Friday, May 31, 2013

Yelizaveta Demidova (ca.1805)

Robert Lefèvre: Yelizaveta Demidova

Robert Lefèvre (1755-1830) was a prominent painter of portraits and history paintings. The subject of this portrait, Yelizaveta Demidova, was a Russian aristocrat who, with her husband (a diplomat), lived in Paris and were strong supporters of Napoleon, until he went to war with the Russians. They fled to Italy, then returned to Russia after Napoleon's defeat there in 1812. The couple split after the birth of their child and Yelizaveta returned to Paris to live out the brief remainder of her days (she died in 1818).

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Portrait of the Empress Josephine (1805)

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon: Portrait of the Empress Josephine

Here is Prud'hon's famous portrait of Josephine. He had a close relationship with the imperial family, doing a number of portraits of them and being Josephine's drawing teacher. This portrait of her was considered so flattering that some took it as evidence that Prud'hon was in love with her. By the time of this portrait, Josephine and Napoleon were already beginning to be estranged, which probably accounts for the traces of melancholy in her countenance. This painting clearly anticipates a more Romantic style of painting. The scene depicted is in the landscape of the park at Malmaison (which Josephine herself had created and which was very dear to her heart) - an allusion to the empress's passion for botany. The atmosphere is also very Rousseau-ian, with nature portrayed as a refuge, a friend, a confident, and also mirror of the soul.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Monsieur Rivière (1805)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Monsieur Rivière

Continuing his development as a first-rate portraitist, the 25-year-old Ingres did this portrait of a French court official. Of note in the above painting is the sitter's relaxed pose, inviting an intimacy with the viewer. M. Rivière's various artistic interests are represented in the items shown on the sidetable, among which are an engraving of Raphael's Madonna of the Chair and a book labeled as works by Rousseau. Mozart is also represented in the stack; he was a particular favorite of the artist.

Ingres also painted M. Rivière's wife and daughter in separate portraits; these are below. They are dated variously to 1805-1806.

 Madame Rivière

Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Madame Grassini in the Role of Zaire (1805)

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun: Madame Grassini in the Role of Zaire

Another painting from Neoclassic standout Mme. Vigée Le Brun. Madame Grassini was an Italian contralto who had the distinction of having both Napoleon and Wellington as lovers! She was also very gracious and generous, as the following anecdote recounted by Mme. Vigée Le Brun illustrates:
"At the moment I was to get into the post-chaise that was to convey me to the inn near my place of embarkation [to return to France after a three-year stay in England], the charming Mme. Grassini appeared on the scene. I thought she had simply come to bid me farewell, but she declared she wished to take me to the inn, and made me get into her carriage, which I found full of pillows and packages. ‘What is all this for?’ I inquired. ‘You are not aware, then,’ she replied, ‘that you are going to the worst inn of the world? You may have to wait there a week or more if the wind is not favourable, and I have made up my mind to stay with you.’ I can hardly say how moved I was at this token of affection. The beautiful woman was leaving the pleasures of London and her friends, to say nothing of the host of admirers always in her train, merely to keep me company. To me this seemed lovable, and I have never forgotten it."
I wonder which came first: this incident, which then sparked Vigée Le Brun to paint this wonderful (and flattering) portrait, or the portrait, which encouraged Mme. Grassini to be so generous?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Portrait of Pope Pius VII (1805)

Jacques-Louis David: Portrait of Pope Pius VII

This portrait of Pius VII (1742-1823; became Pope in March 1800) was done by Jacques-Louis David as a thank-you present to the Pope for assisting in Napoleon's coronation as emperor in 1804. Pius is seated on a red velvet chair embroidered in gold. He has a peaceful expression and wears a white zucchetto, a white rochet or tunic (of which only the sleeves can be seen), a red velvet pelerine-type camail with ermine cuffs and a red stole with gold embroidery. Pius's arms rest on the chair's arms and his right hand holds a paper on which is written in Latin Pio VII Bonarium Artium Patron (Pius VII, Patron of the Fine Arts). [More about the painting from Wikipedia (from which the preceding is also lifted)]

