is one of the most remarkable images of a European adopting Ottoman, or more specifically Tatar costume. It stands as one of the quintessential images of Turquerie. Levett himself was a fascinating figure who had an international career, eventually building a business that had concerns in India, Africa and America.