Category Archives: France

FRENCH ART in the 17th Century: Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632).

FEATURE IMAGE: Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante (Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation). Villa Lante in Rome is an example of the work of the 16th century Raphael school in the reign of the Medici popes. The Renaissance villa, which was a residence for Roman aristocracy, was purchased in 1950 by the Finnish state. The Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation started operating there in April 1954.

Ruins of the Coliseum in Rome, Circle of Willem van Nieuwlandt, II, c. 1600,  Pen and brown ink, with brush and brown and gray wash, on pieced cream laid paper,  35.3 × 61.3 cm (13 15/16 × 24 3/16 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago.
https://www.artic.edu/artworks/95904/ruins-of-the-coliseum-in-rome

INTRODUCTION.

Le Valentin de Boulogne (c.1591/1594-1632), sometimes called Jean Valentin, Jean de Boulogne Valentin, or simply Le Valentin, was a French painter. Born in Coulommiers-en-Brie about 35 miles east of Paris, Le Valentin may have been at least half Italian. His artwork was certainly influenced by Italian painting more than any other though he was familiar with Northern or Flemish painting. Le Valentin may have been in Rome as early as 1612 – German painter and art-historian Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688) remarked in 1675 that Valentin reached Rome before Simon Vouet (1590-1649) who had arrived around 1614. Whether in 1612 or definitely by 1620 (Le Valentin appears in the census), Le Valentin spent the rest of his life In Rome. In the Eternal City Le Valentin  was greatly influenced by Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649) and Bartolomeo  Manfredi (Italian, 1581-1622), a leading Caravaggiste or follower of Carravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610).

Joachim von Sandrart, Self Portrait, 1641.
Bartolomeo Manfredi, The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew (detail).
Simon Vouet, Self-portrait, c. 1626–1627 Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon.

Le Valentin’s oeuvre is today around 55-60 paintings, most of them identified by modern scholarship (i.e., Jacques Bousquet; Roberto Longhi). Le Valentin’s major commissions date from the last seven years of his life. Opportunities to acquire his artwork was  rare, though avid collectors such as Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) and Louis XIV collected them.

Cardinal Mazarin by Pierre Mignard, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
Louis XIV, Charles Le Brun, Château de Versailles.
Piazza del Popolo, Rome. “Piazza del Popolo.. Rome” by Nick Kenrick.. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In Rome Le Valentin forged close ties with other French artists and lived with many of them in and around the Piazza del Popolo to the Piazza di Spagna. Most French painters born in the 1590s made a stay in Rome  – and influenced art in France in the 17th century. Reasons young painters fled to Italy in the early 17th century included depletion of opportunity in Paris due to the professionalization of artistic practice in and outside the capital although establishment French art was no longer flourishing. Conversely, Roman art – and not only the schools of Michelangelo and Raphael but new horizons afforded  by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and Caravaggio (1571-1610) -was at an apex. The Eternal City was drawing international artists from Paris and elsewhere and, between 1610 and 1630, the Roman style became internationalized. The dialogue among artists in Rome in this period was exciting – and its outcomes often unpredictable. The culture of Rome (and the papacy) could actually be liberating for foreign, usually destitute, often libertine talented young artists who had great ambitions for a prominent commission as they were exposed to Rome’s virtue and vice almost equally. Many of these young artists, even ones whose artworks survive, exist today virtually anonymously. Le Valentin de Boulogne is one of the better-known artists of the period, although his precise name is uncertain and his artwork requires connoisseurship based on modern scholarship.

Annibile Carracci, Self-portrait, 1604, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath, included a self portrait of the artist, 1610, oil on canvas, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

In 1626 Valentin, in Rome several years, was invited by Vouet to organize with Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) the festival of the Accademia di San Luca ‘s patron saint. Around the same age, Vouet led the academy whose artists’ association was founded in 1593 by Federico Zuccari (1539-1609). This appointment signaled that Valentin was an active and respected rising French artist in Rome in these years. Though Caravaggio died in 1610 his influence was still felt very strongly in Rome in the 1620s.

Two of Caravaggio’s masterpieces—The Martyrdom of Saint Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul—hung in the neighboring church of Santa Maria del Popolo which Le Valentin certainly had opportunity to study. In Italy, Valentin took swift, direct, and enduring inspiration from Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro and realistic depiction of characters drawn from Roman street life, including extensive use of half figures. As one of the young Caravaggisti, Valentin applies these elements to his artwork, whether genre or, later, Biblical subjects.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Group of figures seen mid-body, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020210527

None of the works from Le Valentin’s earliest Roman years is documented, but it is believed he produced his Card Sharps (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen), The Fortune Teller (Toledo Museum of Art), and Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats) (NGA) – and probably in this order – between 1615 and 1620.

In Le Valentin’s compositions which often contain several actors in a scene, the French artist’s realism and Caravaggio-inspired technique is often imbued with energetic rhythm in which diagonals and geometric concurrences play a role. This schematic suggests animation in the subject matter while retaining the human figures’ inner reserve and mystery. This creates a psychological quality in his artwork that is unique whichever drama is unfolding in the picture. Louis XIV who was an admirer of le Valentin acquired and hung several of his paintings in his bedroom at Versailles. Cardinal Mazarin, another art collector with a keen eye, acquired works by Valentin, some of which today are in the Louvre.

Andrea Sacci, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany, oil on canvas, c. 1631-1633 (detail).

By way of Le Valentin’s important young patron, Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597-1679) – made a cardinal in 1624 by his uncle, Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) – Valentin became a competitor to his artist friend Nicholas Poussin. Le Valentin’s first documented work commissioned in May 1629 and completed in the spring of 1630 called Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian is a compendium to a slightly earlier work by Poussin–both  in the Vatican (Poussin’s was a different stylistic statement called Martyrdom of S. Erasmus). Valentin had further won the patronage of Cavaliere del Pozzo (1588-1657), the secretary of Cardinal Francesco Barberini and one of Rome’s leading art patrons. Paid the handsome sum of 350 crowns for Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian , after 1630 Valentin’s artwork continued to command high prices and prestige.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City/
Jan van den Hoecke (Flemish, 1611-1651), Portrait of Cassiano dal Pozzo. Pozzo’s portrait was painted by Le Valentin though it is lost.

Though SS. Processus and Martinian is Le Valentin’s most important public work, he also produced many pictures for private commissions. There are several pictures by, or today attributed to, Le Valentin in many of the world’s leading art museums. Le Valentin produced artwork especially for the ruling Barberini family and their circle.

How Le Valentin died in 1632 is not certain though it was sudden and of natural causes. The professional artist who is admired in today’s major art institutions reportedly left no money to pay for a funeral. Identified as a “Pictor famosus” on his death certificate, Le Valentin was buried at Santa Maria de Popolo on August 20, 1632 paid for by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657).

Façade – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo –Rome. Valentin lived in Rome on or near Via Margutta which is steps from the 15th century church.
File:Roma – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo – Facade.jpg” by M0tty is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

SELECTION OF PAINTINGS BY LE VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Solomon, 1627/29, Louvre. 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, oil on canvas.  https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061974

One of the most moving and beautiful stories in the Bible is the judgment of King Solomon in the case involving two disputing harlots over who was the mother of a living child (I Kings).

Both had had a child, though one died and the other lived. To have an offspring was considered a blessing. One harlot claimed that her living child had been taken from her bosom at night by the other harlot. She replaced the child with her dead child after “she had smothered him by lying on him” (I Kings 3:19).

Since this was a case of one harlot’s word against another’s Solomon had no simple and fair resolution at hand. King Solomon said: “Cut the child in two and give half to one woman and half to the other” (I Kings 3:25). Le Valentin shows the viewer what is at stake – a real flesh and blood child. The import of Solomon’s judgment could not be missed. Le Valentin’s women are modeled on those mothers and others the artist observed along Via Margutta.

Detail. Judgment of Solomon. Le Valentin.

When one harlot said, “Divide it! it shall be neither mine nor yours!” and  the other harlot said, “Please, my lord, give her the living child. Please do not kill it!”, the king’s judgement changed.

Solomon spoke again and said, “Give her the child alive, and let no one kill him, for she is his mother” (1 Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon knew a woman privileged to be a mother would seek to see the child live most of all.

It is this final pronouncement that Solomon appears to give in Le Valentin’s painting, as the complete biblical episode can be readily seen in the gestures and expressions of its characters.

Acquired by Louis XIV at Cardinal Mazarin’s death in 1661, The Judgment of Solomon has long been presented as a counterpart to The Judgment of Daniel. These canvases, which may actually be pendants, share the same format and show examples of just judgment in the Bible. The Judgment of Solomon is dated later than The Judgment of Daniel. There is a variant of it by Le Valentin in Rome at the Barberini Gallery in the same format and oil medium. The Louvre painting was restored in 1966.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Daniel, 1621/22, oil on canvas, 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061975

The subject is taken from chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel, the book’s addendum. In Babylon, a pair of wicked elders covet Suzanne, “a very beautiful and God-fearing woman” who was the wife of the “very rich” and “most respected” Joachim. After these wicked elders surprised Suzanne in her bath, she refuses their advances and they denounce her for adultery with the intent to put her to death.

Daniel condemns these wicked elders for “growing evil with age” including their past sins of “passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty.” Daniel interrogates them and, by their own words, shows the assembly they are lying. The painting depicts that moment of judgment.

Detail. Judgment of Daniel. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin depicts Daniel in the painting instead of Suzanne in her bath which was a more popular subject. Suzanne is at right, her hands across her chest, “As she wept, she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly” (Daniel 13:35). A guard seizes one of the wicked elders as the other shows surprise and incredulity. Young Daniel, at left, is seated on a throne under a red canopy and stretches out his hand in judgment over the scene for their sin. For each judgment by Le Valentin the artist was inspired in some of its details by Raphael’s artwork in Rome. Louis XIV acquired the painting in 1662.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Within iconography that is cyclonic, two Roman soldiers are placed on the rack to be tortured after they refused their commander’s orders to sacrifice to an idol. The soldiers had been converted to Christianity by Saints Peter and Paul when they guarded them in prison. The altar to Jupiter is on the upper left while, at right, the commander clutches his eye with his left hand after God blinded him in retribution for the idolatry. The foreground figures build on 16th century Franco Italian Mannerist style. One has his back to the viewer; another grinds the wheel of the rack; and, a third bends down with his arm outstretched. All are advanced expressions of realistic figural development and rendered in spatial perspective correctly.

Le Valentin’s powerful painting is an artwork with a psychological dimension. To the left, a hooded figure, Lucina, is a Christian woman who encourages the martyrs to be steadfast as an angel out of heaven extends a palm of martyrdom. To the right, realistically portrayed, is a Roman soldier indifferent to another brutal slaying by the authoritarian government in the face of nascent, meddling, heroic, and expanding Christians in their pagan global empire.

With his attention to detail, Le Valentin’s picture accomplishes an exciting imagined drama based on Renaissance-inspired natural world observation and by way of colorful contemporary 17th century formulations that give a viewer visionary immersion into a complex and significant Bible scene.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632 A Musical Party, 1623/26, oil on canvas, 44 × 57 3/4 in. (111.76 × 146.69 cm),Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
https://collections.lacma.org/node/186803
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Concert in an Interior, 1628/30, oil on canvas, 1.75m x 2.16m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061973

Some of Le Valentin’s great ambition as an artist is demonstrated by this large format canvas whose composition includes eight realistically delineated  figures including 5 musicians and 3 singing youths. The five instruments are depicted accurately as well as the demeanors of the musicians and singers. Instruments have been identified by others as a polyphonic spinet, an alto, a chitarrone, a bass viol and a cornetto.

Detail. Concert in an Interior. Le Valentin.

The painting had been dated at around 1626, though more recent connoisseurship dates it to around 1628 or 1630. It was restored in 1940. It was owned by that avid art collector, Cardinal Mazarin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Concert in bas-relief, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 1.73 m x 2.14m, Louvre.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin painted seven figures gathered around a classical bas-relief. There are a pair of drinkers, one in the foreground, the other in the background; two singers; and three musicians – a violinist, guitarist and lutenist.

The painting, filled with mystery and gravity, is Caravaggesque and not merely telling a story or depicting a genre scene of performance. The painting has been dated to as early as 1622 by some connoisseurs. It was owned by Cardinal Mazarin and restored in 1959. It entered the collection of the Louvre in 1742.

Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings as attested by Concert with Eight Figures and Fortune Teller (both Musée du Louvre, c. 1628), and what is thought to be his very last painting, the Gathering with a Fortune Teller (Vienna, Liechtenstein Collection) in 1632.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Musicians and Soldiers, c. 1626, oil in canvas, 155 x 200 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg.

This is a tavern scene with impromptu music-making among transitory musicians. They are playing for a pair of drinking soldiers. Le Valentin’s painting is Caravaggesque with its interplay of shadows and light, dark palette, and depiction of realistic figures, and a psychological vivacity that is imbued by Le Valentin. It is by his passion and energy for Caravaggio that Le Valentin helped  revolutionize art in 17th century Europe.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Jesus and Caesar’s Coin, around 1624, oil on canvas, 1.11 m x 1.54m, Louvre.

In Matthew’s Gospel the Pharisees were plotting to entrap Jesus by his own words. They sent some of their followers along with local government types (“Herodians”) to flatter Jesus as a truthful and humble man. They asked him to reply to a question: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Mt 22:17).

Jesus, knowing their motivation, responded hardly very nicely, by calling them “hypocrites.” He asked them to show the coin that paid Caesar’s tax.

Le Valentin’s painting depicts the moment when the Pharisee’s henchmen show Jesus the coin with Caesar’s image and inscription on it. Jesus tells them: ”Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22: 21).

Owned by Louis XIV it was put in his dressing room at Versailles in 1680. The Louvre acquired it during the French Revolution in 1793.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats), c. 1618/1620, oil on canvas, 121 x 152 cm (47 5/8 x 59 13/16 in.), The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.107315.html

This painting is inspired by Caravaggio’s The Cheats in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Le Valentin’s painting, only discovered in 1989, shows a group of soldiers idling in Rome and identifiable by their piecemeal armor and other livery. The crowding of the figures into the picture space adds to the scene’s tension.

In this early painting in Rome, Le Valentin presents a scene of its contemporary street life. These figures are seriously gaming at a table where two players (center and right) roll dice and two others (left and center) play cards. A fifth figure in the background signals to his accomplice what is in the hand of the card player in a feathered hat. It is an early artwork that Le Valentin gives a psychological dimension.

As had been Caravaggio’s practice, the artwork is painted alla prima, that is, directly onto the prepared canvas without under-drawing or any preliminary work which works to give it greater spontaneity. The painting is indebted to Caravaggio not only for its subject, but for its vivid sense of actuality with which Le Valentin invested his protagonists as well as for the chiaroscuro, and a thinly and rapidly-applied brushed execution.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, Coulommiers-en-Brie 1591–1632 Rome). Cardsharps. c. 1614-15. Oil on canvas. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
https://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/Details/Index/415366

This painting is one of the first genre pictures Le Valentin painted in Rome. It is a pair of figures to which Le Valentin would soon numerically expand in his pictures. The composition is simple and sturdy.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Herminia among the Shepherds, c. 1630, oil on canvas, 134.6 x 185.6 cm (53 1/8 x 61 5/8”) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München. https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/RQ4XPr8410 

Erminia, the king’s daughter, escapes her persecutors and asks a peaceful shepherd family for shelter. The scene is based on a contemporary (1576) epic poem The Liberated Jerusalem by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595). The picture was a private commission whose patron was likely a Roman art collector and cognoscente. Valentin’s painting combines Caravaggesque chiaroscuro with exquisite coloring. In this realistic depiction of a human encounter between characters who represent contrasting social experiences, the subject matter is rendered psychologically sensitively.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning of thorns of Christ, around 1616/17, oil on canvas, 173 x 241 cm Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich
https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/bwx0jkJGm8

One of the great artworks of Le Valentin’s early phase in Rome, biblical subjects painted before 1620 such as The Crowning of Thorns of Christ were interpreted in the street-life idiom, with expressive protagonists and bystanders resembling the cast of characters in his genre paintings. Although the painting was earlier believed to be by Caravaggio, it may have been a pendant to Le Valentin’s much-later Abraham Sacrificing Isaac (c. 1629) in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This is Le Valentin’s most ambitious of 3 such “crowning with thorns” pictures. The artist in horizontal-format depicts Jesus before his going to Calvary. Christ is mocked and tormented; a crown of thorns is pressed onto his head (Matthew 27: 27-31; Mark 15:16-21; Luke 23:11; John 19: 1-3). With its dramatic lighting and shadows, the naturalistic depiction of Christ’s body and soldiers in contemporary costume is Caravaggesque.

Le Valentin’s scene adheres to the Bible episode: a whole cohort of soldiers surrounded Jesus, stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak on  him. Henchmen have weaved a crown out of thorns and are placing it on Jesus’s head. Another puts a reed as a faux scepter into Jesus’s right hand. To mock him they kneel before him and say: “Hail, King of the Jews!” The soldiers spit on Jesus and then take the reed away and strike him repeatedly with it. When they were done with these violent actions, the soldiers stripped Jesus of the military cloak, dressed him in his own clothes and led him out to be crucified.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning with Thorns, around 1627/28, oil on canvas, 51 15/16 × 37 15/16 in. (132 × 96.3 cm) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/Dn4ZR224aK/valentin-de-boulogne/dornenkroenung-und-verspottung-christi

Le Valentin’s Passion theme is a later vertical-format picture of a subject he had painted masterly before. In these last years the subject matter had gained in classical beauty as well as psychological involvement compared to Le Valentin’s earlier artwork. The painting covers over a discarded portrait of Cardinal Barberini which suggests Valentin’s close relationship with the ecclesial prince, very likely being in his employ. What caused the artist to revisit the subject of a brutalized Christ is unclear though it may have been based on the artist’s own struggles or that of his employer whose portrait he painted over.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Noli me tangere  c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Christ and the Samaritan Woman c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, 1622/24, oil on canvas, 195 x 261 cm, Prado, Madrid. Spain.

St. Laurence (d. 258) became a popular early Roman martyr. Laurence has been continually honored by the church since the 4th century and is a patron of Rome.

In the mid 3rd century, Laurence was a deacon to a new pope, Sixtus II (257-258). Sixtus II was martyred along with his seven deacons, including Laurence, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Valerian (199-264).

Following the pope’s martyrdom, Laurence was arrested and ordered to collect and hand over church treasures to the secular authority. Instead, Laurence distributed any goods to Rome’s poor which infuriated the emperor against him. These paupers appeared in Le Valentin’s painting to the left.

The emperor ordered the Catholic deacon to sacrifice to Rome’s gods which Laurence refused to do (in prison Laurence converted his guard). Laurence was martyred after being tortured and then roasted alive over a fire on a spit. The saint is famously quoted as telling his executioners: “One side is roasted, so you can turn me over and roast the other side.”

In the Prado Le Valentin gives orderly arrangement to a complex scene of 15 figures and a horse. It shows the saint during his martyrdom isolated in the center of the composition. As with Caravaggio’s figures, the soldiers are in modern costume, use of chiaroscuro is evident, and further drama is added by the use of diagonals whose construction suggest movement that add to the tension of the naturally rendered figures. However, Le Valentin uses these derived elements unconventionally.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), St Luke, Evangelist, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 120 x 146 cm, Palace of Versailles, Versailles.
Detail. St. Luke Evangelist. Le Valentin.

