Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Portrait of a Man (1809)

François-Xavier Fabre: Portrait of a Man

In this work, which is one of Fabre's most sensitive portraits, a fashionably dressed young man turns his intense gaze towards the viewer. The plain background with its subtle modulations of light and shadow creates a foil for the figure's clearly defined contours and his elegantly dishevelled hair, cut in the so-called 'a la Titus' style. Fabre probably painted the picture during a brief return visit from to Paris from Italy. It is inscribed faintly in pencil with the name 'M Camille' - which is presumably a reference to the, as yet, otherwise unknown young man. [summary from the National Galleries Scotland]

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Psyche Abducted by the Zephyrs (1808)

Pierre-Paul Prud’hon: Psyche Abducted by the Zephyrs

This painting of Prud’hon (wonderful light/dark contrast here) depicts the mythological tale of the abduction of Psyche by the Zephyrs (winds) at the command of Eros (Cupid).

An informative essay about this painting and the painter is here.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Napoleon Receiving the Delegates of the Senate (1808)

René Théodore Berthon: His Majesty the Emperor Receiving the Delegates 
of the Senate at the Stadtschloss in Berlin, 19 Nov 1806

Berthon was apparently a minor painter of portraits and historical scenes.

More about the "Senate" here.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Portrait of Queen Hortense (1808)

Anne-Louis Girodet: Portrait of Queen Hortense

 This appears to be another portrait of this lady.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Bather of Valpinçon (1808)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: The Bather of Valpinçon

Ingres did a number of "bather" paintings (including this one); today's is generally considered to be his best. Remarking on Ingres ability to paint the human body in a unique manner, the art critic Robert Rosenblum wrote that "the ultimate effect of the The Valpinçon Bather is of a magical suspension of time and movement-even of the laws of gravity...the figure seems to float weightlessly upon the enamel smoothness of the surface, exerting only the most delicate pressure, and the gravitational expectations of the heaviest earthbound forms are surprisingly controverted." The French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) described the model as having a "deep voluptuousness," yet in many ways she is presented as essentially chaste. [preceding comments via Wikipedia]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Napoléon Receiving the Queen of Prussia in Tilsit (1808)

Jean-Charles Tardieu: Napoléon Receiving the Queen of Prussia in Tilsit 

Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was Queen consort of Prussia as the wife of King Frederick William III. The couple's happy, though short-lived, marriage produced nine children, including the future monarchs Frederick William IV of Prussia and German Emperor Wilhelm I.

Her legacy became cemented after her extraordinary 1806 meeting with Napoleon at Tilsit – she met with the emperor to plead unsuccessfully for favorable terms after Prussia's disastrous losses in the Napoleonic Wars. Already well loved by her subjects, their meeting led Louise to become revered as "the soul of national virtue". Her early death at the age of thirty-four "preserved her youth in the memory of posterity", and caused Napoleon to reportedly remark the king "has lost his best minister".

The painter, Tardieu (1765-1830), was a successful artist during the time of Napoleon through the Bourbon Restoration. A passionate artist with great skill in composition, Tardieu exhibited in various salons, and achieved considerable success. He took part in a number of exhibitions in the Louvre between 1806 and 1823. In 1808 he was granted a housing allowance. The great majority of his works were bought by the government or commissioned by the government.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Marie-Pauline Bonaparte Borghèse (1808)

Marie-Guillelmine Benoist: Marie-Pauline Bonaparte Borghèse, Duchesse de Guastalla

Another portrait of Napoleon's younger sister, first seen here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Napoleon’s bivouac on the eve of Austerlitz (1808)

Louis-François Lejeune: Napoleon’s bivouac on the eve of Austerlitz, 1 December 1805

The Battle of Austerlitz was probably Napoleon's single greatest military victory. Lejeune illustrates the Emperor’s bivouac in the Moravian plains on the eve of the battle. Napoleon, at center (of course) consults with his generals while the soldiers forage and make camp. Other paintings, to be featured later, depict the battle itself - a bloody 9-hour affair.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bonaparte Pardoning the Rebels of Cairo (1808)

