Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Young Girl at the Scamander River (1824)

Joseph-Désiré Court: Young Girl at the Scamander River

The Scamander River is in Turkey. Scamander was also a Greek river god.

Joseph-Désiré Court (1797-1865) was a pupil of Antoine-Jean Gros. He painted historical and mythological subjects, and portraits.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Murdered Woman (1824)

Jean Victor Schnetz: Murdered Woman

Schnetz (1787-1870) was a student of David. He was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1837, and was twice the Director of the French Academy in Rome, from 1841-1846 and again in 1853-1866.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces (1824)

Jacques-Louis David: Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces

Here we have David's last great painting. It was begun in 1822 and its progress interrupted by illness.

The painting depicts Mars (the Roman God of war) being charmed by Venus (the Roman Goddess of beauty and love) and the Three Graces. Cupid is at the bottom of the picture, untying the sandal on Mars' foot, his golden arrow placed beside him. However, hesitation is shown in the image of Venus pausing before placing the crown of thorns on Mars' head. [Liberté]

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Death of Géricault (1824)

Ary Scheffer: The Death of Géricault

Despite the great difference in style of these two painters, this is a wonderful and dramatic tribute.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Portrait of Firmin Didot (1823)

Anne-Louis Girodet: Portrait of Firmin Didot

One of Girodet's last works (he died the following year) was this delightful drawing of his friend Firmin Didot, a prominent typographer who invented the word "stereotype," which in its original sense didn't refer to making broad-brush judgments about a group of people but rather to how pages are set up for printing.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Death of the Prince de Talmont (1823)

Fleury-François Richard: Death of the Prince de Talmont

The painting depicts the death of Charles de la Trémoille, Prince of Talmont and Mortagne after the battle of Marignano in 1515. The scene is a fictional account of the event, the setting being the Saint Martin d’Ainay, the oldest surviving church in Lyons.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Clytemnestra and Agamemnon (ca. 1822)

Pierre-Narcisse Guérin: Clytemnestra and Agamemnon

In Greek myth, Clytemnestra was a "femme fatale" who murdered her husband Agamemnon and the Trojan princess Cassandra, taken by Agamemnon as a "prize" during the Trojan War.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mary, Queen of Scots, Separated from Her Faithful (1822)

Pierre Révoil: Mary, Queen of Scots, Separated from Her Faithful

The French have always felt a connection to Mary Queen of Scots (at least as indicated by her frequent portrayal by French artists) because 1) she was Catholic, and 2) she was married to a French king before he died at an early age. Her youthful life is now the subject of the fanciful (and wildly unhistorical, but fun) CW drama, Reign.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Distribution of Wine and Food (1822)

Louis Léopold Boilly: Distribution of Wine and Food

Another great scene by Boilly. The distribution of food and beverages to the public to mark special occasions was a tradition of the Ancien Régime. In 1806, the practice was restored by Napoleon when the 15th August became Saint Napoleon's Day. In the above scene of chaotic disorder, men and women are climbing all over each other to get their hands on something to drink. The central group is one great tangle of grasping limbs, as men clamber onto each other's backs to grab for the wine. Even the dogs in the foreground are fighting; neither will let go of a hat that's fallen off someone's head in the mad rush. [All Things Considered]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fra Filippo Lippi Falling in Love with his Model (1822)

Paul Delaroche: Fra Filippo Lippi Falling in Love with his Model

In June 1456 Fra Filippo is recorded as living in Prato (near Florence) to paint frescoes in the choir of the cathedral. In 1458, while engaged in this work, he set about painting a picture for the monastery chapel of S. Margherita in that city, where he met Lucrezia Buti, the beautiful daughter of a Florentine named Francesco Buti; she was either a novice of the Order or a young lady placed under the nuns' guardianship. Lippi asked that she might be permitted to sit for the figure of the Madonna (or perhaps S. Margherita). Under that pretext, Lippi engaged in sexual relations with her, abducted her to his own house, and kept her there despite the nuns' efforts to reclaim her. The result was their son Filippino Lippi, who became a painter no less famous than his father. Such is Vasari's narrative, published less than a century after the alleged events. [Wikipedia]

Fra Filippo was himself a friar and priest, though not depicted as such in this painting.

Paul Delaroche (1797-1856) was a prominent French artist who was trained by Antoine-Jean Gros. He married the daughter of fellow painter Horace Vernet.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Oath of the Ancestors (1822)

Guillaume Guillon-Lethière: Oath of the Ancestors

The artist, Guillaume Guillon-Lethière (1760-1832) was a mixed race product of a French colonial official (in Guadeloupe) and a "mulatto" mother. He moved to France at age 14, studied painting beginning at age 17, and ultimately became a prize-winning artist whose studio was often in direct competition with that of David himself.