Dating from the years 1624-1626, le Valentin painted all four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for the same religious order in Rome whose name is unknown. They entered the collections of the Sun King in 1670.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Last Supper, c. 1625, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, Rome.

For his The Last Supper, Le Valentin was, at least through engravings, aware of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (c. 1495–1498) in Milan and Raphael’s Last Supper (1518-1519) in Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. Le Valentin explores the 12 apostles’ reactions. Commissioned by Asdrubale Mattei (d. 1638), one of Rome’s nobili, to decorate a gallery in his family’s palace, the picture depicts a central event presented in the gospels. The moment that is depicted in these Last Supper paintings is when Christ announces that one of his disciples will betray him. Judas, in the foreground left, was treasurer for Jesus’s disciples and betrayed Jesus for a bribe payment of 30 pieces of silver. The picture, with its simple and monumental composition, so impressed Jacques-Louis David  (1748-1825) in 1779 that he copied it and sent it from Rome to Paris.

Portrait of Asdrubale Mattei di Giove, 17th century, attributed to Caravaggio, Condé Museum, Chantilly, France.
https://www.musee-conde.fr/fr/notice/pe-61-portrait-d-asdrubale-mattei-di-giove-1318fe15-3a5f-48ef-9486-e6920ed8d0b8
Valentin de Boulogne, Samson, 1631, Oil on canvas, 135.6 x 102.8 cm (53 3/8 x 40 1/2 in.), The Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1972.50

An Old Testament Judge, Samson was born in a miraculous fashion and with an angel telling his mother and father, “No razor shall touch his head” (Judges 13:5). Samson is often depicted with his locks unshorn. As a youth Samson displayed an incredible physical strength attributed to “the spirit of the Lord rushing upon him” (Judges 14:6).

Le Valentin’s picture presents Samson’s legendary strength by showing the solid demeanor of his physical body as well as objects which hold symbolic value of his strength. These include that he killed a lion with his bare hands and liberated the Israelites by slaughtering a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15: 15-16). The strength of his arm is displayed as his fingers curl under his jaw as his wandering gaze looks off with intense interiority. One contemporary allusion in the painting is Samson’s breastplate which is joined at the shoulder by a clasp in the form of a bee which was the emblem of the Barberini family who commissioned the painting. It is speculated that the facial features of Samson in a picture before his fateful meeting with Delilah (Judges 16), may be a self-portrait of Le Valentin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), Judith with the Head of Holofernes. c. 1626-27. Oil on canvas. Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.

The story of Judith in the Old Testament relates of a woman of great beauty and reverence to the God of Israel who is highly respected by her people and its leaders. The nation, desperate for survival, turns to Judith who is given the opportunity to kill their enemy’s military leader which she believes she can and must do and that all believed impossible as Israel’s military defeat by their enemies was a foregone conclusion.

The story has a femme fatale aspect as Holofernes was captivated by Judith’s physical appearance, but the Biblical episode of the execution, while a climax of her mission, pales in comparison with the relating of Judith’s overall dedication to her people and her God, a femme forte, which carries on into her long life of blessedness to her natural death. Le Valentin chooses that sacred element of the Bible book when he shows an iconic Judith, triumphant woman of Israel, holding in her hands the decapitated head of one of Israel’s once-formidable mortal enemies. Judith is shown as a heroic woman with her hand raised as she admonishes: “But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman.”

For Le Valentin’s artwork, Judith is an icon of God’s justice to his obedient people. Purchased for French King Louis XIV from German banker Everhard Jabach, the picture was installed in the king’s bedroom at Versailles to be especially admired.

The picture belongs to Le Valentin’s period of maturity for it displays the artist’s full interpretation of the realism of Caravaggio and Manfredi though, as expressed here, with a new appreciation for colors. The pretext of a Judith who, according to the Bible, had adorned herself in her best finery so not to dissuade Holofernes’s gaze (Judith, 13, 14), allows le Valentin to illuminate the dress’s rich fabrics with monochrome refractions, while the jewels and hair are bathed in ethereal light.

Detail. Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), David with the head of Goliath, c. 1615/16, oil on canvas, 99 x 134 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid,
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Four Ages of Man, c. 1627/30, oil on canvas,. London, National Gallery.
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/valentin-de-boulogne-the-four-ages-of-man

The Four Ages of Man is a painting commissioned by Cardinal Barberini. It is an allegorical work whose human figures are painted by Le Valentin in natural poses. Groups of figures around a table were common in the work of Caravaggio and his northern followers. The allegory of the ages of man was a common subject for paintings during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, though its quantity of ages varied.

The allegory presents humanity in four categories of age – childhood (holding an empty bird trap); youth (playing a lute); adulthood (with a book and victor’s laurel); old age (with coins of wealth and delicate glassware).

The theme had its origin in classical literature: Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Dante’s Inferno acknowledged the stages of human life according to physical growth and decline. Contemporary poems were written on the subject that Le Valentin may have known.

In the 17th century, the painting was owned by Michel Particelli, seigneur d’Emery (1596–1650) in Paris. In the 18th century it was in the Orléans collection at the Palais Royal. During the French Revolution and the dispersal of the collection in 1791, the painting was brought to England where it is today.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ Expelling the Merchants from the Temple c. 1626. 192 x 266.5 cm, oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/8276ab63-4bcc-40e9-83ab-91aa57903031/WOA_IMAGE_1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&1677c4b2-bad6-47ed-b628-27cda4f71809

Le Valentin painted many half- or three-quarter-length figures of saints, prophets and narrative scenes including this painting. The scene of Christ expelling the moneychangers from the Temple of Jerusalem is told in all four gospels of the New Testament. Le Valentin adapted the method of half-length, full size street figures depicted in dark, precisely lighted spaces and emerging in relief from the shadows from the Caravaggistes.

Gospel readers would recognize that the cleansing of the temple was prophesied in the Old Testament as a  sign of the ushering in of the Messianic Age (Zechariah 14:21). In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the episode appears at the close of Jesus’s public ministry and in John’s gospel at the start (2:13-17). The chronology of the episode in Jesus‘ ministry is generally not considered its most important element.

Le Valentin shows the “whip of cords” held by Christ, a detail mentioned only in John (Jn 2:15). There are overturned tables, a bench, and scattered coins. Le Valentin depicts the gestures, movements and emotions of the characters involved, focused on a wrathful Christ and fear of the unrighteous.

While in Synoptics the point of the episode appears to be the dishonesty of the Temple money changers, in John’s gospel Jesus’s wrath is directed to the Temple institution itself. In John’s Gospel Jesus declares the Temple is to be “My Father’s house.” Though not a term unique to John, he uses it more than any other Gospel writer (27 times).

Derived from Caravaggio are the types of ordinary people, distinct contrasts of light and shade and the natural plasticity of the figures involved in the composition.

The painting entered the Hermitage collection in 1772.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple. Oil on canvas, 195 x 260 cm (76 ¾ x 103 1/8 in.). Palazzo Corsini, Rome.

The painting’s structural asymmetry lends energy to the scene. With Christ’s raised arm, he is a menace to the money changers. Le Valentin, taking inspiration from Caravaggio, unabashedly renders a scene in grand format of violence in the gospels. The painting was rediscovered in Rome in the mid19th century.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante – Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation. https://irfrome.org/en/villa-lante-4/architecture/salone-en/

The oil painting called Allegoria d’Italia by Le Valentin was originally called Historia d’Italia. Its massive volumes imbued with inner life are rendered using a brown palette and highlights that retained the Caravaggiste tradition. Le Valentin’s redoubling his commitment to Caravaggio in the late 1620s was on display in this painting as other leading painters, such as Vouet, Poussin, Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647) and Pietro da Cortona (1597-1669), were deploying brighter “modern” colors.

In March 1628 Cardinal Barberini gave Le Valentin the commission for the Extraordinary Jubilee of 1628 and paid 113 crowns for it. This major painting which renewed Caravaggio-inspired technique in the late 1620s attracted greater attention to Le Valentin’s artwork not only by Caravaggeschi but the broader Roman art circles.

A young Roman girl wears an emperor’s cuirass, holds a spear and shield, as the personification of Italy. At her feet are the fruit and nuts of the land’s bounty. Below her image are two male figures, naked and bearded, who represent the Tiber and the Arno, Italy’s great rivers. The figure of the Tiber is joined by Romulus and Remus and the suckling wolf who founded Rome and the later Papal States. The Arno that runs through Florence is joined by its symbol of the lion. In the top left corner, a tree stump with a bee swarm symbolizes the Barberini.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ and the Adulteress,, 1618-22, oil on canvas, 167 x 221.3 cm, Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  https://museum-essays.getty.edu/paintings/ebeeny-valentin/

The gospel story that Le Valentin depicts using the typical Caravaggiste method (half-length, full size street figures in shadow and light) is from John 8. The story had been painted by the Flemish and the Venetians. The plump young woman in a torn garment exposing her shoulders and full-formed breasts is taken into custody by soldiers in armor to Jesus. According to the law the woman should be publicly stoned for adultery. The Pharisees lay verbal and other traps repeatedly in the gospels for Jesus to say or do something that is expungable. Jesus’s response moves past their premise. Whereas Jesus will soon be arrested, tried, and condemned by the authorities for his “transgressions,” the focus of le Valentin’s artwork is Jesus showing mercy to the sinful woman. From a theological viewpoint, Jesus’s innovative teaching is again based on the appeal to an extant biblical tradition of God’s anger towards, and forgiveness of, harlotry or unfaithfulness when such sin is repented (Hosea 5:4). Jesus tells her: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). While the woman’s disheveled look suggests the nature of her sin, she represents humankind and points to Christ, the God-Man and prophesied suffering servant (Isaiah 53). Christ  takes the harlot’s place as the arrested agitator and manhandled by soldiers along the Via Dolorosa. In that episode, Christ goes to the cross to shed his blood in the new covenant whose outcome for “adulterous” humankind is  eternal forgiveness of sins and rising to new life.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Lute Player, c. 1625/26, 128.3 x 99.1 cm The Metropolitian Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/439933

The image of a young soldier singing in armor breastplate a love madrigal is unique in Valentin’s oeuvre. The painting was part of the collection of Cardinal Mazarin, minister to Louis XIV.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1615–16, oil on canvas, 59 1/16 × 70 1/16 in. (150 × 178 cm), Museo della Venerabile Arciconfraternita della Misericordia, Florence.

One of Jesus’s most famous parables, The Prodigal Son tells the story of a young man who demanded his “full share of [his father’s] estate that should come to [him],” and departed to waste it “on a life of dissipation” (Luke 15). When the lost son falls on hard times, he seeks his father’s house though “only as a hired servant.” The forgiving father who has been on the look-out for his lost son (dressed in rags) since the day of his departure welcomes him back as a son “who was dead and has come back to life.” Which of the other figures may be the older brother who is unhappy about his dissolute brother’s return is not clear. Le Valentin treats the parable as a human story of repentance, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Fortune-Teller with Soldiers, 58 7/8 x 93 7/8 in. (149.5 x 238.4 cm), Toledo Museum of Art.
http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54884/fortuneteller-with-soldiers?ctx=99a0dbca-6a24-444e-a66b-95c576c7395c&idx=1

The attribution to Le Valentin and its dating for this artwork is the result of modern scholarship. Art historians can thereby draw conclusions and make conjectures about the development of Le Valentin’s early artwork in Rome -he uses a larger format, growing complexity of compositional qualities and its subject matter, and the retention of low-life characters and stylistic indebtedness to Caravaggio as he moves beyond him.

A dark tavern filled with low-life characters provides the setting for a scene of fortune and deceit. As a gypsy fortuneteller reads the palm of a young soldier he is looking pensively as she speaks his fate, there are carousers and thieves in the scene.  The picture is emblematic of Le Valentin – the techniques of a somber palette and dramatic lighting and tabletop groupings but also a mysterious mood and psychological depth to the complex interplay among its characters.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Portrait of Roman Prelate, 128 x 94 cm, private collection.

The prelate is dressed in the robes of a papal chamberlain. Modern scholarship has proposed various individuals as the sitter from cardinals to lawyers.

Denial of St. Peter, c. 1623/25, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 119 x 172 cm.
https://collection.pushkinmuseum.art/entity/PERSON/273?query=valentin%20de%20boulogne&index=0
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, 1629/32, 149.2 x 186.1 cm The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
https://www.mbam.qc.ca/en/works/8394/
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Moses, 1625/27. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 131 x 103.5 cm. https://www.khm.at/en/objectdb/detail/2012/

Moses led the Israelites out the slavery of Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land during the Exodus. The event is told and retold in the Old Testament and Moses as Liberator and Law Giver is its most significant figure. Le Valentin shows him holding a miraculous rod that he used  to open the Red Sea (Exodus 14), struck the rock to produce water (Numbers 20) and, after its transformation into an iron snake, healed the ill (Numbers 21). Moses points to the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments of God (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). This late work by Valentin is characteristic in its dark and pensive tone that is reminiscent of Caravaggio.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632),Cheerful company with Fortune Teller, 190 × 267cm, oil on canvas, 1631 Vienna Liechtenstein.
https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/collections-online/cheerful-company-with-fortune-teller
Detail. Cheerful Company with Fortune Teller. Le Valentin.

The picture is one of Valentin’s last paintings before his death in 1632. Prince Hans Adam Il von und zu Liechtenstein (b. 1945) acquired the work in 2004.  Throughout his painting career, Le Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collection of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Philip Conisbee and Frances Gage, Washington, D.C., 2009 pp, 413-414.

Art for the Nation, text by Philip Conisbee, National Gallery of Art exhibition catalogue, 2000.

French Painting From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Chatâlet and Jacques Thuillier, trans. from French by Stuart Gilbert, Skira, 1963.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663663

https://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2016/valentin-de-boulogne

https://arthistorians.info/bousquet

https://arthistorians.info/hoogewerffg

https://arthistorians.info/longhir

https://www.kulturelles-erbe-koeln.de/documents/obj/05011488/rba_d054126_01

The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957.

The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Corp, New York, 1993.

Mannerism: The Painting and Style of The Late Renaissance,  Jacques Bousquet, trans, by Simon Watson Taylor, Braziller, 1964.

The Liberation of Jerusalem, Torquato Tasso, trans by Max Wicker, Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.

Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio, Annick Lemoine, Keith Christiansen, Patrizia Cavazzini, Jean Pieere Cuzin, Gianni Pappi, Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2016.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/hauts-de-france/somme/amiens/six-tableaux-de-la-chambre-du-roi-du-chateau-de-versailles-exceptionnellement-exposes-au-musee-de-picardie-2620412.html

https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/

Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J,  and Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm.,The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1968.

Lehmbeck, Leah, editor. Gifts of European Art from The Ahmanson Foundation. Vol. 2, French Painting and Sculpture. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019.

Marandel, J. Patrice and Gianni Papi. 2012. Caravaggio and his Legacy. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Fried, Michael. After Caravaggio. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Schmid, Vanessa I., with Julia Armstrong-Totten. The Orléans Collection. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art; Lewes: In association with D. Giles, 2018.

Merle Du Bourg, Alexis. “L’omniprésence de la musique.” Dossier de L’Art no.246 (2017): 64-67.

Eugène Boudin (1824-1898): French Impressionist artist who was “King of The Skies!”

FEATURE image: Eugène Boudin, The Beach at Villerville, 1864, Oil on canvas, 18 × 30 1/16 in. (45.7 × 76.4 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

In 1893, in the last years of his long and successful art career, 69-year-old Eugène Boudin returned to the Normandy coast for which this French painter of skies and beaches is rightly associated. It was at this time that he painted Sunset on the Beach (below) in a private collection. After Boudin began to be widely collected in the 1870’s and 1880’s he traveled and lived and worked far away from the region where he was born and grew up and had embarked on a career as an artist. Yet, as soon as the mid-to-late 1850’s, important artists and writers were already appreciating the sensitivity to which Boudin painted artwork in nature. Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) believed he could identify with precision the season and hour of Boudin’s subject matter. Realist painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who once said “show me an angel and I will paint him” called Boudin a “seraph.” Remarkably, Barbizon painter Camille Corot (1796-1875) exclaimed: “Boudin, you are king of the skies!”

Eugène Boudin (1824-1898), Sunset on the Beach, oil on canvas, 1893, private collection. 

Throughout the mid-to-late nineteenth century, Boudin’s subject matter was timeless land, sea and skyscapes which he sometimes populated with contemporary human figures in modern bourgeois costume and dress. Often, the landscapes are devoid of human presence excepting the artist’s gaze.

Eugène Boudin, White Clouds over the Estuary, c.1857.
Eugène Boudin, Crinolines on the Beach, 1863.
Eugène Boudin, Douarnenez, Fishing Boats at Dockside, 1855.
Eugène Boudin, Deauville, Low Tide, c.1863.
Eugène Boudin, The Beach at Villerville, 1864, Oil on canvas, 18 × 30 1/16 in. (45.7 × 76.4 cm), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Boudin was a friend of the Impressionists and exhibited in their first exhibition in Paris in 1874. Claude Monet (1840-1926), born in Paris, also grew up in Normandy. Boudin and Monet painted together en plein aire as each sought, discovered, and honed their artistic styles.

Eugène Boudin ,Seascape with Large Sky, 1860.

Boudin did not think of himself primarily as an avant-garde artist and did not exhibit in the Impressionist exhibitions after 1874. Yet, with these Impressionists, Boudin’s artwork depicted light and its reflections, especially its darker filaments, in preference to volumes and forms.

In addition to beach scenes, skies, sea, and countryside, Boudin painted still life, animals, and a few portraits. In the 1870s Boudin painted harbors and ships. In his subject matter his pictures presented a complete and even-handed depiction, evocative of eighteenth-century genre paintings.

Eugène Boudin, Spray of Flowers – Hollyhocks, 1858.
Eugène Boudin, study of cows, c. 1860.
Eugène Boudin, Vue de Trouville, 1873.
Eugène Boudin, Entrance to the Harbor, Le Havre, 1883, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Slightly older Dutch painter Johan Jongkind (1819-1891) had encouraged Boudin to paint outdoors. Boudin, now surrounded by nature, became increasingly spontaneous in his artwork and used brighter colors.1

Eugène Boudin, Trouville, Shore and Rocks, c.1862.

In 1859, 35-year-old Eugène Boudin, the painter of seascapes and beaches, made his debut at the Salon. The annual Salon began in the late 17th century (1667). It was sponsored by the monarchy and highlighted artwork of members of the Academie royale de peinture et de sculpture. The all-important Salon operated in this basic form for almost 200 years. It was held  irregularly at first (frequently there would be no exhibition held for years) though between 1774 to 1792 the Salon was held biennially.

This elite Salon was a competitive platform for artists to display their work where the goal was to gain public and private commissions. The Salon was the sole venue in France for contemporary fine art and was popular to visit by a cross-section of society where many purchased the livret, the Salon’s official catalogue. In 1795 during the French Revolution the historically royal venue was opened to all artists. This more inclusive Salon experience led to the extension of official French art’s influence throughout Europe. In the Salon of 1800, American artists exhibited for the first time.2

Between 1864 and 1879 Boudin exhibited in the Salon every year.However, important critics, such as the influential Albert Wolff (1835-1891), ignored Boudin for much of this time. It was in 1881, 22 years after Boudin’s Salon debut, that M. Wolff published an article in Le Figaro that led to Boudin’s greater official recognition.4 

In the last decades of the 19th century, Boudin exhibited yearly from 1880 to 1889 at the Salon des Société des Artistes Françaisand, with a single exception, from 1890 to 1897 at the Société National des Beaux-Arts.6  Some of Boudin’s works were bought by the State in the late 1880’s and early 1890’s.7 Ernest Chesneau (1833-1890) had written on Boudin in Paris-Journal that while the painter was ignored by official art world critics he was a “real talent” among the Salon’s “latest banalties.”

