Friday, January 31, 2014

Nymphs of Parthenope (1827)

Charles Meynier: Nymphs of Parthenope, taking away from their shores the Penates, images of their gods to be conducted by the Goddess of Fine Arts on the banks of the Seine

Here at last is my background image! So I will poll my audience: do you want a new background image? Maybe I'll use something from the 1850 time frame (so during the life of the blog I'll have four backgrounds, one from each quarter century).

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Battle of Bouvines, 27 July 1214 (1827)

Horace Vernet: Battle of Bouvines, 27 July 1214

This medieval battle extended French sovereignty over territory previously independent of it.  It was described as "one of the most decisive and symbolic battles in the history of France." (Jean Favier, Histoire militaire de la France (tome 1, des origines à 1715), Paris, PUF, 1992, p. 83)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Eros Supplicating Venus to Pardon Psyche (1827)

Georges Rouget: Eros Supplicating Venus to Pardon Psyche

"Mortals, do not meddle in the affairs of the gods, for they are jealous and quick to anger..." (apologies to Tolkien)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Death of Sardanapalus (1827)

Eugène Delacroix: The Death of Sardanapalus

The Death of Sardanapalus is based on the tale of Sardanapalus, the last king of Assyria, from the historical library of Diodorus Siculus, the ancient Greek historian, and is a work of the era of Romanticism. This painting uses rich, vivid and warm colors, and broad brushstrokes. It was inspired by Lord Byron's play Sardanapalus (1821), and in turn inspired a cantata by Hector Berlioz, Sardanapale (1830), and also Franz Liszt's opera, Sardanapale (1845–52, unfinished). [Wikipedia]

For much more about this painting, see the Louvre web site.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Coronation of Charles X (1827)

Baron François Gérard: Coronation of Charles X

Charles X ruled France for only a short period: 1824-1830. He was not a popular king.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Les Femmes Souliotes (1827)

Ary Scheffer: Les Femmes Souliotes

In December of 1803, the Souliotes began evacuating Souli after their defeat by Ali Pasha's forces. During the evacuation, a small group of Souliot women and their children were trapped by Ottoman troops in the mountains of Zalongo in Epirus. In order to avoid capture and enslavement, the women threw first their children and then themselves off a steep cliff, committing suicide. They did this while singing and dancing the syrtos, jumping down the precipice one after the other. The incident soon became known in Europe. At the Salon of 1827, a French artist named Ary Scheffer exhibited two Romantic paintings, one of which was entitled Les Femme souliotes ("The Souliot Women"). Today, a monument on the site of Mount Zalongo in Kassope commemorates their sacrifice. There is also a popular dance-song about the event, which is known and danced throughout Greece today. [Wikipedia]

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan (1827)

Alexandre-Charles Guillemot: Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan

Like the renowned painter Ingres, Guillemot was a student of the Neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David and remained his faithful follower. During their era, French academic painters turned to Greek and Roman myths for subject matter.

This picture, which was accepted for the Salon of 1827, illustrates the story of Vulcan, Roman god of metalworking, snaring his adulterous wife with her lover, Mars. Guillemot lavished attention on Venus's sinuous pose and the careful shading of her body, the central focus of his composition. [Indianapolis Museum of Art]

Friday, January 24, 2014

Scene of the French Campaign of 1814 (1826)

Horace Vernet: Scene of the French Campaign of 1814

This painting by Vernet completed in 1826 makes clear that memories of the Coalition invasion of France were still fresh. A French peasant family has just been rendered homeless by the invasion. The male head of the family is mortally wounded. He is a Cavalry veteran, his Legion of Honor medal just visible inside his jacket, and his carbine on the ground at his side. The young woman is the very picture of strength amid disaster. Almost lost in the chaos, a little boy hides his face in her skirt. In the left distance Russian infantry and Cossacks have set fire to the farm buildings and are seizing the cattle. In the right distance, French peasants and a gendarme exchange fire with the Russians. [Napoleon Against Great Odds: The Emperor and the Defenders of France, by Ralph Ashby, 2010, p. 131]

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Effect of Fog and Snow (1826)

Louis Daguerre: The Effect of Fog and Snow Seen through a Ruined Gothic Colonnade

This is the same Louis Daguerre who invented the "daguerreotype" method of photography.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Waterfall at Terni (1826)

 Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot: Waterfall at Terni

Corot was one of the major (non-Impressionist) landscape painters of 19th century France. His later work was to have significant influence on the Impressionists. There is a wealth of online material about Corot; some examples are at Wikipedia, the National Gallery of UK and the Artchive.

