top of page
Guillaume Jean Constantin (1755–1816):  A Drawings Dealer in Paris

Guillaume Jean Constantin (1755–1816): A Drawings Dealer in Paris


Published by Ad Ilissvm for the Fondation Custodia  


This extraordinary and original study traces the career of the influential Paris art dealer Guillaume Jean Constantin (1755-1816). Using Constantin’s dealer’s mark and a wealth of unpublished archival material, Joachim Jacoby reconstructs Constantin’s hitherto unknown business activities and rediscovers an early and important instance of a bourgeois art dealer.  


In the course of the 18th century, drawings by old and contemporary masters became an esteemed collectors’ item and, in consequence, a highly valued commodity of the art market. This study looks at this business from the perspective of the art dealer Guillaume Jean Constantin (1755-1816), who was active in Paris during the last quarter of the 18th and the first years of the 19th century. 


Constantin’s transactions are reconstructed on the evidence of his dealer’s mark applied to drawings – here identified for the first time – and unpublished material drawn from archives in Paris. His dealership in drawings is analysed with a focus on his business network within France and his far-reaching contacts, which also covered other regions of Europe, including England, Italy, Germany and Russia. Due to a particlularly rich documentation, his relationship with Johann Friedrich Städel, a Frankfurt collector and founder of the eponymous institute, can be described in detail. Other aspects of Constantin’s multi-faceted activities were his work as an expert in estate evaluation, as an auctioneer and as a print publisher, including in 1794 the publication of the famous portrait of the revolutionary hero Jean-Paul Marat after a design by Jacques-Louis David. He also served as paintings curator to Empress Joséphine, Napoleon’s wife. Working in proximity to the contemporary art world, he promoted living artists, among them his close friend Pierre-Paul Prud’hon. Constantin’s working life spanned the period between the French Revolution and the Empire, established under Napoleon. His changing allegiances are to be seen against this historical background.


This handsomely produced book is published by Ad Ilissvm in a new series, The Fondation Custodia Studies in the History of Art, which reflects and continues forward into the present the scholarly interests of the institution’s founder, Frits Lugt. The next book in the series, prepared by Jean-Paul Bouillon, will publish a previously unknown collection of letters, recently acquired by the Fondation Custodia, by Édouard Manet to his friend the painter and printmaker Félix Bracquemond.

  • By Joachim Jacoby

    February 2019 

    Published by Ad Ilissvm for the Fondation Custodia 

    246 x 186 mm, softcover

    188 pages, 75 colour illus.

    ISBN: 978-1-912168-12-5  

  • About the Fondation Custodia

    Frits Lugt and his wife, Jacoba Klever, created the Fondation Custodia in Paris in 1947. They housed their impressive collection in a building where the public could admire and study it. One of the largest private collections of old master drawings, prints and artists’ letters, the Fondation Custodia is considered the ‘home of works on paper’ in France. Situated in the Hôtel Turgot, an eighteenth-century hôtel particulier located between Rue de Lille and Rue de l’Université in the 7th arrondissement, the Fondation also has a remarkable collection of rare books, portrait miniatures, paintings, antiquities, stained glass, antique frames, sculptures, furniture and Chinese porcelain.


    Joachim Jacoby, an independent art historian, curated the 2012 exhibition of Raphael’s drawings at the Graphische Sammlung of the Städel Museum, Frankfurt-am-Main. Among his publications are a volume on prints after designs by Hans von Aachen in the New Hollstein German series (1996), a study of Raphael's Stanza dell'Incendio, Vatican Palace (2007), a critical catalogue of the drawings of Adam Elsheimer (2008), and a catalogue of selected Italian Renaissance drawings from the Städel Museum (2014).


  • In the press

    "Thoroughly researched and elegantly designed." –Print Quarterly


    “The French dealer’s … fascinating career and flexible views are the subject of [this] new study” — Apollo Magazine 


    "Rigorous, meticulous yet readable, this study is elegantly designed and generously illustrated (especially with the versos of mounts) and represents a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the art market." — The Burlington Magazine


    "In this meticulously researched study, Joachim Jacoby brings out of the shadows a figure who will join the ranks of art-world influencers." —Art Newspaper 


    "A resource of first importance for any collector of old drawings, historian or the professional market."

    (un outil de travail de premiére importance pour tout collectionneaur de dessins anciens, historien ou professionnel du marché.)

    —Gazette de Drouot 

bottom of page