In 1881 control of the Salon was ceded to the Société des Artistes Français. In the 1880’s and 1890’s there were several groups outside the Salon who mounted exhibitions. These included the one-time Salon des Refusés in 1863, the Société des Artistes Indépendants or Salon des Indépendants, beginning in summer 1884, and the salons of the Société nationale des beaux-arts, from 1890. These types of independent, unofficial exhibitions, continued into the 20th century with the Salon d’automne in 1903.8

In 1859 Boudin met Gustave Courbet who introduced Boudin to the poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire. Courbet, painting at Boudin’s side, exclaimed: “Mon Dieu, you are a seraph, Boudin! You are the only one of us who really knows the sky!” In 1861 Boudin met Camille Corot who called Boudin the “king of the skies.”

Eugène Boudin, Elegant Women on the Beach, 1863.

Charles Baudelaire noted in 1859 that  he had seen in Boudin’s studio “hundreds of pastel studies improvised before the sea and the sky.” Baudelaire described these artworks as “the prodigious magic of air and water.”9 The economy of Boudin’s artwork with its summary figures of modern life attracted Baudelaire’s praise during the 1859 Salon. Baudelaire became convinced, when looking at a Boudin painting, that he could identify the season, hour and wind direction of the subject matter depicted in pastel or paint.10

Eugène Boudin, Near Honfluer, c.1856.

At the Impressionist Exhibition of 1874, the critic Castagnary (1830-1888), author of “The Triumph of Naturalism” in 1868, wrote on Boudin in Le Siècle. He cited “the very high prices” that Boudin was experiencing as collectors “fought over” his beach scenes and seascapes. Castagnary concluded in 1874 that the 50-year-old Boudin had “commanded respect for years.”11 In 1868 Boudin’s auction of 40 paintings and 100 watercolors and pastels at the Hôtel Drouot had been quite successful. That same year Boudin won a silver medal at the Exposition maritime international exhibiting with Courbet, Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878), Monet and Édouard Manet (1832-1883).

In 1874, Marc de Montifaud (Marie Amélie Chartroule, 1850-c.1912), art critic for L’Artiste and soon to found L’Art modern magazine in 1875 (and which merged with Les Beaux-Arts in 1877) cited the titles of a few paintings by Boudin out of the 13 works he exhibited which included watercolors and pastels. Yet De Montifaud’s placement of Boudin’s work under the category of “marine paintings,” did little to elucidate exact canvasses when the time came later to identify such.12

In the 1860’s Paris dealers such as Martin, Hagerman and Gauchez were regularly buying his work. Boudin’s growing reputation and financial security enabled him to travel extensively in the 1870s and 1880s. Boudin, who married Marie-Ane Guédès in 1863, painted in Belgium, the Netherlands and southern France in that period. From 1892 to 1895 he regularly visited Italy, traveling to Venice. In addition to being awarded medals at the Salon, the Exposition Universelle in 1889, and other exhibitions, Boudin, in 1881, became represented by Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922).

Eugène Boudin, Place Ary Scheffer, Dordrecht, 1884, oil on panel 27×21.5 cm Dordrecht Museum, Netherlands.

In the late 1870s Boudin, then without dealer representation, held several auctions of his artwork which produced varying sales results. In 1881, Durand-Ruel bought all of Boudin’s studio inventory. In 1883 Boudin had a solo exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s that featured 150 paintings, and pastels and watercolors and in 1886 an exhibition of 23 works at Durand-Ruel’s in New York City. From July 8 to August 14, 1889 – the year Boudin’s wife died – the artist staged a one-man exhibition in Paris at Durand-Ruel’s featuring 98 pictures.13 In 1890 Boudin held an exhibition at Durand Ruel’s in Boston featuring 13 paintings and a solo exhibition in Paris at Durand-Ruel’s with 34 paintings, and as many pastels and several drawings in 1891.

Eugène Boudin, Le port d’Antibes, 1893, Musée d’ Orsay.

As a refuge for his ill-health, Boudin lived in the south of France for many years but finally returned to Deauville. In 1898 Boudin died at 74 years old under the skies of La Manche which he had been inspired to paint often.

In 1892 Eugène Boudin was made a knight of the Légion d’honneur which recognized the artist’s talent and influence on the art of his contemporaries. Today, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts gives the Eugène Boudin Prize.

Eugène Boudin, Étretat 1891,Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin.

After Boudin’s death, his artistic reputation continued to grow. In 1899, The École des Beaux Arts held a major retrospective with 457 works (including 364 paintings, 73 pastels, and 20 watercolors). Boudin was praised by art critics Roger Marx (1859-1913), Arsène Alexandre (1859-1937), and Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), among others,

Despite the artist’s modest consideration for his art, Boudin was viewed in retrospect by 20th century’s critics as an initiator of the avant-garde, though he did not quite ascend to the turbulent aesthetic heights of Manet and Monet.14. 

In 1872, art critic Louis Duranty (1833 -1880) published a short story that included fictional and historical characters including artists such as Boudin, Manet, Corot, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), Edgar Degas (1834-1917), and Courbet. Of Boudin, Duranty wrote: “Here is a simple, sagacious, conscientious mind who puts forward (the artwork’s) feeling in gray, fine, fair notes.” 

Eugène Boudin by Pierre Petit.

NOTES:

1. Selz, E. Boudin, 1986, p. 25.

2. https://www.artic.edu/library/discover-our-collections/research-guides/paris-salons-1673present – retrieved 12.18.21

https://libguides.northwestern.edu/Paris_Salons.

https://guides.lib.ku.edu/c.php?g=551592&p=3805865

3. https://guides.lib.ku.edu/c.php?g=551592&p=3805865.

4. http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/node/1004  – retrieved 12.18.21

5. https://aic-web-cms-uploads.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/a5e4dc98-98fb-4a3a-a905-bc210551e9b6/ParisSalonGuide.pdf

6. J. Selz, E. Boudin, 1986; https://guides.lib.ku.edu/c.php?g=551592&p=3805865.

7. J. Selz, E. Boudin, 1986.

8. https://libguides.northwestern.edu/Paris_Salons – retrieved 12.18.21

9. Corot- Rewald, John, The History of Impressionism, v.1, MoMA, 1973, p.61; http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/collections/artworks-in-context/eugene-boudin/boudin-study-sky – retrieved 12.18.21.

10. https://www.impressionism.nl/boudin-eugene/ – retrieved 12.18.21.

11. Charles S. Moffett, The New Painting, 1986, p.125.

12. https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/term/BIOG203075

13. https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k3260963/f21.item

14. (http://www.muma-lehavre.fr/en/node/1004 – retrieved 12.18.21

FRENCH ART in the 16th Century.

FEATURE image: Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm).

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait Louis XII, c. 1514, Windsor collections de S.M. la Reine d’Angleterre.

Jean Perréal’s most important attribution is this portrait of Louis XII who was King of France from 1498 to 1515. Louis XII was married three times – the first annulled; the second leaving the king a widower, and, in his last three months of life, to Mary Tudor (1496-1533), the favorite sister of King Henry VIII of England. Despite these wives, the king had no living sons. The Salic Law prohibited his line to continue on the French throne through his daughters. When Louis died in 1515, his throne eventually passed to his cousin, Francis I.

Jean Perréal (1455-1529), Portrait of a woman, c. 1500, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010059108
Detail of above.

Jean Perréal (c.1455-1530) was Court painter to the Bourbons and later worked for the kings of France starting with Charles VII. Perréal journeyed to Italy several times. In 1514 he went to London to paint Mary Tudor’s portrait and supervise her new dresses as Mary, aged 18 years, sister of the English king, married the 52-year-old King Louis XII of France.

Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles protects a wounded deer for Charles Martel, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak, 63.4 × 48.4 cm.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510),Virgin with Child, c. 1500, Louvre.
Master of Saint Giles (active 1490-1510), St. Giles’ Mass, c. 1500, National Gallery, London, oil on oak.

The Master of Saint Giles was a Flemish or Flemish-trained painter who was active in France. He is named after artworks in London attributed to the artist called Scenes from the Legend of St. Giles. As the artist’s identity is obscure, the saint depicted in his artwork is shrouded in legend.

St. Giles is possibly an 8th century hermit in France who became the patron saint of beggars, the handicapped, and blacksmiths which was an important trade in the Middle Ages. In one work, the artist depicts a famous story about St. Giles. Before King Flavius’s hunting party, he protected a deer from their bows and arrows. The king was apologetic and Giles persuaded him to establish a Provençal monastery in which St. Giles served as its first abbot.

Le Rosso (1494-1540), La Fontaine de Jouvence, c 1535, fresco, Chateau de Fontainebleau, Galerie Francois I.

France conducted wars in Italy starting in 1494 that continued into the 16th century. By this pugilistic means, many of the Italian Renaissance’s ideas and practices were brought back to France. It had been just the opposite in the 12th century when French ideas, particularly that of troubadours and chivalry, were brought back to Italy following trade expeditions by merchants.

After fighting ceased, King Francis I invited Italian artists into France, most famously Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in 1516. Following more war in Spain, Francis I began in earnest a revolution in art in France in 1526. The king made the Château de Fontainebleau one of the most active artistic centers in Europe, attracting many Italian artists such as Le Rosso (1495-1540) and Primaticcio or Primatice (c. 1504-1570). The French Renaissance, under the influence of these Italian masters, synthesized French and Italian art whose style was later described as the School of Fontainebleau.

Le Rosso or Rosso Fiorentino was a friend of Pontormo (1494-1557) and worked under Andrea del Sarto (1486-1530), a founder of Italian Mannerism. He first worked in Florence (1513-1523) and then in Rome (1524-1527). With the sack of Rome in 1527 by German troops of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500-1558), Rosso wandered about Italy for a while. In 1530 he was in Venice and, in that same year, went to France.

Rosso arrived to Fontainebleau and, with Primaticcio, became one of the founders of the Fontainebleau style which had a tremendous influence on French painting. Reputedly a neurotic person, Rosso’s death was accounted a suicide by Vasari though that is unconfirmed. The classic style found in Rosso’s The Fountain of Youth was increasingly replaced by his later emotionally charged style.

https://www.chateaudefontainebleau.fr/en/espace-groupe/visites-scolaires-chateau-de-fontainebleau/les-dossiers-pedagogiques/la-renaissance/

Le Rosso (1494-1540), Pietà, c. 1540, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010061332

Primaticcio (c.1504-1570) was a founder of the Fontainebleau School in France with his fellow Italian artist Le Rosso in the 1530s. Primaticcio was a talented artist of universal range – from painting and interior decoration to sculpture and architecture.

From the mid1520s to 1532 Primiticcio trained in Mantua under Giulio Romano (c. 1499-1546). He was called to France by King Francis I in 1532 where he worked at Fontainebleau with Le Rosso. Between 1540 and 1542 the artist represented the king in Italy on an art buying expedition. In that time when he was away Rosso died, and Primiticcio, upon his return to France, began working with Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571) at Fontainebleau. It was in this period that he produced decorations in the galerie d’Ulysses that have been lost. In 1546, and again in 1563, Primaticcio went to Italy where on one trip he made casts of Michelangelo’s sculpture and in the other met Vasari.

Ulysses and Penelope, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Toledo Museum of Art, c. 1560, oil on canvas, 44 3/4 x 48 3/4 in. (113.6 x 123.8 cm). http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54742/ulysses-and-penelope?ctx=2f264d6c-812c-4e21-83c3-07cd963ab760&idx=0

The style of the painting is Mannerist which predominated in the 16th century. Mannerists went beyond the depiction of nature to flights of imagination and invention. For a stylistic statement, forms were twisting and elongated giving them greater pliability. Mannerists rejected the High Renaissance’s reliance on strict perspective and symmetry and preferred to construct compressed spaces with shaded tones, harsh colors, and the overall feeling of dreaming while awake.

After battling the Trojans and other subsequent troubled adventures, Greek hero Odysseus (Ulysses) has returned home to his wife, the faithful Penelope. Into the night, the reunited lovers recount their lives apart from one another. While Penelope counts the number of suitors on her hands who she held at bay, Ulysses cradles her chin in a gesture of tenderness and compassion. The composition is based on one of 58 wall frescos of scenes from Homer’s Odyssey at the palace of Fontainebleau near Paris. Unfortunately, the Gallery of Ulysses, Primaticcio’s masterpiece, was destroyed in 1738 after it had been allowed to decay over 200 years.

A kneeling woman, gathering wheat in sheaves, attributed to Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl020005673
Mascarade de Persépolis, Francesco Primaticcio called Le Primatice (1504-1570), Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020005563

A preparatory drawing by Primaticcio in the Louvre for a lost composition of the cycle of L’Histoire d’Alexandre painted in the Room of the Duchess of Etampes in Fontainebleau. It was the masquerade that brought about the fire in Persepolis, an historic event that took place in 330 BCE when Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Persian Empire following the battle of Guagamela the year before.

It is not disputed in history that after Alexander arrived to the Persian capital city of Persepolis it was looted and burned to the ground, destroying many great cultural treasures. Though recorded by several historians, accounts vary. The first century Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote that while drunk during a large celebration with his companions, attendants and  courtesans, Alexander himself started the fire as the rest joined in. (see – https://www.worldhistory.org/article/214/alexander-the-great–the-burning-of-persepolis/

Niccolò dell’Abbate (c. 1509-1571), The Death of Eurydice, c. 1550s-1560s, oil on canvas, 189.2 × 237.5 cm, National Gallery London.

Niccolò dell’Abbate was from Modena in Italy. He was influenced by the sculptural and optical illusion achieved in the artwork of Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506). He was also influenced by Correggio (1489-1534), a master of chiaroscuro. By 1552 dell’ Abbate was in France helping Primaticcio at Fontainebleau with the royal chateau’s interior decorations though most of his artwork has disappeared. The Death of Eurydice is a fine example of the Mannerist landscape which the artist is responsible for having introduced into France.

Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), Le triomphe de Flore (The Triumph of Flora), private collection (Vicenza).

Le Maître de Flore is a  French painter of the mid16th century Fontainebleau School. The use of the moniker Maître de Flore derives from this and another artwork.

Le Maître de Flore, The Birth of Cupid, after 1550, Oil on wood, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/437006?ft=master+of+flore&offset=0&rpp=40&pos=7

The painting above by the Master of Flore in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is seen as depicting the birth of Cupid, with attendants in the birthing room assisting Venus. The composition, which is animated and decorative, is an example of the School of Fontainebleau, the high art style developed in 16th century France by Italian artists under the sponsorship of the French king.

Attributed to Le Maître de Flore (active 1540-1560), La Charité, c. 1552. Louvre.
https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010065400.
School of Fontainebleau, Diana the Hunter, c. 1550, 75 5/8 x52 3/8 in. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010064749https://collections.louvre.fr/CGU

Perhaps the most famous artwork to come out of the School of Fontainebleau is an anonymous work in the Louvre entitled Diana the Hunter. With influences of both Le Rosso and dell’ Abbate, Italian masters of the school, it is believed to depict Diana de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II.

School of Fontainebleau, Woman in her Toilet, c, 1550,  Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon.

A recurring theme of the Italian masters and French artists in the 16th century is that of the naked woman, shown half-figure in her bath, or dressing. Some have an allegorical significance, others are combined with a portrait. This particular work which depicts some beauty of the day was so admired that there are known 16th century copies of it in Basel and in Massachusetts.

Jean Cousin the Elder (1490-1560), Saint Mammès coming to surrender to the court of the governor of Cappadocia, around 1541, tapestry, 440 × 450cm, Paris, Louvre Museum.

Jean Cousin was born in Sens and died in Paris. He was a French painter, engraver and sculptor.

St. Mammès was martyred under Emperor Aurelian in Cappadocia around 275. In Asia Minor he was highly revered by early Christians. In the 8th century his relics were taken to France and into Langres cathedral. Around 1540, eight tapestries were produced for the cathedral chancel depicting scenes from the saint’s life. Three of the tapestries survive: two in Langres and one in the Louvre.

In the Louvre tapestry, St. Mammès is accompanied by a lion to visit Aurelian who condemned him to death. In the background building the saint’s execution is already taking place. The tapestry’s elements point to the wave of influence that was the Italian Renaissance: its expansive landscape; its compositional use of perspective; and its classicizing architecture and buildings’ decoration, all of which came together in Francis I’s School of Fontainebleau. The tapestry’s varied and nuanced use of color lend a painterly appearance to the woven artwork.

Pseudo Félix Chrétien (active 1535-37), Three men lower barrels into the cave, Städel Museum Frankfort.

The picture displays a scene at one of the likely nearby hôtels that housed merchants, diplomats and others so to be close by the king. It is evident by Félix Chrétien ‘s artwork that creative activity went far beyond the confines of the royal chateaux. Many painters whose names and works are unknown flourished in 16th century France. Italian Renaissance techniques are used in the painting such as its correctly rendered spatial perspective, realistic figural development, and the typical gestures found in the latest Franco-Italian Mannerist style.

Jean Clouet (1485-1540), François Ier, 1524, Louvre.

Jean Clouet was the Court Painter to King Francis I. While Clouet was an influential artist in the establishment of Renaissance portraiture in France, his only documented painted portrait is that of Francis I’s librarian, Guillaume Budé (1467–1540).

A leading humanist of the sixteenth century, Budé’s fingers hold his page and a quill in the midst of writing. The words on the page in Greek presents an epigram: “While it seems to be good to get what one desires, the greatest good is not to desire what one does not need.”

Jean Clouet, Guillaume Budé, c. 1536, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, oil on wood, 15 5/8 x 13 1/2 in. (39.7 x 34.3 cm).

Jean Clouet, also called Jean Clouet II and Janet, was probably the son of a Flemish painter who was the Court Painter to the Duke of Burgundy. Jean Clouet II made a number of portrait drawings of the Court that survive, most in Chantilly.

Jean Clouet, Portrait of Admiral Bonnivet, c. 1516. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
French Anonymous, Head of a bearded man, capped with a hat, three-quarters to the right. End of 16th century. Louvre.
Francois Clouet (before 1520-1572), Portrait of Pierre Quthe, 1562, Louvre.

François Clouet was the son of Jean Clouet II and succeeded him as Court Painter to the king in 1541. Like his father, he was also called Janet and specialized in portrait drawings, most of which are housed in Chantilly. Francois Clouet’s first signed painting was the 1562 portrait of Pierre Quthe in the Louvre. Its style was influenced by the Florentine artists, particularly Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572).

François Clouet, A Lady in Her Bath, c. 1571, oil on oak, 92.3 × 81.2 cm (36 5/16 × 31 15/16 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The identity of Clouet’s model has long been debated. She may have been Marie Touchet, the mistress of Charles IX, or possibly Diane de Poitiers, the legendary French beauty and mistress of Henry II. The painting is boldly composed as it evokes poses of Venus, the love goddess, found in Italian art but also in its presentation of fecundity such as the nurse suckling a child and a bowl of ripe fruit of the season. The raised curtain is a device used in royal portraiture though here it may be just decorative.

