Ancient French Painting
Chronology : 18th century 1710-1719 1760-1769 1770-1779 1810-1819 1830-1839 1840-1849 1860-1869
1717 Le Pèlerinage à l'Ile de Cythère by Watteau
In 1717 le Pèlerinage à l'île de Cythère is the reception masterpiece that granted Antoine Watteau the full membership in the Académie Royale de peinture.
They had no category to classify that romantic entertainment landscape populated by couples of lovers, by theatrical characters in fancy attire and by dancers. They coined for it the name Fête galante. It was indeed in the mood of the aristocratic pleasures of the Régence, the regime of frivolities that followed the death in 1715 of King Louis XIV.
Watteau's managed here a happy synthesis of realty, allegory and mythology. In a kinetic effect far ahead of its time, the couples are getting closer toward a state of dancing intimacy as they come down to the boat.
The image is shared by Wikimedia. Please watch the video prepared by Khan Academy and shared by Smarthistory.
The creation process of that masterpiece was improved when a previous trial on the same theme was re-authenticated thanks to x-ray and infrared inspections. Despite a detailed provenance from the mid 18th century, this oil on canvas 97 x 116 cm fell into oblivion, being considered as late as 2018 in a Paris auction as Ecole française du XVIIIème siècle, entourage d'Antoine Watteau.
A much enthusiastic creator, Watteau worked in a continuous improvisation with pentimenti and over-layers or even more radical changes to his paintings.
This late afternoon scene of three couples walking arm-in-arms amidst various symbols of love is an autograph painting by Watteau on the Pèlerinage à l'ile de Cythère. That theme of an Arcadian paradise had been selected by the artist himself for his piece of reception at the Académie Royale de peinture, a special move against their usual request for a theme defined by them.
Accepted as an associated member in 1712, the artist had waived that mandatory realization until 1717 despite yearly reminders. It is guessed that the re-attributed work was an abandoned trial ca 1715-1716. The composition of the masterpiece will be significantly different in the details, more complex and in a larger size, but quite similar in its romantic feeling.
The x ray revealed that the Cythère had been painted over a Madonna and Child with a dove in the style of Rubens of which Watteau will make a final version currently held at the Hermitage. When he changed his mind for the use of that canvas, Watteau had turned it by 90 degrees.
That Cythère was not fully finished, which could explain that it was not known to Jullienne and not printed in period. It was sold for $ 1.86M by Christie's in January 25, 2023, lot 141.
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.
replica from 1733 La Fontaine by Chardin
2021 SOLD for € 7.1M by Christie's
Fellow artists laugh at him : he is a painter of cakes and sausages. In reaction, Chardin begins in 1733 a genre theme of kitchen maids in everyday life in the manner of Teniers. La Blanchisseuse, 38 x 48 cm, is his masterpiece in this new style. This oil on canvas is kept at the Hermitage Museum.
Femme tirant de l'Eau à la Fontaine is the pendant to La Blanchisseuse. Two pairs are known, one at the Stockholm National Museum and the other at the Toledo Museum of Art.
The Fontaine from Stockholm is the original version. This oil on oak panel 38 x 42 cm has an obscured date that can be 1733.
Another autograph replica of La Fontaine, oil on canvas 40 x 43 cm signed by Chardin, is using the same exquisite palette of colors as the original. It was later made vertical by adding a 10 cm canvas stripe at the top. Beautifully preserved, it was sold for € 7.1M from a lower estimate of € 5M by Christie's on November 22, 2021, lot 7.
1761 Panier de Fraises des Bois by Chardin
2022 SOLD for € 24.4M by Artcurial
Following the path opened by Adriaen Coorte around 1700, Chardin opts for the simplest geometric tabletop compositions in a contrasted light in front of a dark raw background.
Le Panier de fraises des bois, oil on canvas 38 x 46 cm, was released for the Salon de 1761 and illustrated by Saint-Aubin in the livret of that exhibition. It displays a stack of wild strawberries as a spectacular conical tabletop in a basket. That vivid red fruit had been Coorte's preferred pictorial theme.