Although this painting (and others) present Pius as a friend of France, in fact relations were often difficult: despite his presence at Napoleon's coronation, Pius was often at odds with the emperor over territorial issues.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Madame Récamier (1805)

Baron François Gérard: Portrait of Madame Récamier

This is the second portrait of this lady featured here; the first was by Jacques-Louis David. The current painting was reportedly commissioned by Madame Récamier because of her dissatisfaction with the earlier one. David, upon hearing of the commission of Gérard's painting, said to Madame Récamier, "Women have their whims, and so do artists; allow me to satisfy mine by keeping this portrait." Stylistically the two paintings are quite different. Which do you prefer? I think I am with Madame Récamier in preferring this one, a much more lively depiction than David's.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Innocence Preferring Love to Wealth (1804)

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon: Innocence Preferring Love to Wealth

 Here is a typical Neoclassic allegorical painting, proclaiming the unlikely victory of "love" over "wealth." I call this strong evidence that Neoclassic painting is idealistic rather than realistic. (Don't get me wrong - there's nothing wrong with idealism. I think we could do with a bit more of it. It just needs to be a bit hard-headed.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jean Antoine Houdon (1804)

Louis Leopold Boilly: Jean-Antoine Houdon in His Studio

Here Boilly shows the Neoclassical sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon at work. He is known for his busts of famous people of the day; his subjects included Benjamin Franklin, Rousseau, Voltaire, Moliere, George Washington, Louis XVI and Napoleon. His sculptures found an interesting use as models for early U.S. postage stamps (example below).

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bad News (1804)

Marguerite Gerard: Le Mauvaise Nouvelle [Bad News]

Marguerite Gerard (who we have seen here before) submitted to the Salon of 1804 this painting and its companion, Good News (below).

These paintings are done in a style very reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch genre painting: genteel ladies, dressed sumptuously, depicted in interior settings. Bad News in particular is a great genre scene: the lady of the house, receiving bad news via letter, is revived with smelling salts by a servant after swooning.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

View of the Cascade of the Gorge near Allevard (1803)

Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld: View of the Cascade of the Gorge near Allevard

Landscape art was an extremely minor aspect of French painting in the early 1800s - of course there were landscape backgrounds in many Neoclassic scenes, but few landscapes "for landscape's sake." Later, of course, painters like Courbet, Corot and Daubigny lifted the landscape form out of its doldrums into unprecedented heights, but early on, Bidauld (1758-1846) was one of the few who devoted themselves to its pursuit. He was celebrated in his time; in 1823 he became the first landscape painter elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. We'll see him later in the decade of the 18-oughts. Meanwhile, here are a few of his earlier works.

 The Augustan bridge on the Nera river, near the town of Narni, Italy (1790)

 View of Bridge and the Town of Cava, Kingdom of Naples (1785-90)

Vue du lac d'Ermenonville

Monday, May 13, 2013

Madame Philippe Desbassayns de Richemont and Her Son, Eugène (1802-03)

Marie-Guillelmine Benoist: Madame Philippe Desbassayns de Richemont and Her Son, Eugène

This sparkling portrait was once attributed to Jacques-Louis David. It is now known to have been done by his student, Marie-Guillelmine Benoist (whose work has been featured here before).

The subject, Jeanne Eglé Fulcrande Catherine Mourgue, called Égle, was born in Montpellier in 1778 and married Philippe Panon Desbassayns de Richemont in 1799. Her husband enjoyed a successful administrative and diplomatic career under the Consulat, Empire, and Restoration. Apparently a family legend says that the painting originally featured Madame de Richemont and her daughter Camille, but that after Camille's tragic death it was redone with Eugène. But this is unconfirmed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician (1790-1803)

Marguerite Gérard: Artist Painting a Portrait of a Musician (ca. 1790-1803)

Marguerite Gérard was a Neoclassic painter who was trained by the great Jean-Honoré Fragonard himself. Much of her work predates the 19th century. The current painting is likely a self-portrait of the artist at work.