François Clouet, La reine Marguerite enfant, c. 1560, Chantilly.
Workshop of François Clouet, Marie de Gaignon, marquise de Boissy (1524-1565), c. 1550-1565, Louvre.
Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait de Marot, c. 1540, Louvre.

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574) was born in The Hague and worked in Lyons, France for over 30 years starting around 1540. A contemporary and rival of François Clouet (c. 1520-1574), Corneille de Lyon is well documented as a popular leading painter in the French style. As the artist did not sign or date his works, it is virtually impossible to positively identify his artwork. It was only in 1962 that his first work –and nearly all of them are miniature in scale – was positively identified. The nature of his work was described by contemporaries. In 1551 the Venetian ambassador who visited the artist’s studio observed: “We paid a call to an excellent painter who…showed us the whole Court of France, both gentleman and ladies, depicted with the utmost likeness on a great many small panels.”

Working in oil on wood panel, Corneille de Lyon was Peintre et Valet de Chambre du Roi to Henry II (1519-1559) and Charles IX (1550-1574). Corneille likely did paint the entire court. Portraits usually show half-length figures dressed in dark colors against a neutral, somewhat iridescent and greenish background. Groups of such portraits are of uneven quality marking studio artists supervised by the master. The precise drawing of facial features with its smooth planes and enamel-like techniques conveys sitters of placid expression whether their gaze is distant or engaged. Costumes are portrayed with detailed realism yet in a rich, modulated and less definite form.

Painter to the king since 1551, Corneille became a landowner by gift of the king in 1564. In June 1564 one of the artist’s high-born visitors to his home was Catherine de‘ Medici (1519-1589), then regent. Before his death in 1574, the Netherlandish-born Corneille, with his family and household, became Roman Catholics after working in the French Court for nearly 35 years.

https://en.wahooart.com/@@/8Y352R-Corneille-De-Lyon-Portrait-of-Gabrielle-de-Rochechouart
https://www.wga.hu/html_m/c/corneill/rochecho.html

Corneille de Lyon (active 1533-1574), Portrait of Gabrielle de Rochechouart, c. 1574, Oil on wood, 16.5 x 14 cm, Musée Condé, Chantilly.
Pierre Dumonstier “the Uncle” (c.1545-c.1610), Portrait of an Unknown Man, chalk drawing with watercolor, c. 1580, Musée Jacquemart-André.

Towards the close of the 16th century, there were two families of French artists who were active – namely, the Dumonstiers and the Quesnels.

The Dumonstiers were descendants of one of Le Rosso’s fellow workers at Fontainebleau in the 1530s. Pierre Dumonstier (c.1545-c.1610) was one of three brothers, all of whom were portrait painters. The brothers had close links to the royal house, particularly to Catherine de’ Medici. Pierre produced several drawings, many in color giving them a somewhat painted appearance. Portrait of an Unknown Man is a chalk drawing with watercolor.

In terms of style, what in the beginning of the 16th century produced precise drawing of facial features in portraiture gave way by the end of the century to greater modeling fluency so to achieve intense expression. Portraiture’s overall format, however, remained constant: a face isolated on a neutral background rendered with close analytic attention.

The Quesnel artistic dynasty began with a court painter to James V of Scotland (1513-1542). One of that painter’s sons, François Quesnel (1543-1619), produced many drawings. His painted portrait of Mary Ann Waltham is signed and dated by the artist. Quesnel concentrates on rendering the face with the rest of the body and costume handled perfunctorily. This dichotomy of attention to form was the case in the drawings as well. It may be that the master produced the face in these portraits and left the body and costume to studio assistants.

François Quesnel (1543-1619), Mary Ann Waltham, 1572. 22 x17.5 in., Private, UK.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

La Peinture Française: XVe et XVIe Siècles, Albert Châtelet, Skira, Genève Suisse, 1992.

French Painting: From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, Skira, 1963.

Quotations: STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ (1842-1898), Symbolist Poet. (6 Quotes).

Édouard Manet, Stéphane Mallarmé, poet. 1876, oil on canvas, 27.2 x 35.7 cm, Musée d’Orsay.

FEATURE image: Stéphane Mallarmé, 1896, by Nadar.

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) is an important Symbolist poet of the last half of the 19th century in France. Throughout his writing career, Mallarmé helped formulate and express the rising anti-naturalism in contemporary art. This movement’s inclinations mainly took the form of Symbolism – that is, the fascination with many types of literature and the inclination to draw upon these sources for inspiration in dreams and visions. Although Mallarmé’s poetry is verbally dense and difficult with fleeting imagery, the poet was influential in modern art circles. The poet hosted a weekly salon in Paris known as “les jeudis” which provided a social network for many leading modern thinkers and practitioners, such as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Odilon Redon, Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch.

Mallarmé was born in Paris in 1842 into a family of civil servants. His mother died when he was 5 years old and his younger sister when he was 15. It was around the time of his sister’s death that Mallarmé wrote his first poetic essays, influenced by Romantics and early Symbolist writers and poets Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe. His first poems were published in 1862. Mallarmé earned a teaching certificate in the English language, studied in London and married a young German woman he met in France. Mallarmé began a teaching career in 1863 in Tournon in the Ardèche, where his daughter was born in 1864. He also was teaching in Besançon and Avignon. Outside of Paris, Mallarmé did not prosper as a teacher and viewed his assignments with disdain as necessary modes of employment. The young man turned to poetry as a means of escape. It was between 1863 and 1866 that Mallarmé wrote some of his renown poems: Brise marine, L’Azur, Les Fleurs, a version of L’Après-midi d’un faune. His collection of poems published in Le Parnasse contemporain in 1866 led to Mallarmé’s first notoriety.

In 1871, Mallarmé, now a father of a family with two children, was assigned to teach in Paris and settled near the new Saint-Lazare train station. His social network of artists and writers blossomed in this period. In 1873 Mallarmé met Édouard Manet who soon illustrated Mallarmé’s translation of American writer Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven, published in 1875. In 1876 Manet painted his portrait that is now in the Musée d’Orsay.

Mallarmé’s 8-year-old son died prematurely at the end of the 1870s and Manet died a few short years later in 1883. Mallarmé formed new friendships with Berthe Morisot and her daughter Julie Manet, whose guardian Mallarmé became at the death of his parents. Mallarmé also became friends with other leading avant-garde artists and poets such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. To the general reader, Mallarmé was criticized as a crazy poet who used unintelligible verse. Yet to avant-garde literati such as Paul Verlaine and Joris-Karl Huysmans, Mallarmé’s demanding poetry they publicly admired.

In 1892 appeared Vers et Prose, a major collection of Mallarmé’s poems. The frontispiece was a lithographed portrait by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, with whom Mallarmé was a close friend. In the early 1890s Mallarmé came into contact with the “Nabis,” young Post-Impressionists such as Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and particularly Édouard Vuillard. In the 1890’s Mallarmé’s Paris salon was frequented by the young Paul Valéry.

At 51 years old, in 1893, Mallarmé retired from teaching and stayed in his small house of Valvins. He died there on September 9, 1898, at the age of 56. In these final years, Mallarmé’s recognition and fame remained high. It was part of the vivacity and dynamism of literary and artistic circles for which Mallarmé had been one of its inspirations since the 1870s. In 1896 Mallarmé’s influence included his being elected as Prince des poètes and inheriting the seat occupied by the recently deceased Paul Verlaine.

SOURCE: https://www.musee-mallarme.fr/fr – retrieved July 4, 2022.

The poetic act consists of suddenly seeing that an idea splits up into a number of equal motifs and of grouping them; they rhyme.

You don’t make a poem with ideas, but with words.

Every soul is a melody which needs renewing.

Dreams have as much influence as actions.

That virgin, vital, beautiful day: today.

Do not paint the object, but the effect which it produces.

FRENCH ART in the 15th Century.

FEATURE image: DETAIL, Henri Bellechose (1415-1440), École de Bourgogne, Retable de saint Denis, 1416, https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063178

Anonymous master. Portrait of John le Bon (1319-1364) c. 1360. Musée de Louvre, Paris (“Louvre”).
Henri Bellechose (1415-1440), École de Bourgogne, Retable de saint Denis, 1416, https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063178

Retable de Saint Denis, (above), was completed in 1416 for the church of the Charterhouse of Champmol that is adjacent to Dijon. The artwork’s attribution has long been debated between Bellechose and Jean Malouel (1370-1415). Written evidence points to Bellechose possibly only completing the painting started by Malouel who was Bellechose’s predecessor at the head of the ducal workshop. However, recent connoisseurship does not see two different styles that would indicate two painters and the artwork in the Louvre is not the same size as the artwork mentioned in the early 15th century document that supports the dual attribution.

DETAIL, Henri Bellechose (1415-1440), École de Bourgogne, Retable de saint Denis, 1416, https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063178
Anonymous, École de Île-de-France? Bourgogne? Studio Henri Bellechose? Dead Christ Placed in the Tomb,
1400-1425. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010065413
Anonymous master, The Annunciation, France, possibly Netherlands, late 14th century (1380s), tempera and oil with gold on wood, 15 7/8 x 12 3/8 x 1 7/8 in. Cleveland Museum of Art.

The angel Gabriel’s wings resemble peacock feathers. The panel painting was once joined to another panel to form a diptych. Its opulent ornate style and small size allowing for easy mobility points to its use as a devotional artwork for an aristocratic patron around 1400.

Anonymous, The Crowning of the Virgin, c. 1400-1410, Paris, oak on wood. 20.5 cm. Staatliche Museum, Berlin.

In Christian Biblical tradition, the Virgin Mary was the only human person to be received into heaven after her death as a physical body prior to the Last Judgment. By the Middle Ages, the event’s narrative was elaborated so that the Virgin in Heaven came to be understood as a royal court where angels acted as court pages. In Heaven’s throne room, Mary is crowned as Queen by her son, Jesus Christ.

In the French tondo, Christ wears a red cloak symbolizing his Resurrection and a violet robe symbolizing his Passion. He sits on a stone throne and sets the crown on his mother Mary’s head as she kneels on a splendid cushion.

Strewn on the green-tiled floor of the celestial throne room are a variety of cut flowers which point to Mary’s purity and love for humanity. One angel carries her dress’s train and is himself dressed in a liturgical-type costume.

The tiny panel is remarkable for its delicate execution, lovely colors, and precise articulation of details such as the angels’ multi-colored wings. Its overall imagery was 14th century Italian in origin and arrived into Paris in the 15th century. Like the Annunciation panel in the Cleveland Museum of Art (above), this panel was likely produced as a private devotional image for a patron of high rank who dwelt among the milieu of the Parisian court.

Les Frères de Limbourg, Meeting of the Three Wise Men c. 1416 from Les Très riches heures du duc de Berry folio 51 verso. Chantilly, Musée Condé.
Entourage des Frères de Limbourg. Adoration de L’Enfant, c. 1415, Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum.
Maître des heures de Rohan (active 1410-1435), The Last Judgment c. 1420, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale.
Maître des heures de Rohan, Annunciation Angel and donor, c. 1420/30, Musée de Laon.
 Maître des heures de Rohan, Portrait de Louis II d’Anjou, c 1420. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale.

Not much more is known of the Maître des heures de Rohan than if he were anonymous. The artist had ties to Troyes, a Burgundian market town, and settled in Paris between 1415 and 1420. He was a commercial illuminator and is found in the service of the Dukes of Anjou around 1420. In addition to the Grandes Heures de Rohan, c.1430-1435, he produced other exceptional books, including the Hours of René d’Anjou (Bibliothèque nationale de France), the Hours of Isabelle Stuart (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK) and the Hours for the Use of Angers (former Martin Le Roy collection).

Artwork by Maître des heures de Rohan reflects a highly personal vision. The artist was completely unconcerned with his contemporaries’ preoccupation to introduce Renaissance realism into painting. The artist ignored perspective and chiaroscuro through concrete depictions and continued to develop his artistic meditations on faith and death using highly original invention of forms. In this way, the Maître des heures de Rohan is an enduring artist from early 15th century France as some of his more fashionably progressive contemporaries are not as he stayed true to his vision to create some of the most expressive pages of medieval Christian mysticism.

Maître of the Aix Annunciation, Annunciation, before 1445, Église de la Madeleine d’Aix-en-Provence.

The precise identification of the artist called the Maître of the Aix Annunciation is unknown. The artist is believed to be male and French, and could be Jean Chapus who lived in Aix and was working for King Réne of Anjou in the 1430s and 1440s. The Annunciation which was placed in the church in 1445 and has been there since, was part of a triptych. The other wings have been split off and are in Brussels, Amsterdam, and a private Dutch collection (one wing was also split). The style shows influence from Italy (Naples) and Flemish art.

DETAIL. Maître of the Aix Annunciation, before 1445, Église de la Madeleine d’Aix-en-Provence.
Anonymous. Annunciation, c. 1447-1450, Stained glass, Bourges cathedral, Chapel of Jacques Coeur.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Diptych de Melun, c. 1450, right panel: The Virgin and Child Jesus. Antwerp, Museum of Fine Arts.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Diptych de Melun, c. 1450, left panel: Chevalier Stephan presented by Saint Stephan. Staatliche Museum Berlin.

Jean Fouquet was a major French painter of the 15th century. He was in Rome in the mid-1440s and is presumed to have painted portraits. Under what circumstances the twenty-something Fouquet traveled to Rome is unknown. In any event Fouquet returned to Tours in 1448 and was working in the court of Charles VII. Louis XI appointed him official painter to the king in 1475. A handful of miniatures are documented artworks by Fouquet though other pictures, such as the Melun diptych and others, are attributed to him.

Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Medallion, self-portrait, 1452/1455. Louvre.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Charles VII, 1440/1460. Louvre.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), The Visitation, c. 1450. The Musée Condé, Chantilly.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Announcement of the Death of Saul to David, c. 1470. Les Antiquités Judaïques, Ms. fr. 247, folio 135 verso. Paris Bibliothèque Nationale.
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Pietà, c. 1470-1480. Parish church, Nouans (Indre-et-Loire).
Jean Fouquet (1420-1480), Pietà (detail), c. 1470-1480. Parish church, Nouans (Indre-et-Loire).
Philippe de Mazerolles (active 1454-1479), retable du Parlement de Paris, c.1455. Louvre.

Philippe de Mazerolles was a French painter and illuminator who was active in Paris and in Bruges. The artist is identified in several contemporary documents. Trained in Paris, his style was directly inspired by the Maître de Bedford, an anonymous illuminator active in Paris in the first third of the 15th century.

Philippe de Mazerolles (active 1454-1479), retable du Parlement de Paris (detail), c.1455. Louvre.
Maître du Coeur l’amour épris, Rencontre de Coeur et d’Humble requête, c. 1479, Vienna, National Library.
Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), The Coronation of the Virgin, 1452-53, Altar of the Charterhouse (hospice) of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

Also known as Charonton, the French painter worked in Avignon in southern France. His large Coronation of the Virgin is a documented artwork that was completed in 1454. It is one of the most important surviving 15th century French paintings.

Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), The Coronation of the Virgin (detail), 1452-53, Altar of the Charterhouse (hospice) of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
DETAIL. Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), The Coronation of the Virgin, 1452-53, Altar of the Charterhouse (hospice) of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
Enguerrand Quarton (1410-1466), attributed, Pietà de Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. École de Provence, c. 1455. Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010063345
Nicolas Froment (1461-1483), Mary in the Burning Bush, 1476. Aix-en-Provence, Cathedral St. Sauveur.Triptych (center panel).
Nicolas Froment (1461-1483), Mary in the Burning Bush (detail), 1476. Aix-en-Provence, Cathedral St. Sauveur.Triptych (center panel).
Nicolas Froment (1461-1483) The Burning Bush, 1476. Aix-en-Provence, Cathedral St. Sauveur.Triptych (right and left panels).

Nicolas Froment worked in the south of France and was painter to Réne d’Anjou. The triptych is a documented artwork by the artist.

Josse Lieferinxe, called Maître de Saint-Sébastien, Part of an altarpiece shutter. The marriage of the Virgin. Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, triptych de Moulins, center panel: The Virgin and the Child in Glory, c. 1498. Cathedral de Moulins.

The Master of Moulins is one of the great French painters of the 15th century. He was influenced by Hugo van der Goes (died 1482) and takes his name from the triptych painting of the Madonna and Child with angels and Donors (above) in Moulins Cathedral dated from 1498/99. Other works attributed to the Master of Moulins are in Autun, Paris, Chicago, Brussels, London, Munich, and Glasgow.

Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, Meeting of Saints Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate with Charlemagne, oil on oak, about 1491-1494. 72.6 x 60.2 cm, National Gallery, London.
Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, The Virgin with Child surrounded by angels, c. 1490, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique.
Maître de Moulins, active 1475 to 1505, François de Chateaubriand presented by St. Maurice or St. Victor with Donor, c. 1485, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum Glasgow.
Jean Bourdichon (1457-1521), King David and Bathsheba, Leaf from the Hours of Louis XII, 1498–1499, Tempera and gold, Leaf: 24.3 × 17 cm (9 9/16 × 6 11/16 in.), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. 79, 2003.105.

Jean Bourdichon served as official court painter to four successive French kings: Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and François I. Bourdichon was almost certainly a pupil of Jean Fouquet, the previous court painter.

Simon Marmion (active 1449-1489), The miracle of the True Cross in Jerusalem in the presence of Saint Helena Empress, 2nd half of 15th century (1450/1500). Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/ark:/53355/cl010061655

Simon Marmion (died 1489) who worked in Amiens and Valenciennes and temporarily in Tournai was a painter and illuminator where his miniatures were admired for their rich decoration and landscape details. In the mid1440s the artist moved from Amiens to Valenciennes where he became a leading painter. His most important painting is the Saint Bertin Altarpiece in Berlin and London.

Simon Marmion, The Soul of Saint Bertin carried up to God. Fragment of Shutters from the St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. National Gallery London.

The Soul of Saint Bertin carried up to God was the upper section of a wing for an altarpiece for the high altar of the abbey church of St Bertin at Saint-Omer in northern France. It was commissioned by the influential Guillaume Fillastre, Abbot of St Bertin (1450-73), Bishop of Verdun (1437-49), Bishop of Toul (1449-60), Bishop of Tournai (1460–73), Chancellor of the Order of the Golden Fleece and a close confidant of the powerful Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good. The artwork, whose main parts are in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, was consecrated in 1459. The altarpiece was intact in the abbey until 1791 when, as with many church goods, it fell victim to the French Revolution. https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/simon-marmion-the-soul-of-saint-bertin-carried-up-to-god

Simon Marmion, A Choir of Angels. Fragment of Shutters from the St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. National Gallery London.
Simon Marmion, St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightboxView/result.t1.collection_lightbox.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=3&sp=Slightbox_3x4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=4
Simon Marmion, St. Bertin Altarpiece, 1459. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin. http://www.smb-digital.de/eMuseumPlus?service=direct/1/ResultLightboxView/result.t1.collection_lightbox.$TspTitleImageLink.link&sp=10&sp=Scollection&sp=SfieldValue&sp=0&sp=0&sp=3&sp=Slightbox_3x4&sp=0&sp=Sdetail&sp=0&sp=F&sp=T&sp=5

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

La Peinture Française: XVe et XVIe Siècles, Albert Châtelet, Skira, Genève Suisse, 1992.

French Painting: From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Châtelet and Jacques Thuillier, Skira, 1963.

The most performed playwright at the Comédie-Française in 21st century Paris is 17th century Jean-Baptiste Poquelin dit MOLIÈRE (1622-1673).