Pierre-Narcisse Guérin: Bonaparte Pardoning the Rebels of Cairo 

Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774-1833) was a Neoclassic French painter. The incident depicted in this painting followed an abortive rebellion by native Egyptians against French rule.
On the morrow of the rebellion, the sheiks and imams of El-Azhar presented themselves at Bonaparte's palace. 'Their countenances,' Napoleon recalled at St. Helena, 'were those of guilty men consumed by anxiety.' Still, no specific accusations could be levelled against them; besides, Bonaparte had made up his mind not to investigate their conduct. 'I know that many of you have been weak,' he told them, 'but I like to believe that none of you is guilty.' The blood that had been shed was sufficient; the sacred books of El Azhar would be returned to them; let them purify the desecrated mosque, bury their dead, and proclaim his magnanimous amnesty to the people.
The old men, says Napoleon, fell on their knees and kissed the holy books which he had returned to them. Bonaparte's clemency surprised not only them but especially the French, soldiers and civilians alike, who grumbled that it would be interpreted as mere weakness. Despite their criticisms and dire prognostications, Bonaparte stubbornly persisted in his forgiveness.
 'Bonaparte Forgiving the Rebels of Cairo' became a favorite subject of painters and engravers during the Napoleonic era. Their representations do not give the faintest idea of what actually happened.
One day, not long after his return from Egypt, Bonaparte made some interesting comments on the clemency scene in the last act of Corneille's Cinna. Cinna has plotted against the life of Augustus; Augustus, instead of punishing him, holds out his hand in friendship: 'Soyons amis, Cinna.' Corneille, remarked Bonaparte, was a poet who understood politics. 'For instance, not long ago I found the explanation of the denouement in Cinna. At first, all I saw in it was a device for a touching fifth act. Moreover, clemency in itself is such a miserable petty virtue, unless it rests on political motives....But one day Monvel, playing that part in my presence, revealed to me the secret of that grand conception. He said the line, "Let us be friends, Cinna," with such a cunning and wily expression that I understood that his action was merely a tyrant's feint, and what had seemed to me a puerile sentiment I now approved as a calculated ruse.
Since the sheiks were the only reliable tools he had in Egypt; since, at any rate, it would have been difficult to prove anything against them; and since he counted on their help to pacify the people, Bonaparte's clemcy toward them was untainted by any humanitarian sentimentality. In fact, while he allowed them to kiss his hands in gratitude, certain orders he had given to General Berthier were being carried out at the Citadel: 'You will have the goodness, Citizen General, to order the commandant of Cairo to have the heads of all prisoners taken arms-in-hand cut off. They will be taken to the bank of the Nile ... after dark; their headless corpses will be thrown into the river.' Aside from these prisoners, eighty members of the 'Divan of Defence' (the rebellious junta) were executed at the Citadel. 'They were people of a violent and irreconcilable turn of mind,' Napoleon commented twenty years later. A public show of clemency to the blameless; executions of the recalcitrant in secret and at night - the formula would have won Machiavelli's approval. [Bonaparte in Egypt, J. Christopher Herold, p. 214-215]

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Entombment of Atala (1808)

Anne-Louis Girodet: The Entombment of Atala

 A novella written in 1801 by the French writer Francois-René de Chateaubriand entitled Atala tells of the tragic love story of Chactas, a Natchez Indian and Atala the half-caste Christian daughter of Simagan, the chief of the Muscogees, an enemy Indian tribe, who had captured and sentenced Chactas to death.  Atala eventually frees him from captivity and they run away together.   They are helped by Père Aubry, a Christian missionary and hermit, who takes them to his cave and gives them refuge.   Atala falls in love with Chactas, but cannot marry him as she has taken a vow of chastity. In despair she takes poison.  Père Aubry assumes that she is merely ill, but in the presence of Chactas she reveals what she has done, and Chactas is filled with anger until the missionary tells them that in fact Christianity permits the renunciation of vows. They tend her, but she dies. [summary from my daily art display]

In the sunset, in a cave, the old hermit, Père Aubry, is supporting the corpse of the half-caste Atala. Chactas the Indian, stricken with grief, clings passionately to the young woman's knees. Atala, torn between her love for Chactas and the vow she took to remain a virgin and a Christian, committed suicide. With a crucifix clutched in her hand and the drapery of her dress clinging to her bust, she is both pure and sensual. After their all-night vigil, the two men will bury her in the cave. A verse from the Book of Job is carved on the cave wall: "When it is yet in flower, and is not plucked with the hand, it withereth before all herbs."

The exoticism, the defense of the innocence of primitive peoples and the religious sentiment that characterized the novel are all transposed into the picture. Girodet has not merely illustrated a single scene from Chateaubriand's novel, he has synthesized several passages. He has also forsaken the antique subjects dear to his master, David, for new subject matter: for Girodet, unlike David, painting no longer has a moral or political function. [above passages from the Louvre web site]

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Portrait of Félicité-Louise de Durfort (1808)

Merry-Joseph Blondel: Portrait of Félicité-Louise de Durfort, Maréchale de Beurnonville

Blondel was a Neoclassic painter who also worked as an interior decorator in such premier locations as Fontainebleau Castle and the Louvre. The story of the subject of this portrait is told here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau (1808)

Antoine-Jean Gros: Napoleon on the Battlefield of Eylau

After a series of decisive victories on the battlefields of Central Europe, Napoleon's forces fought the Russians and Prussians at the Battle of Eylau. Though technically a victory for Napoleon (the opposing forces had to withdraw) the battle was a bloodbath on both sides and punctured the myth of Napoleon's invincibility. Marshal Ney summed up the battle as follows: "Quel massacre! Et sans résultat." ("What a massacre! And without result.")