The composition is completed on the table by a glass filled with limpid water, and by two ornamental cut off flowers, two cherries and a peach. Chardin had skillfully added an upper layer of red lacquer to link together the grainy berries while he left slightly unfocused the carnations.
Recognized as a masterpiece of Chardin's maturity offering a perfect sharp viewing from an ideal distance of 5 m away, Le panier was kept in a private French collection since 1862. It was sold for € 24.4M from a lower estimate of € 12M by Artcurial on March 23, 2022, lot 15. Please watch the video shared by the auction house. The image is shared by Wikimedia.
1765 Sacrifice au Minotaure by Fragonard
2023 for sale on November 22 by Artcurial
waiting for catalogue
□ Rediscover a masterpiece!— ARTCURIAL (@Artcurial) September 27, 2023
Preserved in the same family for over a century, "The Sacrifice to the Minotaur" will be presented in the Old Masters & 19th Century auction on the occasion of @fabparisfair!
Estimate: €4M - €6M
□ Catalog: https://t.co/bxM4Na45iv
□ Auction: 11/22 pic.twitter.com/dnU3eyCIlQ
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.
1770 Un Philosophe lisant by Fragonard
2021 SOLD for € 7.7M by Enchères Champagne
The step further is the genre scene staging such characters. The Hamburger Kunsthalle has a reading philosopher, oil on oval canvas 52 x 74 cm dated around 1764 by that museum. The old man is scrutinizing with some excitement a paper stack in front of him. He is leaning with his left arm on other papers for offsetting his poor eyesight in that task. The contrast is dramatic between the face and cloth in the shadow and the brightly lit shaggy hair, thick beard and paper.
A previously unknown autograph replica has just surfaced during an inventory near Epernay. The philosopher is featured in a similar position excepted that the head is in full profile, providing a dynamic impetus in the flamboyant style of Fragonard. The creamy white is reminding Chardin. It is dated circa 1768-1770 by Cabinet Turquin.
Forgotten after being auctioned in 1779, this oil on oval canvas 46 x 57 cm is in great condition in its original frame. It was sold for € 7.7M at the Hôtel des Ventes d'Epernay on June 26, 2021 from a lower estimate of € 1.5M. It is illustrated in the pre sale release shared by the bidding platform Interencheres. Please watch the video shared by Artcento, where the painting is narrated by Stéphane Pinta from Cabinet Turquin.
1807-1808 Le Sacre de Napoléon by David
The image is shared by Wikimedia.
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.
1834 Choc de Cavaliers Arabes by Delacroix
1998 SOLD for FF 51M later worth € 7.7M by Piasa
narrated in 2020
In 1834 the oil on canvas Femmes d'Alger dans leur Appartement is the masterpiece of this new exoticism. It recreates the living room of a harem by featuring women from Paris dressed in Algiers fashion. The painting which indirectly addresses the taboo theme of prostitution is accepted at the Salon and immediately purchased by the Louvre. Picasso will compare this mixture of genres to his own Demoiselles d'Avignon.
In the same year, Choc de Cavaliers Arabes is a memory of a military celebration. The artist shows the moment of heightened energy when two riders stop their galloping horses after having fired the rifle shot required by the fantasia. The theme did not appeal to the Parisian jury : this piece was rejected by the Salon. Influenced directly by Géricault and Gros, Delacroix excelled in the representation of horses.
This oil on canvas 80 x 100 cm was sold by Piasa on June 19, 1998 for FF 51M, equivalent to € 7.7M, including premium, from a lower estimate of FF 8M.
The rejection by the Salon did not discourage the artist : two autograph drawings were made in 1834 in reverse composition to prepare the lithographic edition. One of them, 18 x 25 cm, was sold for € 39K including premium by Artcurial on June 16, 2020.
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