This work is a manifesto against slavery and for Haitian independence proclaimed in 1804 by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines before he crowned himself emperor. It is a symbolic representation of the oath exchanged by Alexandre Pétion, chief of the mulattos in Saint-Domingue, and Dessalines, both swearing to drive out the French troops.

An extensive article about the artist is at the PBS web site.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Plague in Barcelona (1822)

Horace Vernet: Plague in Barcelona

This painting depicts a yellow fever epidemic. At the time, contagious diseases were becoming a hot topic of study as they had the potential to interfere with European empire-building. French doctors made a careful study in an attempt to determine if the contagionist or the miasmatic school of thought regarding disease origin was correct. Since nobody at the time had any idea that diseases (yellow fever among them) could be transmitted by insects, their study found a lack of evidence for a contagious spread of the disease - a setback in the progress of medical science.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Time Showing the Ruins that He Causes (1822)

Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse: Time Showing the Ruins that He Causes 
and the Works of Art He Brings to Light

This work by Mauzaisse (1784-1844) was commissioned for a ceiling in the Louvre.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Battle of Borodino, 1812 (1822)

Louis Francois Lejeune: Battle of Borodino, 1812

Lejeune (1775-1848) was a general as well as an artist. His name is one of those engraved on the Arc de Triomphe.

The Battle of Borodino was in many ways the climax of Napoleon's invasion of Russia. It was the single bloodiest day of that war, involving over a quarter of a million troops overall and resulting in 70,000 casualties - a bloody affair indeed. Technically it was a French victory - the Russian army withdrew - but by failing to pursue and finish them off, Napoleon planted the seeds of his own ultimate defeat. The Wikipedia page has an exhaustive description and analysis of the engagement.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ruth and Boaz (1822)

 Louis Hersent: Ruth and Boaz

The story of Ruth and Boaz comes from the Biblical Book of Ruth. Paintings of these two usually show them meeting (or flirting) in Boaz's barley field. Hersent's canvas is much more daring.

A couple of other paintings of Ruth and Boaz are below.

 George Frederic Watts: Ruth and Boaz (ca. 1835-7)
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Ruth in the Field of Boaz (1828)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Boreas Abducting Oreithyia (1822)

Joseph-Ferdinand Lancrenon: Boreas Abducting Oreithyia

This is another painting based on Greek mythology. Boreas is the north wind, and Oreithyia the daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens.

Below are some earlier renditions of the same subject:

 Peter Paul Rubens (1615)
François Boucher (1769)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reclining Venus (1822)

 Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres: Reclining Venus (after Titian)

It's well established that Ingres revered the painters of the Italian Renaissance, particularly Raphael and Titian. This is one of the few direct homages. For comparison, the original is below.

In his 1880 travelogue Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain described this painting as “the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses”. (It's a good thing he never saw Courbet's nudes - he would have had a heart attack!) It wasn’t the nudity that prompted such a statement but rather “the attitude of one of her arms and hand”. The painting is Titian’s Renaissance masterpiece Venus of Urbino, and the “attitude”  to which Twain refers is one of implied self-gratification. But it seems that Twain's outrage is feigned.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Barque of Dante (1822)

Eugène Delacroix: The Barque of Dante

The Barque of Dante, sometimes known as Dante and Virgil in Hell, is the first major painting by the French artist Eugène Delacroix, and is one of the works signalling a shift in the character of narrative painting from Neo-Classicism towards the Romantic movement. It was completed in time for the opening of the Salon of 1822 and currently hangs in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

The painting is loosely based on fictional events taken from canto eight of Dante’s Inferno. A leaden, smoky mist and the blazing City of the Dead form the backdrop against which the poet Dante endures a fearful crossing of the River Styx. He is steadied by the learned poet of antiquity Virgil as they plough through waters heaving with tormented souls.

The arrangement of figures is for the most part compliant with the tenets of the cool, reflective Neo-Classicism that had dominated French painting for nearly four decades. There is a group of central upright figures, and a rational arrangement of subsidiary figures, all in horizontal planes, and observing studied poses. [Wikipedia]

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Studio of Abel de Pujol (1822)

Adrienne Marie Louise Grandpierre-Deverzy: The Studio of Abel de Pujol

Mlle. Grandpierre-Deverzy became the student (and later the second wife) of the painter Abel de Pujol. She painted this flattering portrait of him at work, surrounded by a throng of female admirers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Battle of Jemappes (1821)

Horace Vernet: The Battle of Jemappes

This battle took place on November 6, 1792, in Belgium. French versus Austrians, French won the battle but strategic gains were nullified by a later loss at the Battle of Neerwinden in March 1793.

