Ancient French Painting
See also : 18th century painting Ancient art by women Louis XIV to XVI Revolution and Empire Louis XVIII to 2nd Empire Orientalism Horse Cats
Chronology : 1650-1659 1700-1719 1750-1759 1760-1769 1770-1779 1780-1789 1810-1819 1820-1829 1830-1839 1840-1849 1860-1869
1650 Sunrise on a Roman Seaport
2013 SOLD 5 M£ including premium
On December 3 in London, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 101 x 135 cm, estimated £ 3M, recently rediscovered after having remained out of sight for more than a century.
This painting was done in 1650 on order of a cardinal. The artist honors a local saint: during the reign of the pious emperor Theodosius, a woman named Paula left Rome to live the hermit adventure under the direction of Jerome who is indeed the only recorder of her hagiography.
From the perspective of Christian iconography this action is not spectacular, but the sunrise on a fancy Mediterranean seaport is sumptuous. Much later, Turner complacently recognized the considerable influence of Lorrain on his own vision.
The antique columns that close the left edge of the picture anticipate by more than half a century the fashion of the Roman capricci and the tall ships are worthy of a van de Velde.
POST SALE COMMENT
The quality and rarity of this painting led it to £ 5M including premium.
1718-1719 Christie's discovered a Watteau, what a surprise !
2008 SOLD 12.3 M£ including premium
A little more than one month ago, Christie's had announced in a press release the reappearance of a painting of Watteau presumedly destroyed for two centuries. The press had seized this information, rightly. Let us not forget it, but it is necessary to wait two more months for the sale, which will be done in London on July 8.
Entitled "la Surprise", this painting was known through a copy, and the owner was unaware of being in possession of an original. If as it is probable Christie's manages to sell it, the pockets of this happy British countryman will then have filled from at least 3 M£.
Of small size, it is an outdoor scene, elegant and dynamic, with feverish movement, with images typified according to the so specific technique of Watteau: the player of guitar, the couple of lovers, the puppy.
A masterpiece? Yes. One of the great biddings of the year? Probably not. The painting, whose exact dimensions are not revealed in the official statement, appears to be not larger than a paper sheet.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price obtained is also a surprise: £ 12.3 million charge included.
This painting had been announced well in advance by Christie's as one of the highlights of the season. It had the advantage of never being viewed before on the market and disadvantage of being small: 36x28 cm.
The market has thus confirmed the view of Christie's that this painting is a masterpiece of Watteau, and that Watteau is a major painter in the history of art. There is no doubt that we will not soon see a similar one reappear in a sale. A masterpiece that can be considered as single on the market has no price, but I think nobody could reasonably predict that it would be so high.
1757 Vernet came back to Avignon
2013 SOLD 5.4 M£ including premium
The port is seen as a very elongated panorama with great care given to the truth of the details. The foreground is animated by characters in their local daily activities, adding the study of manners to the topographic realism.
Vernet does not crush the view in a narrow format and leaves a large place to sky, treated with abundant clouds in a beautiful sunset light. Only Francesco Guardi in his best period has reached such a balance between topographic realism and artistic imagination.
In 1757, Vernet gets permission from the marquis to spend a few months in his hometown of Avignon where he executes an ancient commission for a local dignitary.
Completed in 1757 as a 99 x 183 cm oil on canvas, the view of Avignon from the right bank of the Rhône is smaller than the royal paintings but has otherwise identical characteristics, with a similar topographic detail. Of course, private works made by Vernet during the period of the Ports of France are very rare.
The Avignon view is estimated £ 3M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 3.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting dates from the best period of Vernet. It deserved £ 5.4 million including premium.
The image is shared on Wikimedia:
1769 Fragonard out of his Time
2013 SOLD 17 M£ including premium
Fragonard made a small series of oils on canvas known under the generic title of Portraits de fantaisie. Only one of these artworks is dated : 1769, the year of his marriage. It is not by chance.
Close to the aristocracy, Fragonard endeavours at that time to demonstrate that he may revolutionize the art of portrait. These paintings are comparable to the tronies made by Rembrandt. The likeness to the sitter is not the most important.
The movement of shoulders and head brings energy and even violence. Strong colors evoke passion. Fancy costumes "à l'Espagnole" provide a theatrical dimension that also positions the work out of its time.
Influenced by Chardin, Fragonard understood the importance of color. This series of fantasy portraits is an essential link in the history of art between Rembrandt and Manet. He will be the great-granduncle of Berthe Morisot.
Few models have been identified with certainty. Brilliant intellectual, François-Henri d' Harcourt enjoyed his portrait to the point that his family kept it until 1971.
This oil on canvas 81 x 65 cm was then purchased at auction by Dr. Rau. Coming now from this prestigious collection, it is for sale to the benefit of UNICEF by Bonhams in London on December 5.