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Atelier of Madame Vincent (1808)

Marie-Gabrielle Capet: The Atelier of Madame Vincent 

Madame Vincent was born Adélaïde Labille-Guiard; she was a prominent 18th century painter of portraits and miniatures. Marie-Gabrielle Capet (1761-1818) was one of her students. A self-portrait by Mlle. Capet dating to 1783 is below.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antiochus’ Disease (1808)

Alexandre-Charles Guillemot: Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antiochus’ Disease

Guillemot (1786-1831) was a Neoclassic painter. This work is a history painting depicting an episode from Plutarch's Lives in which Greek court physician Erasistratus diagnoses the illness of Antiochus, the son of Seleucus I, as lovesickness for his stepmother Stratonice. (A summary of the story is here.) An opera about the incident received its first performance in 1792.

The story of Antiochus and Stratonice was depicted by numerous other artists; below is a sampling.

 Gerard de Lairesse: Antiochus and Stratonice (1671-75)
 Antonio Bellucci: Antiochus and Stratonice (ca. 1700)
 Johann Heiss: Antiochus and Stratonice (17th century)
 Benjamin West: Erasistratus the Physician Discovers the Love of Antiochus for Stratonice

 Jacques-Louis David: Antiochus and Stratonice (1774)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Metabus (1808)

Jean-Baptiste Peytavin: Metabus and Camilla

This painting depicts an incident from Virgil's Aeniad. Metabus was king of the Volsci was the father of Camilla. Driven from his throne, Metabus and his infant daughter Camilla were chased into the wilderness by armed Volsci. When the river Amasenus blocked his path, he bound her to a spear and promised Diana that Camilla would be her servant if she would safely transported to the opposite bank. He then safely threw her to the other side, and swam across to retrieve her.

Peytavin was a painter of religious and historical scenes.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oedipus and the Sphinx (1808)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Oedipus and the Sphinx

The Louvre web site comments on this painting as follows:
In a steep, rocky landscape, Oedipus, a character from Greek mythology, is seen naked, in profile, facing the Sphinx. This monster, with the face, head, and shoulders of a woman, a lion's body, and bird's wings, is standing in the shadows of a cave. Oedipus is giving the solution to the riddle that the Sphinx has asked him, as he has asked all travelers passing through this region of Thebes. When the monster asked him: "What is it that has a voice and walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?" Oedipus answered that it was man who, as a child crawls on all fours, as an adult walks on two legs, and in old age uses a stick as a third leg. At the bottom of the picture, a discarded foot and human bones recall the previous travelers who have perished after failing to reply. In the background, one of Oedipus's companions is running away, terrified. Further away, in the distance, the buildings of the city of Thebes can just be made out. The theme of the work is the triumph of intelligence and of human beauty. But the scene is also one of man confronting his destiny since Oedipus's exploit will lead to him becoming king of Thebes and marrying his mother Jocasta, as the oracle had predicted when he was born. It was a subject rarely portrayed from the end of the classical period until Ingres, but in the nineteenth century it came to fascinate many artists, most notably Gustave Moreau (1826-1898).

Friday, July 12, 2013

Meeting of Napoleon with the Ambassadors of the Austrian Emperor (1808)

Hippolyte Lecomte: Meeting of Napoleon with the Ambassadors 
of the Austrian Emperor near Leoben, Steiermark on 7 April, 1797 

Lecomte (1781-1857) was primarily known for painting historical scenes. He was related by marriage to another prominent French painter, Horace Vernet (who will be featured numerous times in coming months on this blog). Lecomte's son, Émile Vernet-Lecomte, was also a painter.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Battle of the Pyramids (1808)

Louis-François Lejeune: Battle of the Pyramids

The so-called Battle of the Pyramids took place on July 21, 1798, between Napoleon's French forces and the Egyptians. This decisive French victory, seeming to pave the way for French domination of the Middle East, came to nothing as a mere 10 days later Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon's fleet in the Battle of the Nile.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Judgment of Paris (1808)

Francois-Xavier Fabre: The Judgment of Paris 

The Judgment of Paris was one of the most popular mythological themes for painters for centuries. It concerns an incident where Hermes asked the mortal Paris to judge the beauty of three goddesses: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite - a perilous choice indeed. The ultimate result of this divine beauty contest was the Trojan War.