This is one of the earliest of Vernet's large-scale battle scenes, of which he produced many.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Epsom Derby (1821)

Théodore Géricault: The Epsom Derby

Another dramatic painting by Géricault, who seems to specialize in those.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Henri-Charles-Ferdinand d’Artois, Duc de Bordeaux in his cradle (1821)

Louis Hersent: Henri-Charles-Ferdinand d’Artois, Duc de Bordeaux 
in his cradle with his sister Louise-Marie-Thérèse d’Artois in the Tuileries Palace

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte (1821)

Jacques-Louis David: The Sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte

A late canvas by David - he died four years later.

The sisters Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte, Napoleon's nieces, embrace as they read a letter from their father, Joseph Bonaparte, who was exiled in the United States while they lived in Brussels, Belgium, after Napoleon's fall from power. The folds of the carefully creased paper are realistically rendered, and the viewer can even decipher a Philadelphia address on the letter.

Jacques-Louis David juxtaposed the sisters' different personalities through their contrasting expressions and attire. The elder Zénaïde appears worldly and elegant in a low-cut black velvet dress. Sitting upright, she looks frankly out at the viewer as she protects her younger sister, Charlotte. Charlotte appears timid and reticent as she shyly raises her eyes, and her dress, a modest gray-blue silk, suits her demeanor. The exiled princesses both wear tiaras and sit on a red velvet couch embroidered with golden bees, the Bonaparte family emblem. [Getty]

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Three Lovers (ca. 1817-20)

Théodore Géricault: Three Lovers

Théodore Géricault's only known erotic painting, this small oil sketch depicts two lovers locked in a passionate embrace while their languid companion calmly watches from the left. The woman's nudity and relaxed pose evoke the classical tradition of representing repose after lovemaking, a tradition that is also evoked by the way her voluptuous figure complements the statue of Venus above. Encoiled in her lover's arms and with her legs provocatively exposed, the woman in white is an active participant in the amorous act rather than a passive object. With a modern directness, Géricault captured the intensity and energy of human sexuality in a manner very different from the idealizing conventions of his age.

Géricault 's expressive handling of line and paint accords with the passionate energy of the subject matter. Despite the small size and sketchy nature of this painting, Géricault made it as an independent work of art, intended for close private viewing. [Getty]

There's also a video commentary.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

René d'Anjou at Palamède de Forbin (1820)

Pierre Révoil: René d'Anjou at Palamède de Forbin

Another painting in the "Troubadour" style. The painting was commissioned by Count Auguste de Forbin, the director of the royal museums and a friend of the artist. Forbin was particularly interested in this subject because King René's host, Palamède, was his ancestor.

King René (King of Sicily and cousin of French King Charles VI) traveling through his estates in Provence, spent the night in the château de La Barben. In the morning, before leaving his hosts, he testified that he was satisfied with their reception and traced on the door of the vestibule his portrait. Palamède threw himself at the feet of the King to thank him for this sign of favor.

The artist's dates were 1776-1842.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Christ Blessing the Children (1820)

Antoine Ansiaux: Christ Blessing the Children

Ansiaux (1764-1840) painted subjects taken from sacred and profane history, and poetical subjects, are numerous, and place him among the best artists of the French school in the 19th century. He also painted portraits of several distinguished persons, ministers, and generals of Napoleon.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Head of a Woman (ca. 1820)

Antoine-Jean Gros: Head of a Woman

I love this dramatic portrait, which is somewhat unusual for Baron Gros.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Dubufe Family (1820)

Claude-Marie Dubufe: The Dubufe Family

A cheerful (and somewhat claustrophobic) portrait of the artist's family. The artist himself is at right. Dubufe was a historical and portrait painter, was born in Paris in 1790, and studied under Jacques-Louis David. His subjects were at first classical, and then scriptural, but his reputation rests chiefly on his portraits, of which he produced a large number. Dubufe, who was the last representative of the school of David, died at Selle-Saint-Cloud in 1864.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Drawn portraits (1819)

Two more by Ingres.

 Portrait of Andre Benoit Barreau, called Taurel
The Alexandre Lethiere Family

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Raft of the Medusa (1818-19)

Théodore Géricault: The Raft of the Medusa

Arguably Géricault's most famous work, The Raft of the Medusa is a triumph of Romantic art. It is an over-life-size painting that depicts a moment from the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse, which ran aground off the coast of today's Mauritania on July 5, 1816. At least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft; all but 15 died in the 13 days before their rescue, and those who survived endured starvation, dehydration and cannibalism.

Watch a video commentary on this painting.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Entrance to the Theatre de l'Ambigu-Comique (1819)

Louis Léopold Boilly: The Entrance to the Theatre de l'Ambigu-Comique before a Free Performance

As with all Boilly's works, there is a multitude of interesting detail to explore. The dogs are particularly interesting.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Study of a Model (1818-19)

Théodore Géricault: Study of a Model

Another sensitive portrait of a black person by a French artist (previous one here). It's clear from the painting that this man has suffered much. Yet, he is not depicted as being defeated by it.