POST SALE COMMENT
This painting has some exceptional qualities reinforced by the fact that it was one of the top masterpieces of the Rau collection and was sold for the benefit of UNICEF. It was sold for £ 17M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Bonhams on YouTube. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1776 An English Commission for Vernet
2011 SOLD 7 M$ including premium
When he returned to France, King Louis XV commissioned him a series of monumental paintings showing life in the ports of France. He worked to it during ten years, from 1753 to 1762, and realized fourteen large size paintings, 263 x 165 cm.
The compositions are similar to those of his contemporary of Venice, Francesco Guardi. The ports are realistic and recognizable. In the foreground, on the waterfront, a crowd of small figures brings the atmosphere of the time.
The English aristocrats were lovers of art and tourism. In 1774, one of them ordered to the artist a pair of paintings of a similar size as those of the royal commission. One of them is estimated $ 1.5 million, for sale at Sotheby's in New York on January 27.
Dated 1776, it shows a quiet sea shore at sunset. Small characters are unloading some merchandise from a tall ship that can be seen offshore. Buildings on the left are certainly part of a port facility. It is not located and is probably a work of imagination, as many of the unofficial paintings by Vernet.
Vernet's art is a realistic witnessing of his time, much interesting and also unexpected as it comes between the mythological imagination of le Lorrain (Claude Gellée) and the sentimental excesses of the Romantics.
POST SALE COMMENT
It is a very good day for the lovers of marine views by Vernet.
As I understood it, the painting described in my article could be compared to the most famous masterpieces of Vernet. It was sold $ 7M including premium.
A marine of smaller dimensions, 57 x 74 cm, was sold for $ 2.4 million including premium.
1788 The Ambassador from Mysore
2019 SOLD for $ 7.2M including premium
The arrival in Paris in July 1788 of three ambassadors from Mysore with a suite of about thirty people is a sensational and picturesque event. Great enemy of the English, the Sultan of Mysore was preparing a new war and hoped to be helped by France. The sumptuous Muslim clothes of his diplomats ensure their credibility.
Elisabeth remembers opportunely that one of her earliest ambitions had been to be a history painter. With the indispensable support of King Louis XVI, she obtains the authorization to paint the portraits of these exotic lords.
On January 30 in New York, Sotheby's sells the full length portrait of the leader of the delegation, lot 48 estimated $ 4M.
This oil on canvas 226 x 136 cm shows the white bearded man holding an oriental sword with curved blade. This composition is reminiscent of the portrait of the young Polynesian prince Omai by Reynolds in 1776. The exotic traveler is shown life-size, standing in front of a landscape in a counter-dive view that increases his dignity.
The image shared by Wikimedia is trimmed on the left and lower edges.
1812 Boulevard du Crime
2010 SOLD 4.56 M$ including premium
While the Palais-Royal is the place to go to fashion, Boulevard du Crime becomes the active center of entertainment and amusements. Its real name was Boulevard du Temple, but the Parisians had given it that nickname as a fun for the horrors that the theaters offered to good people.
At Christie's on January 27 in New York, Boilly observes a large crowd engaged in various activities in front of the entry of Café Turc, boulevard du Temple, in 1812. The costumes can not mistake on the time. This slice of Parisian life is an oil on canvas, 73 x 91 cm, estimated $ 3 million.
Typical of its time, the Café Turc was both a place of tasting ice creams and exotic drinks, and a garden. Paris enjoyed during the next decades an intense development of dancing gardens, cafés concerts, theme parks and restaurants.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lively Parisian scene has been regarded by purchasers as one of the masterpieces of Boilly. It was sold 4.56 million $ including premium.
Here the image of the star lot of this evening, shared a few days before the sale by Art Market Monitor.
1818 Portrait of the Dedreux Children by Géricault
2009 SOLD 9 M€ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
The fall of the Empire opens a new phase, which culminates in 1819 with The Raft of the Medusa, a monumental work without mercy which symbolizes the true destiny of men, in a heroism devoid of meaning and hope.
In his workshop of the rue des Martyrs, Géricault regularly meets other artists including Carle and Horace Vernet, Delacroix and Dedreux-Dorcy. He makes a few portraits of the two children of Dedreux-Dorcy's brother.
In 1818 Géricault is forced against his will to take an interest in children. He could not recognize the birth of his son Georges-Hippolyte, the result of his incest with the wife of his uncle and declared as the son of the housemaid born from an unknown father.
The portrait of Alfred and Elise Dedreux is an oil on canvas 99 x 79 cm painted in 1818. The boy is 8 years old and the girl two years younger. They resemble each other and are similarly hairstyled and dressed. The girl is standing, dominating this scene.
At that time Géricault sought to convert into a neo-classical style. The double portrait is chilling. The gazes of the children are uncompromising for this world of adults in which they do not enter. The landscape behind them is arbitrary and unidentifiable. Two small flowers fall from the hand of the girl who pays no attention to them. This picture is a double tronie, anticipating by its psychological stiffness the studies of mental patients of the later period of the artist.
The young Alfred was passionate about the images of horses painted by Géricault. He will specialize in this theme under the name of Alfred de Dreux, thus usurping a noble particle.
