Joseph Balsamo, Comte De Cagliostro Painting by Pierre Alexandre Wille
Joseph Balsamo, Count of Cagliostro, in his doctor-alchemist’s office, making a homunculus appear
Oil on canvas by Pierre Alexandre Wille (1748-1827)
Dimensions: 72.5 x 58cm
The way in which this scene is represented shows that the painter is not fooled by the processes by which Balsamo had won for years a reputation as a magician and healer among not only the credulous bourgeois but also the highest figures of the court of Louis. XVI, especially Cardinal de Rohan.
This painting can be dated to around 1785 when he was involved in the affair of the Queen’s necklaces, which caused him to suddenly lose most of his customers. He was forced to leave France the following year.
This painting is an extremely interesting testimony to the mores in France a few years before the Revolution. It shows how a clever man, devoid of scruples, can take advantage of the naivety of his clients.
Note the presence of an oil on canvas, the interrupted contract, attributed to Pierre Alexandre Wille at the Château de Blois