FEATURE image: Comedy scenes according to Molière (Lustspielszenen nach Molière), wallpaper, c. 1825-1830, Deutsches Tapetenmuseum, Kassel, Germany.

Photo credit: “lustspiel Moliere 1825” by janwillemsen is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Nicolas Mignard (1606-1668). Molière (1622-1673) dans le rôle de César de la “Mort de Pompée”, tragédie de Corneille. Paris, musée Carnavalet.

Molière was born into a well-to-do family on January 15, 1622 at Rue St. Honoré and grew up near the Bastille at Rue Saint-Antoine in Paris. The greatest genius of the French theater was baptized at St. Eustache as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. He adopted the stage name of Molière in the mid1640s after he founded his first theater troupe.

St. Eustache, Paris. The place of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, dit Molière, was baptized.

PHOTO credit: “Around St. Eustache Paris 1e (40)” by Julie70 Joyoflife is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

A type of Shakespeare of France – profound theater actor, writer and poet – Molière’s characters and wit are timeless – such as in Tartuffe (1664), Don Juan (1665), and The Misanthrope (1666).

Romain Duris as Molière and Laura Morante as Elmire

French actor Romain Duris as Molière and Italian actress Laura Morante as Elmire in a scene from the 2007 movie “Molière.”

The fictional film is told in flashback to 1645. It is a conflation of two different periods in Molière’s life into one earlier period. Indeed, in 1645, 23-year-old bachelor Molière was bailed out of debtor’s prison. When his great, most controversial play, Tartuffe, appeared in the mid1660s, Molière was married and much older.

For the film, a presumably historical Molière poses as “Monsieur Tartuffe” (a priest) who serves as tutor for Orgon’s children. In real life, Molière played a part in his play, “Tartuffe,” but as the householder and trusting husband, Orgon. In the film, young Molière as Tartuffe, similar to the play, falls in love with Elmire, the neglected wife of the household.

In this scene Molière delivers a letter to Elmire from her secret admirer which, unknown to her, was written by the debonaire M. Tartuffe (Duris as young Molière).

Whereas in the present day any type of true romance may be heart-warming, the 17th century viewed romance through a lens of means and ends, either of which could be scandalous.

Molière’s great plays Don/m Juan and Tartuffe were halted in their tracks by French religious and royal authorities who were concerned that their characters and plots would provoke popular scandal. In the mid1660s, the Archbishop of Paris condemned Molière’s work – and nearly the libertine Molière himself – and then turned to the highest state authority, the king, with whom the top bishop was privileged to be closely aligned, to carry out the sentence.

“But I ought to warn you, strictly between the pair of us, that in Don Juan my master you see the greatest scoundrel that ever walked on Earth. He is a madman, a dog, a devil, a Turk. He is a heretic who believes in neither Heaven, nor saint, nor God, nor the bogeyman. He lives the life of an absolute brute beast. He is an Epicurean hog, a regular Sardanapalus who is deaf to every Christian remonstrance, and looks on all that we others believe as nothing but old wives’ tales. You say he has married your mistress. He would have done far more than that to gratify his desires. He would have married you, and her dog and cat as well. It costs him nothing to marry. That is the best baited trap he has.” – Sganarelle, servant of Don Juan, played by Molière. From Don Juan (1665).

“Oh, you scoundrel! At last I see you as you really are. But, unhappily, the knowledge comes too late; and it can only serve to drive me to desperation. But, be sure, your villainy will not remain unpunished. The Heaven you mock will avenge me for your faithlessness. – Donna Elvira, wife of Don Juan, played by Madmoiselle du Parc. From Don Juan (1665).

“Constancy is only fit for idiots.” – Don Juan, played by La Grange. From Don Juan (1665).

 “You see him as a saint. … I see right through him. He’s a fraud.” – Dorine, played by Madeleine Béjart, Act 1, Scene 1. From Tartuffe (1664).

“It’s true – those whose private conduct is the worst,/Will mow each other down to be the first/To weave some tale of lust, and hearts broken/Out of a simple kiss that’s just a token/Between friends.” – Dorine, played by Madeleine Béjart, Act 1, Scene 1. From Tartuffe (1664).

“See, I revere/Everyone whose worship is sincere./Nothing is more noble or beautiful/Than fervor that is holy, not just dutiful. – Cléante, played by La Thorillière, Act I, Scene 4. From Tartuffe (1664).

 “What good would it do to dissent? A father’s power is great.” – Mariane, played by Mlle de Brie, Act 2, Scene 3. From Tartuffe (1664).

 “Don’t be deceived by hollow shows; / I’m far … from being what men suppose. – Tartuffe, played by Du Croisy, Act 3, Scene 6. From Tartuffe (1664).

“There’ll be no sins for which we must atone,/Because evil only exists when it’s known.” – Tartuffe, played by Du Croisy, Act 4, Scene 5. From Tartuffe (1664).

“Ah! Ah! You are a traitor and a liar!/Some holy man you are, to wreck my life, / Marry my daughter? Lust after my wife?” – Orgon, played by Molière, Act 4, Scene 7. From Tartuffe (1664).

Damn all holy men! They’re filled with deceit!/I now renounce them all, down to the man.” – Orgon, played by Molière, Act 5, Scene 1. From Tartuffe (1664).

“All that we most revere, he uses/To cloak his plots and camouflage his ruses.” – Dorine, played by Madeleine Béjart, Act 5, Scene 7. From Tartuffe (1664).  

For Molière, the Ancien Régime was not yet dead as a doornail. The American and French Revolutions were a distant century in the future. The latest risk in the late 20th and early 21st centuries of the Apostolic church selling its religion for parts in exchange for a share at the table of the new global faith was not yet a necessary strategy for a powerfully splendorous, yet ever troubled, church in 17th century France.

While “mixing it up” in politics may be the Catholic church’s normal path, it was the irreligious observations of its outcomes in human life in the 17th century that proved a major theme in Molière’s wittiest dramas and brought him into trouble. While the young King Louis XIV (1638-1715) approved orders that banned some of Molière’s farces, the royal personage expressed his reluctance to do so. It had been the priests who were stung by Molière’s popular ridicule with its social danger of being overthrown by comic truths. Their well-connected desires to cancel Molière proved only partly successful in the mid17th century–and, soon after that, hardly at all.

King Louis XiV of France (1638-1715). The young king was reluctant to censor Molière (but did).

PHOTO credit: “King Louis XIV, 1638-1715 / Roi Louis XIV, 1638-1715” by BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Writers of 17th Century French Literature

The 17th century continued the wealth of French literature in its many genres – poetry (Malherbe; La Fontaine; Boileau); novels and fairy tales (Cyrano de Bergerac; Perrault); essays (Pascal; La Rochefoucauld; La Bruyère); philosophy (Descartes); theology (St. Francis de Sales; Fénelon; Bossuet) and drama (Corneille; Racine; and Molière), and many others.

Molière’s Comedy – Wit And Types

Molière wrote based on actual facts of society and human nature and, using ludicrous incidents, looked straight ahead to a moral purpose – his plays were very instructive and had all the makings of high comedy. Further to attract us, Molière is the premier dramatist of wit.

His characters are not individuals but types – which allows for perhaps greater intensity than complexity. Though the French are not as known for comedy, the form is mostly indigenous, contrasted to tragedy as a dramatic form which came out of Italy.

The City of Paris Plays a Role

Paris is a theatrical city. Similar to today’s Beaubourg, there were outdoor performances at the Pont Neuf and Place Dauphine. The Hotel de Bourgogne on Rue Etienne Marcel was used in the 16th century by the Confraternité de la Passion for passion plays. In the mid1620s when America was a wilderness there would be street parades of comedians in Paris to lure spectators into the theatre. Stock farce characters included Aurlupin (mean spirited school teacher), Gros Guillaume (dressed in a flour sack), and Captain Fracasse (break things). At the permanent flea market of St. Germain de Prés, spectacles were put on stage. Goods were sold, some of it junk, because, as Daumier observed, “people are always fooled.”

Molière’s mother died when he was 10 years old and he was raised by a nurse maid. In his later plays there are often such maids and servant girls.

Public domain.

In Paris, three rival theatre groups coexisted: that of the Marais; that of the Hôtel de Bourgogne; and, that of the Palais-Royal, directed by Molière. After Molière’s death, the actors of the Marais joined Molière’s troupe of actors by royal order. This new troupe settles at the Hotel Guénégaud, rue Mazarine.

La Thorillière (1626-1680).
La Grange (1635-1692).

François de La Thorillière was Molière’s companion and kept the register of the company during the 1663/1664 and 1664/1665 seasons. He moved to the Hôtel de Bourgogne after Molière’s death. In 1680 La Thorillière, head of the troupe of the Hôtel de Bourgogne and the last rival in Paris of Molière’s former troupe, died. The King ordered these two troupes of French actors established in Paris to play together going forward.

On August 25, 1680, the actors of the Hotel de Bourgogne and that of the Hotel Guénégaud – Molière’s former troupe now led by La Grange – gave their first joint performance.

On October 21, 1680, an official royal letter signed at Versailles, established the unique troupe, composed of 27 actors and actresses chosen by the King for their excellence, to have a monopoly of performances in French so to “make performances of comedies more perfect.” The repertoire includes Corneille, Molière, Racine, Jean Rotrou, Paul Scarron, and others.

Molière Schools in Paris and Orléans

Molière was a commuter student at the Collège de Clermont behind the Sorbonne. Founded in the 1560s by the Jesuits who had a tremendous hold on educating the young in this period, it was renamed Lycée Louis-le-Grand in the 1680s. Nobility and the well-to-do bourgeois schooled together though segregated by a so-called “golden barrier” of identity – an illiberal, reactionary practice. Molière received a strict, excellent education and was a Latinist. He went to Orléans to study law but didn’t pursue it. His father sent him to Narbonne to be a royal tapestry maker (the family business) but Molière was idealistic and chose to be in theater. Following his bliss, twenty-something Molière – around the time of the film scene – was close to penniless for the next 15 years.

Following the queen of the sciences (theology), cultural authorities officially ordered the boycott of theater as immoral. But the people in Paris mostly ignored these bought-and-paid-for kill joys of church and state and the theater life thrived.

Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Paris.

File:Lycée Louis-le-Grand, Paris 5e 3.jpg” by Celette is marked with CC BY-SA 4.0.

Molière’s first theater production flops; bailed out of debtor’s prison by a street contractor

By the 17th century the Renaissance social fad of tennis had faded away and Molière rented empty courts for the theater. He joined Madeliene Béjart, four years older, and from a family of actors, and established his first theater in June 1643 called the Illustre Théâtre (“Illustrious Theater”). The first performances in the tennis court featuring the 22-year-old Molière and the others opened on January 1, 1644.

Madeleine Béjart (1618-72) playing Madelon in “Précieuses Ridicules” by Molière, oil paint on stone, French School, 17th century (after 1659,). Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris. Public Domain.

To build the theater, Molière fell into debt in 1644. The first performances were a complete flop and Molière was thrown into debtor’s prison for 3 days in July 1645.

There were two official theatre troupes in Paris in the mid 1640s– and Molière’s Illustre Théâtre was not one of them. The troupe did have a royal protector or sponsor, the king’s brother. But financial help was not to be had from Gaston d’Orléans (1608-1660). Rather, a paving contractor paid the bail to release the young actor/writer, a remarkable historical fact. Molière’s first theater was auctioned off with proceeds going to his creditors.

Gaston d’Orléans (1608-1660) by Anthony Van Dyck, 1634. Musée Condé. Molière’s noble sponsor was not financially responsible for the ill-fortune of the young actor’s first theatre troupe in Paris.

In 1646 Molière and Mme. Béjart joined a troupe led by Charles Dufresne (1611-1684). They relocated to the provinces, specifically to the west at Nantes and south. Success as an actor had been fleeting and Molière was very close to returning to his father’s business as a tapestry maker. Molière, like his fellow actors, could afford to wear only his street clothes on stage – or vice versa. Molière was part of just one theatre troupe among about 1,000 in France.

Others of the defunct Illustre Théâtre joined Molière in 1648. Dufresne handed over the direction of the troupe to Molière in 1650. He rechristened the troupe Comédiens de SAR le prince de Conti. The prince de Conti (1629-1666), fifth in line to the French throne, was Molière’s patron and friend. At the domaine de la Grange des Prés at Pézenas in Languedoc, the prince and the actor-playwright discussed plays and theater.

Armand de Bourbon, prince de Conti (1629-1666). The prince in Languedoc was a patron and friend of Molière in the 1650s. Le musée du Vieux Nîmes.
Anne-Marie Martinozzi (1637-1672) was the wife of the prince de Conti. She was also the niece of Cardinal Mazarin, successor to Richelieu. Though there were interludes of life together at Pézenas with the prince, much of their marriage they lived apart. The princess shows herself in love, writing her husband numerous letters. Château de Versailles.

In the 1650s, Molière’s troupe became moderately successful performing all over the Mediterranean in France. Though Molière kept a notebook to record his ideas and character types these personal items have been lost to history.

Portrait of Molière, c. 1658 , Pierre Mignard (1612-1695), Château de Chantilly. Pierre Mignard is one of the major classic French portrait artists. When he crossed paths with Molière in Avignon in 1658, after having worked in Orange and Saint-Rémy, a great friendship started between the two men, until the death of the writer in 1673. The painting in Chantilly probably dates from this meeting, because the model appears to be less than forty years old.

The prince de Conti, Languedoc governor, was the king’s cousin, and, upon marrying Anne-Marie Martinozzi (1637-1672) in 1654, an in-law of sorts to Cardinal Mazarin (Anne-Marie was Mazarin’s niece). The prince di Conti, however, lived with his mistress at Pézenas among Molière’s free-spirited actors. In 1655 the prince, being engaged in military campaigns in Spain and experiencing failing health, had a religious awakening. He discarded the mistress, returned to his wife and banished the theatre.  Molière was suddenly cancelled.

Allowance of theater in society based on moral grounds would continue to evolve – though audiences always enjoyed its entertainment value. Finding a need and filling it, Molière sold drama as morality (and vice versa) and using dialogue and plot that cut things close to the bone.

Armande Béjart (1645-1700).

Armande Béjart was in Molière’s troupe in 1653 under the name of Mademoiselle Menou and played child roles. Married to Molière in 1662, she was the inspiration for all his heroines: the Princess of Élide, Charlotte, Célimène, Lucinde, Elmire, Alcmène, Élise, Angélique, Lucile, Hyacinthe, Henriette.

Armande and Molière’s daughter, Madeleine-Esprit, survived but their two sons did not. When Molière died in 1668, Armande encouraged the troupe, led by La Grange.

In 1677 Armande remarried a man not in the theater named Guérin d’Etriché and they had a son. She became Mademoiselle Guérin on stage in the troupe brought together by Louis XIV in 1680 and retired in 1694.

After being cancelled by the prince de Conti who became an implacable enemy of the theater until his death in 1666, the reputation of Molière’s traveling troupe was being critically appreciated at the highest levels. In 1658, the king’s brother, 18-year-old Philippe d’Orléans, le Monsieur (1640-1701), arranged an audition for Molière and his troupe in Paris. The result was that King Louis XIV approved the Troupe de Monsieur to share the royal theater, the Petit-Bourbon. Molière immediately premiered there on November 2, 1658. The troupe soon had to build up its cast and repertoire to meet the Paris audience’s expectations and Molière looked to provide them with original comedies. This was notably effected by the addition of 24-year-old La Grange, who would play young romantic lead roles, in 1659.

Also in 1659, having acquired the king’s favor, Molière set about to write the first of his great works: Précieuses Ridicules. In 1662 he married Madeleine Béjart’s younger sister (possibly daughter), Armande. The king was godfather to their child as Molière now performed at the Palais Royal for the king and royal family. In the next years, Molière wrote plays about marriage, jealousy, and adultery, including The Imaginary Cuckold in 1660; Don Garcie de Navarre and The School for Husbands in 1661; and, a great success, The School for Wives in 1662. Opening in December 1662, by the end of May 1663, audiences filled the theatre to watch The School for Wives, a play whose scheming plot is more straightforward than its characters, in over 60 performances. It was afterward attacked by critics who felt and feigned outrage for its sexual references and irreligiosity, but also, possibly, envy of its newness and blatant success. A flurry of artful broadsides between Molière and the King’s Actors at The Hôtel de Bourgogne followed in pamphlets and on their respective stages.

“People of quality know everything without ever having learned anything.” (Les gens de qualité savent tout sans avoir jamais rien appris.) – Mascarille, played by Molière, Act 1, Scene 8. From Précieuses Ridicules (1659).

“A man’s not simple to take a simple wife. Your wife, no doubt, is a wise, virtuous woman. But brightness, as a rule, is a bad omen. And I know men who’ve undergone much pain because they married girls with too much brain. I want no intellectual, if you please.” – Arnolphe, Act 1, Scene 1. From School For Wives (1662).

“It must be confessed that love is a skillful instructor. It teaches us to be what we never were before. By its lessons a complete change in our manners is often the work of a moment. It overcomes obstacles in our very nature, and its sudden effects seem like miracles. It makes misers liberal in an instant, cowards become heroes, and, dear gentlemen, it turns the most inexperienced mind into a nimble wit, as it gives understanding to the most simple.” – Horace, Act 3, Scene 4. From School For Wives (1662).

Philippe d’Orléans (1640-1701). Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. Le Monsieur, the king’s younger brother, wears an ostentatiously beautiful bow-tie. Pierre Mignard, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux.
Artist’s imaginary depiction of Lully’s Armide, Salle du Palais-Royal, 1761, by Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (1724-1780), Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

The middle 1660s was a high point for Molière’s plays: Tartuffe; Festin de Pierre (Don Juan) and Le Misanthrope were all written in these same two or three years (1664-1666). These greatest comedies of enduring genius, however, were not well received in their days by a mostly obliging audience yet who took governance and religion very seriously. In May 1664, Molière staged the first three acts of his later Tartuffe at Versailles. Called The Hypocrite, the play was immediately banned by Louis XIV. When it opened again in 1667 as The Imposter, it was once more immediately banned. Any further performance – and this extended to its audience – adventured excommunication. It was not until February 1669 that Louis XIV allowed the performance of Tartuffe in its completed five act form. It instantly became the hottest ticket in Paris.

A prosperous man wanting to retain his hard-earned social position and continue to practice his theory of the stage as the layman’s pulpit, Molière in these final years turned toward lighter, innocuous spectacles to teach and entertain French society. In 1665 Don Juan ran for 15 performances though it was censored and its financial proceeds had to benefit the Church.

“I expect you to be sincere and as an honourable man never to utter a single word that you don’t really mean.” – Alceste, played by Molière, Act 1, Scene 1. From The Misanthrope (1666).

“There’s a season for love and another for prudishness, and we may consciously choose the latter when the hey-day of our youth has passed—it may serve to conceal some of life’s disappointments.” – Célimène, played by Armande Béjart-Molière, Act 3, Scene 4. From The Misanthrope (1666).

“I’ll confront her in no uncertain terms with her villainy, confound her utterly, and then bring to you a heart entirely freed from her perfidious charms.” – Alceste, played by Molière, Act , Scene . From The Misanthrope (1666).

“The failings of human nature in this life give us opportunities for exercising our philosophy, which is the best use we can put our virtues to. If all men were righteous, all hearts true and frank and loyal, what purpose would most of our virtues serve?” – Philinte, played by La Grange, Act 5, Scene 1. From The Misanthrope (1666).