Painters visited Rome and the surrounding countryside to record the natural beauty of the scenery and its antique monuments. The Cascata delle Marmore combines both, having been engineered in the third century B.C. to divert the river Velino into the Nera, a tributary of the Tiber. Corot visited the waterfall in summer 1826, attaining a mastery of plein-air technique that is characterized by the candor, naturalism, and seemingly intuitive structure of this sketch. Corot did not exhibit such informal works, but he tried to infuse the paintings he began to show at the Salon the following year with the same vigorous sensibility. [Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Greek Women Imploring at the Virgin of Assistance (1826)

Ary Scheffer: Greek Women Imploring at the Virgin of Assistance

This painting was submitted to the Salon of 1827-1828 and is one of the major works dating from the artist's Romantic period. The motif is taken from the contemporaneous incident of the Greeks fighting their independence from the Turks. In a cave, there is a maiden crying in prayer with her hands clasped at her chest. Several Greek girls beseech with both hands raised in front of an altar where an Icon of the Virgin Mary is placed. Beyond the entrance to the cave are signs of belching powder smoke and fierce battle. Contrary to the tragic theme, Scheffer employs a gorgeous palette of Delacroix-style warm colors to finish the entire image up as beautifully as a gem box. [National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo]

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Entry of Charles X into Paris (1825)

Louis Francois Lejeune: Entry of Charles X into Paris, 
through the Barrière de la Villette, after his consecration, 6 June 1825

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Death of Hippolytus (1825)

Joseph-Désiré Court: The Death of Hippolytus

From Greek mythology comes the dire tale of Hippolytus, son of Theseus. The most common legend regarding Hippolytus states that he was killed after rejecting the advances of Phaedra, his stepmother, the second wife of Theseus. Spurned, Phaedra deceived Theseus saying that his son had raped her. Theseus, furious, used one of the three wishes given to him by Poseidon to curse Hippolytus. Poseidon sent a sea-monster—or, alternatively, Dionysus sent a wild bull—to terrorize Hippolytus's horses, who dragged their rider to his death.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Mariner’s Wife (ca. 1825)

Jean-Augustin Franquelin: The Mariner’s Wife

Here, a woman in Italian costume despairs over the fate of her husband, a seaman. Such subjects, which combine the pathos of history painting and the exoticism of foreign cultures, developed out of popular scenes of brigandage. Léopold Robert, one of the originators of this genre, was formerly thought to be the author of this painting (a false signature appears at lower left), which is now attributed to Jean-Augustin Franquelin and dated to the last fifteen years of his life. Appreciated during his lifetime for variations on this very subject painted in the polished technique seen here, Franquelin passed out of fashion after his death—by which time the work of Robert, who died shortly before him, in 1835, was highly sought after. [Metropolitan Museum]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Baptism of Clovis (1825)

Jean Alaux: The Baptism of Clovis

This seminal event in French history took place in AD 496.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Peasant Girl buying an Indulgence (1825)

François-Marius Granet: A Peasant Girl Buying an Indulgence

The selling of "indulgences" was one of the corrupt practices of the late Medieval Catholic Church, wherein payment of a small (or large, depending) sum of money gets you forgiven for a sin. I hadn't realized that the practice persisted into the 19th century. (It isn't still going on, is it?)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Joan of Arc Being Interrogated by the Cardinal of Winchester (1824)

Paul Delaroche: Joan of Arc Being Interrogated by the Cardinal of Winchester

After attending the coronation of Charles VII, which her bravery had helped to bring about, Joan of Arc was captured and sold to the English in 1430. She was tried in Rouen for sorcery and idolatry and burned at the stake. Delaroche's painting is set in a Rouen prison where Henry Beaufort, Cardinal of Winchester is trying to coerce her confession. No source has been found to confirm that such a private meeting between Cardinal Beaufort and Joan ever took place, but Delaroche clearly contrived this encounter to highlight the anti-English aspect of the story.