One of my favorites by her is below: The First Steps, ca. 1788.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Arrival of a Stagecoach (1803)

Louis-Léopold Boilly: The Arrival of a Stagecoach in the Courtyard of the Messageries

Boilly's painting here is a wonderful slice of life. People of all stations of life are shown "rubbing shoulders" in this scene set in the courtyard of the Messageries in Rue Montmartre (now Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires), which was "Grand Central Station" for stagecoach traffic in Paris in the early 1800s. The painting emphasizes the sentimentality of family feeling in the central group: a man (Boilly's friend, the painter Guillon-Lethière) kissing his wife, with other family members and perhaps servants as well gathered around.

More about this painting is at the Louvre web site.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bonaparte as First Consul (1803)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres: Portrait of Napoléon Bonaparte as First Consul

Many of the great French painters of the day did portraits of Napoleon in his various roles: general, first consul, emperor. This one is by the great Ingres (1780-1867), one of the most prominent Neoclassic artists of the 19th-century. Of course, he studied with Jacques-Louis David, among many others. During his career (amazingly from our modern perspective) he often faced critical disparagement, but just as often received the approbation which may be considered his proper due.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Battle of Marengo (1801-02)

This is Louis-François Lejeune's painting of The Battle of Marengo.

The Battle of Marengo took place in Italy's Piedmont region in June 1800; the combatants were Napoleon's forces on one side and the Austrians on the other. The French forces emerged victorious, consolidating Napoleon's political position at home.

The artist, Louis-François Lejeune, was also a soldier who took part in this battle and many others throughout the Napoleonic era. He participated in the Spanish campaign (the so-called Peninsular War), the Battles of Marengo and Austerlitz, and the ill-fated Russian campaign (during which Lejeune deserted his post due to frostbite and was arrested on orders from Bonaparte himself). He redeemed himself during the Battle of Lützen and continued military service until 1813. During the German campaign of 1806 he met the inventor of lithography and played a major role in introducing this method to France.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Portrait of Edgar Clarke (1802)

 François-Xavier Fabre: Portrait of Edgar Clarke, full-length, in a forest.

Edgar Clarke (1799-1852), despite the English-sounding name, was a French aristocrat, soldier and politician. He was the "Duc de Feltre" and "Comte d'Hunebourg". He entered a military career as early as age would allow.  He served as a Captain in the 4th Cuirassiers in the 1823 "Spanish Campaign," undertaken by France to restore Ferdinand VII to the Spanish throne. Retiring from military service in 1829, he also served in the French parliament until 1832. His later years were spent out of the public eye.

François-Xavier Fabre (1776-1837) was a Neoclassic painter and student of Jacques-Louis David.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Portrait of Madame Mère (1802)

By François Gérard, this is Portrait of Madame Mère - the mother of Napoleon. A significant influence in Napoleon's life, his mother, Maria-Letizia Ramolino Bonaparte, was his unfailing supporter but never shrank from speaking truth to his power. They maintained a close relationship through all the turmoil of Napoleon's years of struggle. As Emperor, Napoleon gave his mother the title of “Son Altesse Impériale, Madame Mère de l'Empereur” (Her Imperial Highness, Mother of the Emperor).  

More about the woman, and about this painting, are here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Portrait of Cooper Penrose (1802)

Jacques-Louis David painted this specially-commissioned portrait of a prominent Quaker gentleman. As noted in the entry for this painting at the Timken Museum in San Diego, Penrose was criticized by other Quakers for his "lavish" lifestyle and perhaps had this austere portrait done to answer this criticism. The unusual placement of the figure (who occupies only 2/3 of the vertical space in the painting) has the effect of making the sitter appear quite short - perhaps as part of his propaganda campaign to appear humble, or perhaps he really was a small man.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Valentine of Milan Mourning her Husband, the Duke of Orléans (1802)

By Fleury-François Richard, this painting is Valentine of Milan Mourning her Husband, the Duke of Orléans, who was killed by the Duke of Burgundy in 1407. This painting was a seminal work in a new style of French painting known as the Troubadour Style, focusing on depictions of historical scenes from the Medieval era. While having clear roots in Neoclassicism, the Troubadour Style also served as a forerunner of Romanticism.

Richard (1777-1852) was a student of (who else?) Jacques-Louis David and gained great favor among the French elite; among his patrons was Empress Josephine herself.

More about the painting and its painter here.