“You shall observe me push my weakness to its furthest limit and show how wrong it is to call any of us wise and demonstrate that there’s some touch of human frailty in every one of us.” – Alceste, played by Molière, Act 5, Scene 4. From The Misanthrope (1666).

At rest in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris since 1817, Molière was denied a Catholic burial in 1673

The baptized Molière died in 1673 at 51 years old. He was denied a religious burial for the simple fact that he was a theater actor. The traditional wing of the Catholic Church constantly impugned Molière’s work. Educated by the more liberal Jesuits, Molière never renounced his Catholicism, and was probably not an atheist. He was secretly buried in a Catholic cemetery in the section of unbaptized infants. In 1792, during the French Revolution, Molière’s remains were transferred to the museum of French Monuments. In 1817, Molière was laid to rest in Père Lachaise Cemetery where he lies today.

Molière’s Tomb, Père-Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, 1854, Etching in warm black on ivory laid paper, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Molière’s legacy

Tartuffe disguises himself as a virtuous man and is a hypocrite. As the French celebrate Molière’s 400th birth anniversary they reflect on the relevance of Molière’s drama for today. Some argue that false faces in democracy are just as numerous as those in mid17th century Paris though perhaps in a different way.

Cancel Culture derives from Tartuffe

The cancel culture can be said to derive of Tartuffe. Though not displaying a purely religious hypocrisy as in Molière’s original character, today’s Tartuffe hates the individual heart’s freedoms and hides their will to crack down on people by citing the “common good” or other platitude which usually includes a spectrum of needs and fears. Notions of superiority, duplicity, and simple stupidity are present in Molière’s Tartuffe – that is, the hypocritical type of 350 years ago. 

A supposed offense today is paired with Molière’s hypocrite of 350 years ago against a partisan viewpoint of the “higher interest” with its obligations and payments “overdue” to them from which as a penalty and means requires the ban, cancellation, and banishment –yet, almost conveniently, not of one’s fragile self, if opposed. While the perennial distrust of politicians is well known, today’s social breakdown is broader and endemic – with the inflation of hypocrisy a common denominator. 

Like a popular play on an outdoor stage in 17th century Paris, hypocrites can be better recognized, fortunately or not, by type. The brittle use of virtue signaling can offer one such type. When it becomes evident that it serves the practicioner’s hidden ends, the audience, assuming its role, heckles and boos such stock farce characters off the stage with gusto.

Though censorship and restrictions of thought and action of others in its many forms is hardly always the result of hypocrisy, hypocrites (whichever side of the fence their belief or opinion may fall) are certain to take the short route to do so.

Molière would have sufficient material today to write and perform another of his great dramas for the 21st century and whose production is under a similar menace of cancellation by such powers grown antagonistic to his content and close or lower the curtain when opportunity is seen to enter.

FURTHER READING:
https://www.gradesaver.com/tartuffe/study-guide/quotes in MLA Format Osborne, Kristen. Cedars, S.R. ed. “Tartuffe Quotes and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 8 January 2013 Web.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Moliere-French-dramatist#ref362537

https://www.comedie-francaise.fr/fr/la-troupe-a-travers-les-siecles

https://www.comedie-francaise.fr/fr/histoire-de-la-maison#

https://www.comedie-francaise.fr/fr/artiste/armande-bejart

https://www.sparknotes.com/drama/misanthrope/quotes/

Molière, Tartuffe and Other Plays, trans. Donald M. Frame, New York: Signet Classics, 2015.

Molière, The Misanthrope, trans. Henri van Laun (1876), New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992.

The Misanthrope.pdf

http://theatre-classique.fr/pages/pdf/MOLIERE_PRECIEUSESRIDICULES.pdf

George Saintsbury, A Short History French Literature, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901.

Last battles, death mask of NAPOLEON BONAPARTE (1769-1821) at the bicentenary of his death on remote Saint Helena island.

FEATURED image: Napoleon Crossing the Alps, Jacques-Louis David, 1801, oil on canvas, 102 1⁄3 × 87 in., Château du Malmaison.

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812, Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Major facts of the life of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) are well known. Known as Napoleon I, the French Emperor who died two centuries ago was a shrewd, ambitious and skilled military leader who conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century.

Born on the island of Corsica that had recently handed authority from Italy to France, Napoleon rose rapidly in the French military during the unsettled period of the French Revolution after 1789 and until 30-year-old Napoleon seized power in a coup d’état in 1799.

In 1804 Napoleon crowned himself emperor in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in the presence of the pope. In the next decade Napoleon successfully waged war against various coalitions of European nations and expanded his empire. Following his disastrous French invasion of Russia in 1812 explored in some detail in this post, Napoleon abdicated his throne in 1814 and was exiled to the island of Elba not far from his native Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea near Italy.

In 1815, he escaped Elba and returned to France where he briefly returned to power in his Hundred Days campaign. He received a crushing defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in today’s Belgium and was exiled until his death on May 5, 1821 to the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Napoleon Bonaparte was just 51 years old at the time of his death stemming from mysterious circumstances, though likely something such as stomach cancer.1

Napoleon on St. Helena, Franz Josef Sandmann (1805-1856), c. 1820. Musée national des châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau.

The bicentenary of the death of Napoleon I is commemorated in 2021.

The former French emperor died on May 5, 1821 on the island of Saint Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean nearly halfway between the continents of Africa and South America. Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled there in 1815 following his defeat at Waterloo.

The British government selected St. Helena for the former French emperor’s place of exile after he escaped from Elba, the initial location of his forced exile.

St. Helena built on airport only in 2011.

Napoleon lived on St. Helena for about 6 years; a chunk of rock reachable only by sea. He died on St. Helena at Longwood House, Napoleon’s permanent residence that was completed for him in December 1815.

Napoleon was 51 years old when he died and was buried on St. Helena. In 1840, in a controversial move, his remains were transferred to France. Napoleon’s tomb in Les Invalides in Paris was the military hospital whose construction was begun by Louis XIV (1638-1715).

Napoleon’s plaster death mask, known as the Malmaison mask, May 1821.

The death mask was made on Saint Helena about two days after the former French Emperor’s death there on May 5, 1821 at his permanent residence of Longwood House. (see – http://www.lautresaintehelene.com/autre-sainte-helene-articles-malmaison2.html – retrieved May 5, 2021).

Longwood House on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic.

In 1858, French emperor Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, purchased Longwood House and various other lands associated with Napoleon I on St. helena for the French government.

Though Napoleon’s remains were returned to France in 1840, Napoleon III’s purchase on St. Helena remains the property of France . It is administered by a French representative under the authority of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Photo: “Longwood House (c) St Helena Tourism” by sthelenatourism is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

(see – https://fondationnapoleon.org/en/activities-and-services/preserving-heritage/operation-st-helena/retrieved May 5, 2021).

A BAD ECONOMY, BLOCKADES, AND THE DISASTROUS INVASION OF RUSSIA BY NAPOLEON IN 1812

Three years earlier, during the War of 1812, world domination by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was done within a sagging, uncooperative economy in Europe.

France had 300,000 French troops and a rafter of French generals occupying Spain to keep the blockaded British from invading. Napoleon, in a near constant state of war since 1793, had created an Empire whose subjected parts didn’t fully cooperate. With competing objectives—had he finally overextended his capacities?—Napoleon had to choose between potentially losing his blockade in Spain or in Russia.

Since the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 following the Battle of Friedland where Napoleon defeated the Russian army, Russia had still been trading with England. It was this violation of the treaty that was the pretext for Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812.

Though fifteen hundred miles away, Russia’s autonomy from the French dictator—along with a temptation to dominate some of Russia’s vast territory for future ventures—beckoned Napoleon to shut it down and take firm control. For Russia, Napoleon’s invasion required the defense of their homeland.

FRENCH CONSCRIPTS FOR A NEW WAR AND THE NEED TO SUPPLY 700,000 SOLDIERS

To animate Napoleon’s newest military campaign, he needed fresh conscripts—but nearly a third of Napoleon’s French draftees failed to appear. Many of Napoleon’s generals advised the dictator to stay home, in Paris, and enjoy his spoils. An ambitious and autocratic Napoleon refused. He explained that rest was not possible if he was to fulfill the dream to form a United States of Europe.2

Overcoming lay-abouts, Napoleon assembled a military host of nearly 700,000 men and faced the monumental task to supply it. For years Napoleon stockpiled materials along the route to Russia. He arranged for supplies to be delivered when in Russia. But Napoleon’s vision of universal dominion had been stretched to the breaking point—and the French Emperor – if not all those who served him – realized the risk.

Napoleon left St. Cloud for Moscow in June 1812 for a high stakes gamble which involved not only the rise and fall of one man but the many inhabitants of the Empire.

Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891), Campaign of France, 1814, 1864. Oil on wood, 51.5 x 76.5 cm, Paris, Musée d’Orsay.

Ernest Meissonier’s Campaign of France, 1814, was the artist’s first painting produced in a cycle of Napoleon’s conquests. Though the episode Meissonier depicts was painted for the fiftieth anniversary of Napoleon’s invasion of France from Elba in 1814, it captures the overall desolation that surrounded the former French Emperor by the time of his invasion of Russia in 1812.

The series made by the 49-year-old artist, an admirer of seventeenth-century Flemish and Dutch small-format painting, captures the desolate landscape the Grande Armée endured. It also depicted a solitary, unusually unkempt, and tenuous figure of Napoleon who is leading the General Staff and troops in an over-extended military campaign that spelled defeat.

For the painting, the artist’s imagination was informed by historical documentation including interviews of surviving eyewitnesses, including the detail of the Emperor’s grey coat. Its realist style was a prevailing aspect of mid-19th century artistic taste during the Second Empire headed by Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870.

(see https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/painting/commentaire_id/campaign-of-france-1814-8947.html?tx_commentaire_pi1%5BpidLi%5D=509&tx_commentaire_pi1%5Bfrom%5D=841&cHash=41368ad16b#:~:text=Campagne%20de%20France%2C%201814%20%5BCampaign,demonstrates%20his%20nimble%2C%20polished%20style. – retrieved May 5, 2021.

From Paris to Vilna in Lithuania was a twelve hundred mile march. The object of Napoleon’s campaign was to defeat the Russian army. But the Russians had retreated. It was another 550-mile march to Moscow. French troops were suffering from distant and nonexistent supply lines. Conscripts and battle-hardened veterans alike were sick and exhausted.

In the Battle of Smolensk, the French invaders—viewed by some to be battling for strongman Napoleon’s united liberal Europe over petty church and small state autocrats—set the town on fire. Yet Napoleon’s criminal reputation preceded him: he murdered without mercy and often donned the smock of treachery. Not only royalists criticized him but articulate liberals like Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) who saw in the emperor an enemy of liberty. 

Chateaubriand wrote: “Les Français vont indistinctement au pouvoir, ils n’aiment pas la liberté, l’égalité est leur idole. Or l’égalité et le despotisme ont des liaisons secrètes” (“The French go to power indiscriminately, they don’t like liberty, equality is their idol. But equality and despotism have secret links”).

Reactionary French historian and journalist Jacques Bainville (1879-1936) assessed Napoleon’s legacy in this way: “Sauf pour la gloire, sauf pour l’art, il eut mieux valu qu’il n’eut pas existé.” (“Except for the glory, except for the art, it would have been better if he did not exist.”)

With casualties for one battle climbing to around 15,000 for both sides, the Czar appointed Mikhail Kutuzov (1745-1813) as commander of all Russian forces to coordinate efforts.

Portrait of Mikhail Kutuzov, 1829, George Dawe (1781–1829). Oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, Winter Palace War Gallery, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Napoleon called Kutuzov, “The sly old fox of the north“ (cited in Roger Parkinson, The Fox of the North, 1976).

At 67 years old, Kutuzov was lazy and lecherous, but knew how to fight—and, regarding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, how to retreat strategically. The grand designs of modern internationalism and unification were long-held ancient and medieval dreams. They proved difficult to implement in geo-political reality and usually led to its own forms of disaster and oppression.

In the contest of geopolitical ideas, holing up in eternal Mother Russia provided its military advantages over an invading French force set upon international commonwealth by way of military and financial domination.

In an address to his troops before the Battle of Borodino in the War of 1812 General Kutuzov observed: “Napoleon is a torrent which as yet we are unable to stem. Moscow will be the sponge that will suck him dry.”3

BATTLE OF BORODINO, SEPTEMBER 7, 1812, WAS A CONTEST OF 242,000 COMBATANTS AND MORE THAN 1,000 BIG GUNS

FAILURE OF THE SUPPLY CHAIN

Napoleon was aware of the trap. The years-long planning for an invasion supply chain was no match for the conditions on the ground. The failures of the supply chain left the army and its dictator high and dry. Napoleon ordered the troops to keep marching, telling his generals: “Motion alone keeps this army together.”4

The march from Smolensk to Moscow took 3 weeks. Many soldiers of the Grande Armée died on the march east. Kutuzov was preparing for battle. The Russian general set up a defensive position in Borodino, about 70 miles west of Moscow. On Sept. 7, 1812, French forces engaged the Russians. Both sides were well matched: the French possessed 587 guns and 130,000 troops and the Russians deployed 640 guns and 112,000 troops with the vast expanse of Mother Russia at their back.

Battle of Moscow (or Borodino), the Capture of the Great Redoubt. Engraving by unknown artist, 1820’s. State Borodino Military Historical Museum, Russia.

Battle of Moscow (or Battle of Borodino) in 1812. Attack of the Lithuanian Life Guards Regiment, oil on canvas, 1912, Nikolay Semyonovich Samokish (1860-1944). State Borodino Military Historical Museum, Russia.

General Uvarov at Borodino, Auguste-Joseph Desarnod (1788-1840), State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

In the War of 1812 Fedor Petrovich Uvarov (1769 -1824) commanded the 1st Cavalry Corps and then the Cavalry of the 1st and 2nd Russian Armies. With the Cossacks of Matvei Platov (1753-1818), Uvarov distinguished himself in the Battle of  Borodino when he turned the left flank of the French army and made a raid to its rear. The Russian attack of the main French forces delayed Napoleon’s battle plans for two crucial hours.

Napoleon near Borodino, Vasily Vereshchagin (1842–1904), 1897, oil on canvas, State Historical Museum, Moscow.

The image of a sullen dictator seated on his field chair with boots raised onto a battle drum, as his General Staff views in their spyglasses the men of the Grande Armée in harm’s way at the Battle of Borodino, can be seen as indicative of Napoleon’s exercise of arbitrary power as the first of modern history’s tyrants.

Hanging over the battlefield was the feeling that the destiny of Europe—whether united under Napoleon or giving space to a later attempt at a balance of powers– depended on these warriors. The battle’s outcome was a draw. The French remained master of the field but the Russians retreated to fight another day. It was one more day of immense military slaughter—the combined French and Russians losses was 80,000 soldiers—a full third of the total.

Battle of Borodino, 7th September 1812, 1822, Louis-François Lejeune (1775-1848).

In the French invasion of Russia in 1812, Lejeune was made général de brigade and chief of staff to Davout (1770-1823). During the retreat, Lejeune was frostbitten on the face and left his post where he was subsequently arrested on Napoleon’s orders.

During his military service, Lejeune produced a series of important battle-pictures based on his experiences. They were generally executed from sketches and studies made on the battlefield. Known for their lofty perspective which, according to Chase Maenius in The Art of War[s], “offer[ed] a panoramic view of the totality of the battle’s events,” the Battle of Borodino… of 1822 is considered his masterwork.

When Lejeune’s battle-pictures were shown in London, they were met by eager crowds who viewed them for their realistic and detailed depictions of significant contemporary events.

In his Memoirs of Baron Lejeune, aide-de-camp to marshals Berthier, Davout, and Oudinot (translation, 1897), Lejeune related one of the many wretched scenes that the Napoleonic Wars produced. He wrote: “As we were pushing on the next day, we came upon two poor creatures at a turn in the road whose condition tore our hearts. They were a handsome well-built man of about forty and a woman of about thirty, also with a fine figure, both stark naked. They approached us and said to us in very good French, ‘Our home has been sacked by Cossacks, who stripped us of everything and left us as you see us. For pity’s sake help us.’ We could do nothing for them but give them a little food, and we felt very wretched as we turned away. The next day at a bivouac some distance off a fresh irresistible demand was made upon our pity, and our stock of provisions was so much reduced that I don’t know what we should have done but that some German peasants brought us a few sheep, with which we replenished our larder.” (p. 158, https://archive.org/details/memoirsbaronlej01maurgoog/page/n170/mode/2up
—retrieved May 5, 2021.)

The bodies of dead soldiers of Napoleon’s Grand Armée left on the bridge over the River Kolocha after the Battle of Borodino, 1812.  Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur (1780-1857), published 1830’s.

Gen. Kutuzov at the conference of Fili deciding to surrender Moscow to Napoleon, Aleksey Kivshenko (1851–1895), 1880, oil on canvas, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Following the Battle of Borodino on September 7, 1812, the Russian army retreated towards Moscow and camped near Fili. A military council led by General Kutuzov assembled in a hut in Fili where, despite objections from younger generals, Kutuzov insisted on his plan to abandon Moscow.

The action not only saved the remains of the Russian army but worked to stymie and ultimately defeat Napoleon’s invasion drive. The personalities in the painting include Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly (1761-1818), who was replaced by Kutuzov on order of the Czar and sits in the corner below the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus icon. Fyodor Uvarov sits near Barclay holding a paper. Nikolay Raevsky (1771-1829) sits by the window with his fingers locked together. Aleksey Petrovich Yermolov  (1777-1861) stands on the far right. The much younger Yermolov resented old general Kutuzov’s plan and demanded to fight the enemy.

When Napoleon and no more 100,000 French troops reached Moscow on September 8, 1812, there were no Russian troops to fight inside the city. Instead, Napoleon found only Russia’s poor, displaced, and underprivileged. Some sex workers stayed there to ply their trade in exchange for limited food. Moscow was Russia’s largest city, its capital, its Holy City—and French troops of liberation took to looting it. As the military forces of western Enlightenment watched Moscow burn for four days, the event in the war was a watershed for the Russian resolve to not surrender.

Napoleon wrote a letter of apology and condolence to the Czar for the wanton destruction in Moscow. The Czar, Alexander I Pavlovich, the Blessed (1777-1825), did not answer. He was concerned with Kutuzov’s army. Russia’s Czar, the commanding general, the troops and people were of one mind: to fight the Western invader to the last Russian man, woman, and child. Moscow’s demise was the turning point for the autocratic world that viewed Napoleon as an atheist and butcher at the head of an international army of mercenary thugs and savages. Only the wealthy in Russia were willing to negotiate with Napoleon mainly from fear that he might try to free their serfs. In this clash of civilizations, Napoleon surmised, “I beat the Russians every time—but that does not get me anywhere.”5 Old general Kutuzov’s inaction attained his objective to defend Russia whereas his 43-year-old French counterpart’s active efforts to rally his men far from home on behalf of his Empire failed.

Posthumous Portrait of Czar Alexander I of Russia, 1826, George Dawe, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Napoleon’s interest now turned back to Paris. Having heard of an impending coup d’état led by Gen. Claude François de Malet (1754-1812), Napoleon had to raise more fresh troops to crush rebellions in Paris. There were rebellions to crush taking place in other lands of the Empire as they squirmed under his dictatorial rule and were emboldened by his latest inglorious defeat.