This painting exemplifies the stylistic changes that Delaroche and others brought about in the painting of history subjects from the middle of the 1820s. By contrast with the earlier “troubadour” style, with its abundance of detail and almost miniaturist technique, Delaroche has limited his reconstruction of the scene to a few telling details. There is still a high degree of realism, but the dramatic impact is achieved primarily through lighting, gesture, and physiognomy. The idealization characteristic of “troubadour” painting has also been consciously tempered, a fact that was noted by a contemporary critic. The fierce profile and angularity of the figure of the Cardinal creates a dramatic contrast with the shrinking but stalwart Joan who lies sick on a bed of straw. The Cardinal's index finger resting on his knee has been interpreted as pointing to hell, while Joan's manacled hands are in a gesture of prayer. The historic import of the scene is stressed through the inclusion of the scribe in the background. Delaroche's imprisoned Joan had many secular counterparts in Romantic painting, but she also recalls the Baroque tradition of depicting female saints.

The original, very large (108 x 84 1/2 inches) canvas was exhibited at the 1824 Salon where it attracted a great deal of notice. Thiers wrote that Delaroche "was faithful in costume, in national character; he was above all true, energetic, even in expression. This is, without contradiction, one of the history paintings which possesses the most of the character of the times and places they represent." Delaroche, like many nineteenth-century painters, painted reduced versions of his most successful compositions. [Matthiesen Gallery]

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Massacre at Chios (1824)

Eugène Delacroix: The Massacre at Chios

The Massacre at Chios (French: Scène des massacres de Scio) is the second major oil painting by Delacroix. The work is more than four meters tall, and shows some of the horror of the wartime destruction visited on the Island of Chios. A frieze-like display of suffering characters, military might, ornate and colourful costumes, terror, disease and death is shown in front of a scene of widespread desolation.

Unusually for a painting of civil ruin during this period, The Massacre at Chios has no heroic figure to counterbalance the crushed victims, and there is little to suggest hope among the ruin and despair. The vigor with which the aggressor is painted, contrasted with the dismal rendition of the victims has drawn comment since the work was first hung, and some critics have charged that Delacroix might have tried to show some sympathy with the brutal occupiers. The painting was completed and displayed at the Salon of 1824 and presently hangs at the Musée du Louvre in Paris. [Wikipedia]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Telemachus and Eucharis (1824)

Raymond Monvoisin: Telemachus and Eucharis

This painting depicts a story based on Homeric themes (Telemachus was, of course, the son of Odysseus), but Eucharis was an invention of 17th century French literature.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Battle of Hanau (1824)

Horace Vernet: The Battle of Hanau

This may be the earliest of Vernet's massive battle scenes, which became a specialty of his.

The Battle of Hanau (October 30-31, 1813) was a Napoleonic engagement, during the War of the Sixth Coalition. It is described by Wikipedia as a "minor battle," but Vernet's canvas seems to show otherwise.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Les Religieux du mont Saint-Gothard (1824)

Louis Hersent: Les Religieux du mont Saint-Gothard

This dramatic painting depicts a group of monks aiding a family attacked by brigands in the mountains.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Orphan Girl at the Cemetery (ca. 1824)

Eugène Delacroix: Orphan Girl at the Cemetery

This painting, an early work by Delacroix, was long thought to be a preparatory piece for the Massacre at Chios. Even before reading the title, it is clear that an air of sadness emanates from the picture.
   Note how clear and precise the outlines are. The young girl is sharply defined against the less precise background of the sky and the deserted cemetery. Note how Delacroix has subtly conveyed signs of the girl’s grief – the tears welling up in her dark-ringed eyes, the half-open mouth, the way her gown has slipped off her shoulder, her hand lying dully on her thigh. Observe the play of shadows on her nape and neck and the darker shade to the right of the figure. The cold, dull colors of her clothing and the landscape echo the overall atmosphere of despair.
   Take a close look at the beautifully delicate lines of the girl’s face and neck and the light touch of fabric which heighten the impression of solitude.
   What can the orphan be gazing at, beyond the frame? [Louvre]