The portrait of the Dedreux children remained in Elise's family until 1925. From the Saint-Laurent - Bergé collection, it was sold for € 9M including premium by Christie's on February 23, 2009 over a lower estimate of € 4M, lot 83. It was bought in that sale by Liliane Bettencourt. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1820 Portrait of Ramel de Nogaret by David
2008 SOLD for $ 7.2M including premium by Christie's
1833-1834 Choc de Cavaliers Arabes by Delacroix
1998 SOLD for FF 46.5M before fees by Piasa
1845 Corot above the Fireplace
2018 SOLD for $ 9M including premium
Nobody is really convinced by the art of Corot until the young Baudelaire, in 1845, observes that the simplicity of his landscapes is not naive but is instead a supreme harmony. As a result Corot's art is forever unclassifiable, between classicism and modernism. Despite his pleasure in open-air painting, he cannot be considered as a forerunner of the Impressionnistes, in the opposite of Boudin and Courbet slightly later.
Throughout his life Corot has a lot of friends. He supplies paintings to a magistrate of Mantes whom he met from 1840 and decorates in his own hand the walls of the bathroom with Italian views.
Corot had visited Venice in 1828 and 1834. For the same friend he painted in 1845 an enlarged version in the format 48 x 82 cm of a view of the quay of the Schiavoni towards Santa Maria della Salute.
In 1957 this painting caught the attention of David Rockefeller. It is not a Canaletto : the animation is poor. It is not a Guardi : the sky is too blue. It is neither a Turner nor a Monet : the line is too sharp to offer an atmosphere. Despite the confusing perspective on the Piazzetta, it is not a wide-angle photo. The erroneous shadows of earlier versions of this image have fortunately been rectified.
This bright painting has two other qualities : it exudes a great serenity and its width is in harmony with the fireplace of the library in the country house at Hudson Pines. It superseded at this place a Jas de Bouffan by Cézanne of which Rockefeller was tired and was to remain there until his death. It is estimated $ 5M for sale by Christie's in New York on May 8, lot 4.
1862 The Darings of Courbet
2015 SOLD for $ 15.3M including premium
He is provocative. Taking the format of an epic painting on a large size, 315 x 668 cm, L'Enterrement à Ornans makes a scandal in 1850. Proudhon is delighted.
The second empire, decreed in 1852, marks the return in France of a prudish censorship that sends its policemen against a pornography now facilitated by photography. For the artists opponent to the regime of Napoléon III, the nude becomes a challenge.
The deliberate ugliness enters the theme of the nude in 1853 with Les Baigneuses by Courbet. Even Ingres, yet close to the government, is interested in this new approach. His Bain Turc, on which he worked for ten years, is an unprecedented erotic accumulation that takes Orientalism as an excuse to avoid reprisals.
On November 9 in New York, Christie's sells a Femme nue couchée, oil on canvas 75 x 97 cm painted by Courbet in 1862, lot 10A estimated $ 15M.
The woman viewed in full length is reclining on a bed, her head turned in a rest position, looking like some replica of the Venus of Urbino but without the discreet hand. Her offering attitude and the half undone stocking reveal that a sexual activity was just completed. The provocation of the picture is increased by a surrounding in romanticist style with a curtain and a landscape.
Such women by Courbet represent a milestone in modern French painting. On one hand, new private customers invite Courbet to even more daring pictures. On the other hand, Manet does not hesitate to confront the scandal with Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe and Olympia.
1862 Portrait of the Artist as an Old Tiger
2018 SOLD for $ 9.9M including premium
The artist appreciates that passion is not a human exclusivity and he loves the powerful savagery of tigers and lions. A great admirer of Rubens, he is inspired by the whirlwind of his hunting scenes.
An artist needs real models, although Dürer's rhinoceros is a wonderful exception. Géricault is passionate about horses and Raden Saleh remembers big game hunting. For his tigers and lions, Delacroix looks at his pet cat and at stuffed animals in the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle. Fortunately the menagerie of the Jardin des Plantes hosts a tiger from 1847.
In 1862 the artist feels old and tired. The tiger remained his emblem and his friends flatter him by comparing his behavior with the anthropocentric emotions attributed to this animal. Delacroix imagines confrontations with reptiles. Facing the threat of the snake, the big cat no longer knows how he can still win.
On May 8 in New York, Christie's sells Tigre jouant avec une tortue, oil on canvas 45 x 62 cm painted in 1862, lot 3 estimated $ 5M.
As ever the animal behavior is fanciful. A fully grown tiger no longer plays because game is used by cubs to train in hunting. This one with a paw on the tortoise is stopping as if he waited some advice. The tortoise disturbed and threatened by the predator omitted to close its shell.
François de Ricqlès, President of Christie’s France, explains how this exceptional Romantic work that ‘marks the beginning of modernity’ also speaks to the Rockefeller family’s long and mutually admiring relationship with France. Check it out here: https://t.co/8QpCJrNHVH pic.twitter.com/alUUMid0bs— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) March 25, 2018