By late 1812, the weather in Russia turned to ice and snow. Whereas the Russians retreated prior to defeat, the French retreated in defeat. Reports of cannibalism among the retreating combatants is recorded. On Napoleon’s retreat, the French army lost another half of their men. Napoleon’s supply lines had long been sacked and looted by his anti-Empire enemies.

Famous tell-all graph by French civil engineer Charles Joseph Minard (1781-1870) showing the size of Napoleon’s Grande Armée as it marched towards Moscow (top gray line, left to right) in summer of 1812 and its retreat (bottom black line, from right to left) in the late fall of 1812. Frozen temperatures during the humiliating retreat are plotted on the bottom graph.

On the retreat, surviving warriors fought among themselves over any existing supplies. Napoleon’s retreat included the humiliation of being chased out of Russia by Kutuzov’s redeployed 80,000 troops. The old man’s hot pursuit did not allow Napoleon, the once young Enlightenment military figure, to rest.

Under military surgeon Baron Dominique Jean Larrey (1766-1842), the Grand Army’s medical and sanitary measures were the finest in the world but the retreat route offered no food and no medical care. As a remedy for possible future ills, including his capture, Napoleon convinced his doctor to give him a vial of poison which the dictator could ingest if conditions deteriorated to become inescapably dire.

Portrait of Dominique-Jean Larrey, oil on canvas, 1804, Marie-Guillemine Benoist (1768-1826), Musée des Augustins, Toulouse, France.

Baron Dominique Jean Larrey was a French surgeon and military doctor who distinguished himself during the near endless wars of the French Revolution and under Napoleon. Baron Larrey served as the Grand Army’s medical and sanitation leader and was an important innovator in triage who is considered the first modern military doctor and surgeon.

Napoleon: Retreat, 1812. /Ncrossing The Beresina River In Russia During The Retreat Of The Grand Army Under Napoleon Bonaparte, December 1812; Baggage Carts And Ambulances Have Been Abandoned In The Foreground. Watercolor, c. 1812, attributed to General François Louis Fournier-Sarlovèze (1773-1827).

During the Russian Campaign, Fournier commanded a brigade of light cavalry composed of French, German, and Central European horsemen, and led a noted cavalry charge at the Battle of Smolensk.

Generals Kutuzov and Wittgenstein attacked the retreating remnants of Napoleon’s army at a critical bridge crossing in modern-day Belarus. Hundreds of Frenchmen drowned. To stop the attack, Napoleon ordered the bridges destroyed. He stranded hundreds more of his company to the enemy’s gunfire.

Napoleon now told his aide-de-camp, Armand-Augustin-Louis de Caulaincourt, what the Russian campaign taught him: “I can hold my grip on Europe only from the Tuileries.” In Warsaw, when Napoleon met Abbé de Pradt, his ambassador there, he told the French clergyman: “From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.”6

Napoleon had led almost 700,000 men into Russia with the intent of conquering the country. By the end of 1812, only about 30,000 had survived. Out of that number, less than 1,000 soldiers returned to active duty after their return to France. 7

NAPOLEON DEFEATED IN PENINSULAR WAR IN SPAIN

Simultaneous with the debacle of Napoleon’s blood-thirsty Russian invasion, French forces lost the long fight in Spain and Portugal (since 1808) to keep the British off the Continent.

Significant losses in the east and west of the Empire were followed in 1813 by the Battle of Leipzig, Napoleon’s penultimate defeat by an international coalition that included Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden.

FORCED ABDICATION, EXILE, WATERLOO, AND DEATH

After Napoleon withdrew into France, in March 1814 these allied forces captured Paris. By early April 1814 Napoleon was forced to abdicate as Emperor. Napoleon had to go for his pursuit of glory had become a menace to his country and the world.

With the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon was exiled to Elba, and, following his brief escape into France in 1814, he was defeated for the final time at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to St. Helena which held him until his death at 51 years old on May 5, 1821.

Napoleon Crossing the Alps, Jacques-Louis David, 1801, oil on canvas, 102 1⁄3 × 87 in., Château du Malmaison.

NOTES:

1. see- https://www.history.com/topics/france/napoleon

–retrieved May 5, 2021.

2. The Age of Napoleon, Will and Ariel Durant, Simon & Schuster: 1975, p. 698.

3. A Dictionary of Military Quotations, edited by Trevor Royle, Routledge: 1989, Section 105, quote 13.

4. http://www.military-info.com/freebies/maximsn.htm

5. The New York Times, “The Napoleon Legend—A New Look; How can we know the man whose transformation into a myth began long before his death?; Napoleonic Legend,” April 5, 1964. https://www.nytimes.com/1964/04/05/archives/the-napoleon-legenda-new-look-how-can-we-know-the-man-whose.html#:~:text=When%20he%20failed%2C%20he%20never,in%20defense%20of%20their%20country.–retrieved May 5, 2021.

6. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 13th edition, p. 199.

7. https://slate.com/technology/2012/12/napoleon-march-to-russia-in-1812-typhus-spread-by-lice-was-more-powerful-than-tchaikovskys-cannonfire.html 

— retrieved May 5, 2021.




“NOTRE DAME IS ON FIRE!”: the devastating blaze of April 15, 2019; 800-year architectural history of the world’s most famous Gothic cathedral; and what may lay ahead.

FEATURE image: Notre Dame under re-construction, 2019.

By John P. Walsh, May 21, 2019.

Flames engulf Notre Dame de Paris in an historic early evening blaze on Monday, April 15, 2019. The fire left the 850-year-old Gothic cathedral standing, but suffering extensive and serious structural damage.
Hundreds of Paris firefighters battled the blaze for hours at Notre Dame de Paris on April 15, 2019. First responders saved the cathedral though its expansive timber roof, frame and spire burned and crashed into the nave.

Fire broke out with 1,000 people inside the building

Notre Dame de Paris suffered a devastating fire on April 15, 2019 causing most of its roof and a 300-foot oak spire to collapse. The fire broke out during an early evening Mass when more than 1,000 people were in the cathedral which is the most touristic site in the center of the most touristic city in the world. The priest had been in the middle of reading that day’s Gospel of John. It was Holy Monday, the first day of Holy Week where the gospel tells the story of Mary pouring oil over the feet of Jesus which will anoint him for burial. Judas complains the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.1

Pledges to rebuild

Notre Dame de Paris (“Our Lady of Paris” named in honor of the Virgin Mary) will take years, even decades, to rebuild and at great expense. This will be the case whether the edifice is simply restored or, as some have argued for, more creatively re-imagined for modern times. Whichever rebuilding vision or visions are followed – and there will be voices from many quarters involved in the restoration process ahead – French president Emmanuel Macron promised to complete its rebuilding by around 2024. Within 48 hours of the fire, donations poured in from around the world to rebuild the cathedral amounting to more than one billion dollars whose substantial amount may prove inadequate to fully cover rebuilding costs.2

Spotty maintenance record for 850-year-old stone and wood building

While the fire’s precise ultimate cause is yet to be fully determined, the conditions surrounding the blaze are recognizably available:

its spotty maintenance record over 10 centuries;

the anachronistic methods and complexity of its 21st century renovation going on when the fire broke out;

the twelfth and thirteenth century flammable oak “forest’” that constitutes the building’s roof and frame;

and, the challenges encountered by hundreds of firefighters owing to the cathedral’s size and the fire’s location and size.

Almost ironically, the Cathedral roof that burned—a major attic fire— was one of the larger parts of the original 12th century cathedral builder’s monied investment.3

BRIEF ACCOUNT OF NOTRE DAME DE PARIS’S ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY

Notre Dame de Paris is one of Paris’s famous icons–an historical and religious treasure–and one of France’s great cathedrals along with Reims (which was nearly destroyed by fire during World War I) and Chartres (reconstructed after a fire in 1194). Others on any short list of great French cathedrals would include Amiens and Bourges, among others.

Notre Dame de Paris before the April 15, 2019 blaze. In touristy Paris, the cathedral is the tourist mecca.
After the April 15, 2020 fire: the cathedral’s great nave.
Reims Cathedral on fire in World War I. The cathedral was the site of the coronation of French kings. The Gothic cathedral was virtually destroyed by bombing. After the war, the massive cathedral was completely rebuilt.

In 1163 when it became time to roof the superstructure of Notre Dame de Paris’s choir which was the first part of the church to be constructed, Paris bishop Maurice de Sully (1120-1196) provided 5000 French livres so that it could be richly and securely layered with lead. That and other of the Cathedral roof’s protective lead covering was stolen during the French Revolution in the eighteenth century.

The roof’s space and design provided a large part of the church’s riddle of secret passages -– including spiral staircases in the nave’s columns -– that served mainly for the needs of the religious complex’s operation and maintenance. Engineering of the 12th and 13th centuries proved resilient over nearly 1000 years — through hardly impervious to obsolescence and decay.

The 2019 blaze caused serious damage to the cathedral infrastructure. The flames left behind many questions to be answered about the medieval stone and timber building’s ultimate stability. History’s endurance for more than a church was at stake. Notre Dame de Paris is Paris Point Zero – the very center of the Île-de la-Cité, Paris, and all distances in France and, by extension, the world, are to be judged.4

Paris bishop Maurice de Sully (1120-1196). This visionary bishop with his chapter of cathedral canons started the building of Notre Dame de Paris in 1163. Most of the Gothic structure was completed in 1250.
Episodes from the life of a bishop, c.1500, oil on panel, 61.5 x 47 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The scene depicted is from about 300 years after the death of Bishop de Sully yet captures the grandeur and history of the archbishop at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris.

The Gothic Cathedral: A Quintessentially French Story

The French Gothic building project stretched from a Collégiale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Laurent d’Eu (1186) in northeastern France to Toulouse Cathedral (13th century) in in France’s Languedoc in the south.

The story of the Gothic cathedral, such as Notre Dame de Paris, is essentially a French story.

By the end of the Gothic Movement in the late 14th century, all corners of France -– and points between — possessed a Gothic church that displayed pointed arch, stained glass, and buttresses, some of them magnificently flying.

The style and power of Gothic art reflected not only a new theological thinking in the Renaissance of the 12th century but also an assertion of royal power.5

Notre Dame de Paris viewed from the south side of the Seine. Its flying buttresses support the nave and apse. The oak spire is a later addition (1860). It went up in flames like a torch and crashed full bore into the nave in the April 15, 2019 fire.
The Gothic church called Collégiale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Laurent d’Eu is in northeastern France. looking to paris for inspiration, it was constructed between 1186 and 1240.
Its subterranean crypt contains the tomb of Irish St. Laurence O’Toole (1128-1180). The saint’s heart is in Dublin at Christ Church Cathedral.
The main impetus for the building of the new Gothic church was to accommodate pilgrims who came to venerate at O’Toole’s tomb.

Impact of the 13th century Crusades on Notre Dame de Paris

The Gothic age was characterized by international crusades of Western conquest to the Holy Land. The French king, Louis IX, or St. Louis (1214-1270) led its seventh manifestation from 1248 to 1254. Louis died while on its Eighth.

In the Holy Land the French king purchased relics to bring back to France, including the highly prized Crown of Thorns reputedly worn by Jesus Christ at his crucifixion. Relics were an investment that could pay off by generating pilgrimages.

In the April 2019 fire, scores of ordinary people and cathedral personnel formed a human chain to save the cathedral’s artifacts, most irreplaceable, and prevent their consumed in the hellish blaze.

Louis IX (St. Louis) with his counselors and Blanche de Castile (1188-1252), Louis’s mother, in a miniature of the 15th century.
King Louis IX, or St. Louis (1214-1270) led the Seventh Crusade from 1248 to 1254.

As one of the first cathedrals built, Notre Dame de Paris is of enduring architectural significance. Monday, April 15, 2019 was a tragic day in history as fire broke out in the 850-year old edifice while the world watched.

Notre Dame de Paris is on fire, April 15, 2019. Countless pictures were taken anonymously and transmitted instantaneously around the world.
Extent of the fire damage (in red) at Notre Dame de Paris on April 15, 2019. Fair use.

Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Paris, and transmitted pictures of the dramatic blaze from smartphones and other devices onto the internet and television as a major live news event. It caused many to shed tears and ask questions about what is ahead for a beloved symbol of Paris.

THE FIRE’S IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH

In the aftermath of the 2019 fire, workers aimed to secure and protect the edifice which will take several months to finalize.

By May 2019, the north tower was stabilized and secured while the transept’s beams were declared in good condition.

Although the interior was not damaged, the structural integrity of the high vaults that protected it remains uncertain and requires further close study. The cathedral is undergoing a major effort to remove fire debris including the oak spire (or flèche) dating from 1860 as well as the arch that burned and crashed into the nave.

Cataloguing debris and predicting the building’s future

To the highest degree possible, each bit of fallen debris will be deciphered, cataloged and saved for potential reuse in a restoration. One month after the fire, it was declared premature to know if the building is completely stable or if it might further collapse.

Working on the cathedral in the 21st century are virtually the same type of skilled laborers who built it in the first place in the 12th and 13th centuries – namely, masons, stonecutters, carpenters, roofers, iron workers, and master glassmakers.6

The work associated with the Notre Dame de Paris in the aftermath of the 2019 fire promises to concentrate centuries of history into one location looking to sustain its continued thriving existence for future generations.

NOTES:

1. “Vows to Restore Notre Dame Following a Harrowing Rescue,” by Sam Schechner and Stacy Meichtry, The Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2019; see Gospel of John, Chapter 12.

2. “Some say the $1 billion donated to the Paris cathedral should’ve been directed elsewhere,” by Sigal Samuel, Vox, April 20, 2019 – https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/4/20/18507964/notre-dame-cathedral-fire-charity-donations- retrieved May 21, 2019.

3. Gimpel, Jean, The Cathedral Builders, Grove Press, Inc., New York and Evergreen Books, Ltd., London, 1961, pp. 171-72.

4. see “Paris Point Zero” – https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/paris-point-zero – retrieved May 21, 2019.

5. Duby, Georges, The Age of the Cathedrals: Art and Society, 980-1420, translated by Eleanor Levieux and Barbara Thompson, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1981, p.97.

6. “Notre-Dame de Paris: Very serious damage that can be repaired,” Élodie Maurot, La Croix International, May 14, 2019 – https://international.la-croix.com/news/notre-dame-de-paris-very-serious-damage-that-can-be-repaired/10094 – retrieved May 20, 2019.

Photographic Portraits of 19th-Century French Cultural Figures in Paris by NADAR (1820-1910): History and Commentary.

FEATURE image: Nadar, Marie Laurent (1826-1904), Paris, c. 1856. 

By John P. Walsh.

This presentation is excerpted from content of university course I taught whose research project is ongoing.

Nadar was born on April 6, 1820 to 26-year-old Thérèse Maillet and 49-year-old Victor Tournachon at 195 rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. His parents didn’t marry until 1826. After Gaspard-Félix (Nadar’s birth name) was born his parents moved to 26 rue de Richelieu. A younger brother, Adrien, was born in 1825. In an age of political censorship, Victor Tournachon’s printing business began to decline and the family moved again to 45 rue Saint-André-des-Arts on the Left Bank. Tournachon brothers’ upbringing was marked by this financial difficulty of their father, especially after the July Revolution in 1830. After Victor Tournachon closed his business in 1833 he moved with his family to Lyon. Gaspard-Félix stayed in school at Versailles where he started his creative writing and had a natural inkling for making friends.  His school career effectively ended in 1837 when his father died and Gaspard-Félix moved to Lyon. Though he started medical studies with the idea of supporting his mother and brother, it belied his active interest in journalism.

In 1838, Gaspard-Félix returned to Paris. Into the 1840’s his expanding circle of friends became his new family where his nickname of Nadar began to evolve and he started a journalism career working for up-and-down literary publications, writing reviews and short stories, and drawing caricatures. Throughout the 1840’s he traveled in bohemian literary circles, made the rounds of Paris cafés and met a string of artists, writers, critics and poets such as Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) and Théodore de Banville (1823-1891) – all of whom became subjects for Nadar’s photography. Part of the reward for this aesthetic conviction was to spend time in a Paris debtor’s prison at the start of the 1850’s. While Nadar’s literary and artistic activities continued for the next forty years he also remained a type of eccentric politically-radical bohemian even after he was rich and famous.

Mid-nineteenth-century Paris was a city in upheaval both politically and physically. The Revolution of 1848 ended up toppling the constitutional monarchy and replacing it with a second republic. Georges-Eugène, Baron Haussmann’s renovation of Paris literally turned over the old city.  These developments perfectly mirrored Nadar’s character to be restlessly innovative, curious, energetic, concrete, and persuasive. In a writing career that worked in the burgeoning literary world of newspapers, magazines, journals, gazettes, etc., and, as the press was starkly partisan, Nadar encountered many personalities who favored the liberal side of the political and cultural spectrum. By way of a journal for which he was editor in chief, Nadar in 1839, met Honoré de Balzac. An active member of the Société des gens de lettres since 1844, Nadar connected to the professional literary group for friends, funds and more writing opportunities, mainly short pieces for periodicals.  Nadar never became disenchanted with writing or wanting to be a literary celebrity, but starting in 1844, began to augment his skills and income by publishing caricatures. He made sketches and drawings for a short-lived Journal du dimanche, the influential Le Charivari, an antisocialist Le Journal, a new weekly La Revue comique, and also Journal pour rire (which became Journal amusant), Tintamarre, Illustrated London News, and Count Charles de Villedeuil’s L’Éclair. Nadar’s success as a draughtsman – as well as his intuitive grasp of the emerging celebrity culture in Paris – led to the establishment in 1850 of the first studio under the Nadar brand name. Patronage for his caricatures allowed him in 1854 to move to 13 rue Saint-Lazare with his mother who, with Adrien, had returned to Paris in 1845.  This address eventually served as Nadar’s photographic studio. When Nadar began his photographic services career there was a handful of professional photographers in Paris. By 1870, around the time Nadar exited the full-time profession in 1873, there were many hundreds. Nadar was at the start of a cultural sensation. Practicing a new and exciting medium, the photographer still held an undetermined and possibly precarious socio-economical position in Paris –was he an artist or technician? Was Nadar’s photographic services installed in what should be called a studio or shop?

Nadar married Ernestine-Constance Lefèvre (1836-1909) in 1854, a woman half his age, who fully supported her husband’s photographic venture. His young wife was one of his first—and final–photographic models. Nadar’s portraits included a wide range of sitters, many of whom were bohemian friends and notable personalities of his day. Nadar who for years had made portrait caricatures of celebrities such as in his lithographic project, Panthéon Nadar, now took their photographic portraits. A large number of Nadar portraits included painters, sculptors, actors, writers, historians, philosophers, politicians, journalists, and musicians as well as the public bourgeois clientele. The subject Nadar photographed the most was Nadar himself.  A sitter would be welcomed into the outdoor courtyard on rue Saint-Lazare which served as Nadar’s studio. His first work was often done in the natural light that achieved a high contrast between light and dark on the sitter’s features. Like in a theatrical production, sitters were costumed by Nadar in place of their street clothes which worked to generalize their social position and contemporaneity. Using plain dark backgrounds and no props to begin, Nadar’s portraits are spare. Another key practice by Nadar to achieve a successful portrait is the photographer’s skillful lighting of the sitter. From the mid1850s until the early 1870s Nadar’s relaxed and easy style inviting friends and celebrities into his studio for portraits resulted in a sympathetic rapport between a seductive and energetic photographer and his trusting and extemporaneous subjects enthusiastically interacting to produce these portraits.