A small sample of the many paintings done of this incident is below.

 'Master of the Argonaut Panels' (ca. 1480)
 Anonymous Flemish Painter (16th century)
 Frans Floris (1550)
 Jacob Jordaens (ca. 1620–25)
 Peter Paul Rubens
 Claude Lorraine (1645-46)
[Lorraine was primarily a landscape artist.
The figures seem almost incidental here.]
 Noel-Nicolas Coypel (1728)
 Anton Raphael Mengs (ca. 1757)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1914)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Choir in the Capuchin Church in Rome (1808)

François-Marius Granet: Choir in the Capuchin Church in Rome

We saw Ingres's portrait of Granet earlier. Here is one of Granet's paintings. The context for the painting is a combination of Granet's great piety reacting against Napoleon's anticlericalism. The French authorities banished the Capuchin order from the church of the Immaculate Conception, near the Piazza Barberini, even billeting troops there for a time. Nevertheless, this painting of the church's interior was purchased by the emperor's sister Caroline Murat, queen of Naples, for her brother Louis Bonaparte, who had seen it exhibited in the painter's studio, where it created a sensation at the end of 1814. Pius VII, the same pope who had been forced to preside over Napoleon's coronation a decade earlier, asked to meet the artist as a result of the exhibition. Granet went on to paint perhaps a dozen or more versions of this subject, most on commission. It is without doubt his most famous composition. [preceding summary from The Met]

Monday, July 8, 2013

Marshal Ney (1808)

Charles Meynier: Marshal Ney gives back to the soldiers of the 76th line Regiment 
their standards recovered at the Inspruck arsenal, 7 November 1805

Marshal Michel Ney was a prominent military commander during the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon himself dubbed him the "Bravest of the Brave" for his prowess in battle. He was commander of the III Corps during the invasion of Russia and commanded the rearguard during the Retreat from Moscow. After Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo (where Ney had five horses shot out from under him), he was arrested and tried by the Chamber of Peers, and subsequently executed for "treason".

About the incident depicted in this painting, I can find no information.

Below is a portrait of Ney done by François Gérard in 1805.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Napoleon receiving the keys to Vienna (1808)

Anne-Louis Girodet: Napoléon Receiving the Keys to Vienna 
at the Schloss Schönbrunn, 13 November 1805

This depicts an incident from Napoleon's 1805 Austrian campaign. Napoleon's victory in the Battle of Ulm led to the surrender of Vienna to his forces. A bulletin from the campaign relates the following:
The emperor has not yet received any of the authorities of Vienna, except a deputation of the different bodies of the city, who, on the day of his arrival, met him at Sigarts-Kirchen. They were composed of the Prince of Seuzendorf, the prelate of Seidenstetten, the Count of Veterani, the Baron of Kees, the Burgomaster of the city, M. de Wohebben, and General Burgeois.
His Majesty received them with much condescension, and told them they might assure the people of Vienna of his protection.
Girodet's painting is based on this incident. On the side of the Emperor are the Princes Murat and Neufchatel, Marshal Bessieres, and other officers. The background of the picture is a view of the entrance to Schönbrunn Palace. In the extreme distance, we see a splendid building, which is called  Gloriette.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Half Figure of a Bather (1807)

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres: Half Figure of a Bather

Ingres, the portraitist par excellence, turned his attention to the nude form with a series of paintings of bathers. This is one of the earliest - we'll see more of them in due course. But this one, though differing in some respects, shares common features with the other "Bathers" - most particularly, the bather facing away from the viewer. Modesty? or coyness?

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Game of Billiards (1807)

Louis-Leopold Boilly: A Game of Billiards 

This brilliant painting encapsulates the era of social change in France after the Revolution of 1789, with its affirmation of new tastes and norms of behavior. During the period of the Directoire and the First Empire, billiard halls became like clubs to which people came not only to play the game but also to meet friends, to make new acquaintances, to gossip and flirt. Here tidbits of family and society news were exchanged, the latest political and social events were discussed.

The main character of the painting is a woman playing billiards, which testifies to the liberal manners of Napoleon I's age, since before that only men were fond of this game. Boilly's fine observation and presentation of characteristic figures of different ages and social groupings, as well as his skill in conveying light, space, details of the interior and costume, rank him among the greatest genre painters of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Boilly's fine observation and presentation of characteristic figures of different ages and social groupings, as well as his skill in conveying light, space, details of the interior and costume, have something in common with the genre paintings of Dutch artists. Yet the treatment of the subject is perfectly in keeping with the canons of Neoclassicism, with its theatrical grouping of figures, idealised faces, its emphasis on drawing rather colour and with its smooth and glossy paint surface.
[text adapted from here.]