Adrien learned how to take photographs from Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884). Le Gray, who was the same age as Nadar, was already one the most important photographers of his time. Adrien first set up photographic services with his older brother taking portraits. Yet Adrien and Le Gray remained contacts for Nadar only through the 1850s: Le Gray fled France in 1860 because of creditors and the brothers split professionally in a lawsuit brought by Nadar and decided in 1859. In April 1860 Nadar took over renting Le Gray’s sumptuous studio at 35, rue des Capucines and expanded it with an iron-and-glass penthouse which opened in September 1861. This became Nadar’s fashionable quarters until 1872 when he retired and, in 1873, left a thriving photographic business to his son, Paul Nadar. In 1861 the new establishment, lavish and sporting its famous outdoor sign “Nadar,” one of its unforgettable modern notes made by 21-year-old Antoine Lumière (1840-1911), was packaged to attract the urban bourgeois. Nadar also looked to charge high prices based on his appeal as an anti-establishment photographer who sometimes took erotic photographs and always cultivated Paris’s society of artists and political radicals.

At the new studio his photographs were more polished than his and Adrien’s work on rue Saint-Lazare in the 1850’s. Nadar took photographs of Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) and George Sand (1804-1876) in several sittings. Nadar was a man of constant curiosity and enthusiasm which led to creative innovations in taking photographs. In addition to portraiture, Nadar used artificial light to photography the Paris catacombs in 1864. For anyone who has visited this underground necropolis, it is naturally always pitch dark. The Paris sewers, a modern marvel, also attracted Nadar’s camera and artificial lighting. The first aerial photographs in history were taken by Nadar when he hooked up a gondola to a balloon and lifted into the air over Paris in 1865. It promoted both the cause of human flight and his photography business. During the seige of 1870, Nadar took to the air again with his camera for patriotic reasons.

SOURCES:

The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera, Adam Begley, Tim Duggan Books, NY, 2017.

Nadar: Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (55), James H. Rubin, Phaidon Press, 2001.

The World of Proust as seen by Paul Nadar, edited by Anne-Marie Bernard, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2002.

Nadar, Maria Morris Hambourg, Françoise Helibrun, Philippe Neagu, et.al., Harry N. Abrams, 1995.

Nadar self portrait 1854

Nadar, Self Portrait, 1854. Throughout his career, Nadar took images of himself. This was used as a simple record of the artist but also a form of publicity for his business.

Nadar self portrait

Nadar, Self Portrait, 1855. 

nadar-35-boulevard-des-capucines


Nadar, Atelier at 35, boulevard des Capucines, c. 1861. Nadar moved out of his mother’s house where he had his first studio into this grandiose showplace on the new boulevard which attracted celebrities, onlookers, and those eager to have their portrait taken in the nineteenth century. The script sign “Nadar” across the building’s facade at its upper floor offered a dramatic advertisement for the enterprising photographer.

Nadars


The Nadars, c. 1864. Paul Nadar (1856-1939), Gaspard-Félix Nadar (1820-1910), Ernestine-Constance Nadar née Lefèvre (1836-1909). A family portrait portrayed both a close family unit of mother, father, and son, as well as the dynastic quality of Nadar’s photographic business to be inherited by none other than young Paul by the 1890’s.

de nerval

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855), 1855. The poet played a major role in introducing French readers to the works of German Romantic authors, including Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724-1803), Gottfried August Bürger (1747-1804), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805). His own poetry was a major influence on Marcel Proust (1871-1922), André Breton (1896-1966), and the avant-garde movement of Surrealism in 1920’s that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind. Nadar claimed that Nerval sat for him just once and only days before the bohemian poet committed suicide.

Charles Baudelaire


Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), 1855. In an early portrait by Nadar, his friend Baudelaire reclines in an armchair with an intense and dreamy gaze. The poet and critic was involved in producing poems to be published in 1859 as Les Fleurs du mal. Baudelaire’s critique of photography was its negative impact on judgement and feeling of the beautiful.

Charles Baudelaire

Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), 1855. The lumpy coat is likely a costume provided by Nadar that helps contrast the sitter’s slim frame and fine facial features.  The formal gesture of the right hand inside the coat, a pose known in Ancient Greece to indicate good manners, had appeared in eighteenth century art to establish calm and deliberation in its subject so posed. Baudelaire’s left hand in the pocket is informal and could intentionally serve to undermine or mock the classical gesture. Nadar’s portrait series of Baudelaire is important to view as a group since these are the few images of the French Symbolist poet that exist from the mid nineteenth century and in a manner of pose inspired by the artistic interchange of the diverse and inventive Nadar and his subject who was also his friend, the experimental modernist writer Baudelaire.

baudelaire

Nadar, Baudelaire, c. 1856.

Baudelaire 1862

Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), c. 1862. Rather than dreamy, Baudelaire’s expression — mouth turned down, eyes gleaming — is defiant and the pose is stern but whimsical.

Baudelaire c. 1862

Nadar, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), c. 1862.

Théodore de Banville

Nadar, Théodore de Banville (1823-1891). Banville was a French poet , writer and critic who was a leader of the Parnassians and whose work was later influential on French Symbolism. His first book of verse, Les Cariatides (“The Caryatids”) in 1842, owed much to the style and manner of  Victor Hugo (1802-1885). The chief quality of his poetry is its technical virtuosity — he experimented with forms such as the ballad and rondeau that had been neglected for 300 years — though contemporaries also admired his poems’ erudition, wit and whimsy. His best-known collection, Les Odes funambulesques (“Fantastic Odes”) published in 1857, is dedicated to Hugo who praised it. Such is the first stanza of Mascarades: Le Carnaval s’amuse!/ Viens le chanter, ma Muse,/En suivant au hasard/ Le bon Ronsard!

de Banville 1854

Nadar, Théodore de Banville, 1854. 

henri murger c 1855

Nadar, Henri Murger (1822-1861), Paris, c. 1855. 

Charles Philipon

Nadar, Charles Philipon, Paris, 1854. The founder of Le Charivari in 1831, among other popular journals, Charles Philipon (1800-1862) was Nadar’s mentor and an important collaborator in Nadar’s bid to establish himself as a caricaturist. Philipon and Nadar, though from different generations, both shared an energetic and inventive personal character as well as a keen interest, skill, and talent for contemporary caricature (though censorship killed political cartoons after 1851). Charles Philipon, however, being the better businessman, provided Nadar in this period with editor in chief jobs at new magazines that Philipon founded and, until the day he died in 1862, stayed solicitous of Nadar’s future in illustration. Except that, after Charles Philipon died, Nadar lost all interest in the practice.

Adrien Tournachon

Adrien Tournachon (1825-1903), c. 1855. Nadar’s younger brother was a quirky and talented artist and photographer in his own right. By the mid-to-late 1850’s Adrien collaborated closely with his older brother in the photographic studio’s services.  Their work in this period is often enmeshed so that an exact delineation between them can be difficult to ascertain.  Is this photograph a self portrait or a collaborative (self-)portrait? The photograph presents Adrien at about age thirty, wearing casual attire and posing with a bohemian air marked by a broad-brimmed dark straw hat and holding a hand-rolled and lit cigarette in his mouth. Adrien Tournachon opened a photographic studio at 11, boulevard des Capucines in 1853. The two brothers worked together closely in photography which each also worked in other professions, Nadar as a caricaturist and Adrien as a painter (whom Nadar helped to establish).  Adrien’s photography career included being active in newly-formed photographic societies, securing a patent for a photo-mechanical process, and later specializing  in horse and animal photography as well as other photography-related businesses.

Charles Deburau Pierrot 1

Pierrot

Jean-Charles Deburau (1829-1873) as Pierrot series, c. 1855.  This is another series of Nadar’s photographs–Deburau’s portrayal of the stock character Pierrot– that should be viewed as a group to appreciate the sitter portrayed in a single portrait, although this post includes only a small portion. A collaborative project by Nadar and Adrien. Nadar issued the invitation for Deburau to pose in the studio. Deburau is dressed as Pierrot, the famous commedia dell’arte character. These are rare full-length portraits in Nadar’s oeuvre and include Pierrot in a variety of dramatic poses, some more natural than others, in strongly sculptural light and  shadow. There is Pierrot surprised, Pierrot listening, Pierrot in pain, Pierrot laughing and, most famously, Pierrot photographer which explicitly suggests the performative dialogue  between sitter and photographer.

pierrot running

Pierrot running.

Pierrot laughing

Pierrot laughing.

Pierrot listening

Pierrot listening.

Pierrot photographer
gautier

Nadar, Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), Paris, c. 1855. Gautier was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic.

Nadar Michelet c 1857

Nadar, Jules Michelet (1798-1874), c. 1858. Historian of France.  Nadar positions his camera lens below the subject so that Michelet can look out from above and has arranged the light reflectors to sculpt Michelet’s features in high relief.

Nadar Prince Czartoryski c. 1858

Nadar, Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (1770-1861), c. 1858. A Polish patriot, Nadar’s portrait of the prince was exhibited in 1859 at the Société Française de Photographie. In 1848 Nadar had volunteered to fight for the liberation of Poland when Lamartine called for an expeditionary force of 300 Polish and 200 French (including Nadar) to incite revolution against a Russian regime there since 1830. Nadar was captured, spent time in prison in Germany, and returned by foot to Paris.

Auguste Preault

Auguste Préault (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1854. A student of David d’Angers (1788-1856), Préault was a sculptor who first exhibited at the Paris salon in 1833. Works by Préault are in the Louvre, d’Orsay, and other museum collections mainly in France.

louvre-silence 1842

Created in 1842,  the medallion titled Le Silence in the Louvre is one of the most famous works of Auguste Préault, who was the romantic sculptor par excellence. Reduced to its simplest expression, the deeply-engraved artwork — a funereal figure with a finger on the lips evoking the chasm between Life and Death — both fascinates and terrifies. This is the sculptural work on the tomb of Jacob Roblès in Père Lachaise where Préault abandoned recent traditional funerary imagery begun by his mentor David D’Angers of artwork that evokes the person who died, and fashioning in its place an enigmatic and mysterious evocation of death itself. Préault, who died in 1879, is also buried in Père Lachaise.

Nadar E Pelletan 1855-59

Nadar, Pierre-Clément-Eugène Pelletan (1813-1884), c. 1857. Protestant minister, mystic, socialist pamphleteer, an associate of George Sand and Lamartine. This is lionizing portrait – gleaming eyes, furrowed brow – that epitomized for the photographer the nobility of the Romantic hero.

molin 1858

Nadar, Benoît Molin (1810-1894), Paris, 1858. A student of Baron Gros (1771-1835), Molin was a portrait, genre, Religion and History painter. Molin regularly exhibited at the Salon starting in 1843 and became the Director of Chambéry Musée des beaux-arts in 1850.

Molin_Le_Baiser_rendu_Judas_et_Satan1

Molin, Le Baiser rendu (Judas et Satan), 1840s, Chambéry; Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Nadar Rossini 1856

Nadar, Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868).  Italian composer who wrote 39 operas, including his French grand opera, Guillaume Tell (William Tell) in 1832 based on Friedrich Schiller’s 1804 play that is based on the previous William tell legend.

Gioachino Rossini: William Tell Overture (1829). London Philharmonic, Alfred Scholz.

Alexandre Dumas pere

Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870), Paris, c. 1855. The French writer’s works have been translated into many languages, and he is one of the most widely read French authors. Many of his historical novels of high adventure were originally published as serials including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and Twenty Years After, among others. His novels have been adapted since the early twentieth century into hundreds of films.

Based on the 1844 novel Le Comte de Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) by Alexandre Dumas père, this excerpt from the 1998 French-Italian TV miniseries finds Edmond Dantès (Gerard Depardieu), who is now the Count of Monte Cristo, encountering his beautiful former fiancée, Mercédès (Ornella Muti). When the count as a young man is unjustly betrayed and sent to the Château d’If – from which he escapes after several years – Mercédès has married not only another man but one of the Count’s betrayers. Though Mercédès regrets marrying Fernand and not waiting for Dantès, she never stops loving Dantès and ends up being miserable for it.

Francoius-Louis Lesueur

François-Louis Lesueur (1820-1876), Paris, c. 1855. Lesueur was a French actor.

Goncourt Brothers

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Edmond Goncourt (1822-1896) and Jules Goncourt (1830-1870), Paris, c. 1855. The brothers were taste-makers of their time. The Prix Goncourt, the best known and most prestigious of French literary awards, is named for them.

Nadar & Adrien Fremiet 1854

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910), 1854. Sculptor.

Paris PlacedesPyramidesJeanned'Arcequestre Frémiet 1874

Joan of Arc on Horseback, 1874, Place des Pyramides, Paris by Frémiet. The pedestal was designed by the architect Paul Abadie (1812-1884). The model for Joan was Aimée Girod (1856–1937).

Nadar Couder c. 1856

Nadar, Louis-Charles-Auguste-Couder (1789-1873), c. 1856. French painter and student of Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829) and Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825).

Couder Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, 20 juin 1789

Couder,  Le Serment du Jeu de Paume, 20 juin 1789, 1848,  Musée de la Révolution française, Vizelle.

mariette2

Nadar, Mariette (Standing Nude), c. 1855. Only by viewing Nadar’s nude portraits in a group can the viewer begin to get a sense of the photographer’s inventiveness and grace in posing the model that achieves the maximum effect of the sitter’s degrees of vulnerability and beauty.

Seated Nude Partial drapery

Nadar, Mimi, c. 1857.

draped standing nude 1

Nadar, Draped Standing Nude, c. 1858.

maria l'antillaise

Maria L’Antillaise, Paris, c. 1858.

Mademoiselle de Sanzillon, c.1858

Mademoiselle de Sanzillon, Paris, c. 1858. Nadar took photographs of this society woman of the time. In a time when married women were still the legal property of their husband, Nadar’s portraits reveal a liberality of practice to find and display the individual personality of each female sitter. This is achieved by how the photographer posed them and captured their expression and outward fashion. The extent of Nadar’s abilities in the area of photographing women is best appreciated by seeing a select grouping of small-sized portraits that illustrate the range of this quality that he produced though a fraction of his oeuvre.

Finette c. 1857

Finette, c. 1857. 

mere marie jamet c. 1860

Mère Marie Jamet, c. 1860. From an inscription on the back of the photograph, it is speculated, though by no means certain, that this is the founder and mother superior of the Petites Soeurs des Pauvres (Little Sisters of the Poor).

ernesta grisi 1854

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon), Ernesta Grisi, 1854. 

Mlle de baste c 1855

Mademoiselle de Basté, c. 1855. 

musette, c. 1854

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon?), Musette (also Mariette), c. 1855. 

young woman in profile c 1859

Young woman in profile, c. 1859.

Marie Laurent

Marie Laurent (1826-1904), Paris, c. 1856. 

maria d'antillaise

Maria L’Antillaise, Paris, c. 1858.

young model

Young Model, Paris, c. 1858.

juliette adam

Juliette Adam (1835-1936), Paris, c. 1858.

Carlotta Grisi

Carlotta Grisi ( 1819-1899), Paris, 1865. 

Jules Janin


Nadar (Adrien Tournachon), Jules Janin (1804-1874), Paris, c. 1855. Known as the “prince of critics,” Janin enjoyed a 40-year-career as a theater critic, novelist, and literary historian from the 1830’s to the 1870’s.

Kopp

Kopp (d. 1872), Paris, c. 1857. Kopp was a comic actor at the Théâtre des Variétés, a theatre and “salle de spectacles” on the boulevard Montmartre in Paris. Several opéra bouffe by Jacques Offenbach premiered there in the 1860’s.

14

Le Théâtre des Variétés, sur le boulevard Montmartre, à Paris (IIe).

Nadar Emile Blavier1

Nadar (and Adrien Tournachon),  Émile Blavier, 1854.  A young sculptor who gained recognition at the Salon of 1852.

Buste de fillette au chignon Blavier.jpg

Blavier, Buste de fillette au chignon.

Hector Berlioz

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869), Paris, c. 1857.  Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique: Épisode de la vie d’un artiste … en cinq parties (Fantastic  Symphony: Episode in the Life of an Artist… in Five Parts) was composed  in 1830. and is one of the most important orchestral works of the period. Franz Liszt made a piano transcription of it in 1833. Leonard Bernstein described the symphony as the first musical expedition into psychedelia because of its hallucinatory and dream-like nature. The symphony is in five movements.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances is conducted by Stéphane Denève.

Paul Chenavard

Paul Chenavard (1807-1895), Paris, c. 1857. 

Nadar P-A Ravel 1854

Nadar, Pierre-Alfred Ravel (1811-1881). Master comic on the Paris stage at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal for a quarter of century. Each brilliant conversationalists, both sitter and photographer were both at the height of their powers. The glorious theater interiors that still stand in Paris today give the best indication of the celebrity quality that surrounded many of Nadar’s sitters.

foyer theatre du Palais Royal

Foyer, Théâtre du Palais-Royal, 38 Rue de Montpensier, (1e).

Théâtre du Palais Royal Salle de-spectacle

Théâtre de la Montansier/Théâtre du Palais-Royal, 1er, Paris.

Rosine Stolz

Rosine Stolz (1815-1903), Paris, c.1857. 

Pierre Ciceri

Pierre Cicéri (1782-1868), Paris, c.1857.

JBC Corot

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875), Paris, c. 1857. 

Honore Daumier

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857. Four masterful portraits taken in the same sitting. Nadar and Daumier both started their cartoon careers under Charles Philipon. Daumier started by drawing and was prompted, again by Philipon,  to model unbaked clay figurines of lawmakers in the July Monarchy. For the rest of his long career Daumier was a master in drawing, painting, sculpture and lithography where the contemporary human element was key admired by Delacroix and Baudelaire. Daumier was friends with the sculptor Préault, painters Corot, Daubigny, Rousseau, and Dupré, and writers Théodore de Banville and Théophile Gautier. Although his first large solo exhibition (at Impressionist art dealer Durand Ruel’s gallery) was when the caricaturist was 70 years old, he had already been compared to novelist Balzac and philosopher Saint-Simon in that his art chronicled an era in French history. It is by viewing the several poses by Nadar of sitter during the same session that one begins to understand the appearance and personality of the subject for the first time.

Honore Daumier

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857.

Nadar Daumier

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857. This portrait of Daumier was exhibited in 1859 at the Société Française de Photographie.

Honoré Daumier (1808-1879), Paris, c. 1857.

honoré-daumier-caricature-de-photographie---a-collection-of-ten-lithographs


Daumier, Caricature de Photographie-A Collection of Ten Lithographs, lithograph, 36 x 24 cm. (14.2 x 9.4 in.), c. 1840–1867

Daumier_Passé,_présent,_avenir

Daumier, Le passé, le présent, l’avenir, lithographie, 19.6 x 21 cm, Coll. privée,  “La Caricature.”

Gustave Dore

Gustave Doré (1832-1883), Paris, c. 1857. 

Gustave Dore 2

Nadar, Gustave Doré, Paris, 1867. 

Gustave Doré, Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, 1866. Printmaker and engraver, Doré’s illustrations for the Bible in 1866 were a huge success. This print depicts a vision in Ezekiel 37 when God transported Ezekiel to a valley full of dry bones. God directed Ezekiel to speak to the bones saying that God would make breath enter the bones and they would come to life. This would be just as God did at creation for Adam and Eve as told in Genesis’s first chapters. In Doré’s print, Ezekiel spoke, and God’s breath enters the bones so that they begin to come together, develop flesh and skin, and stand up and form a vast army.  

Jean Journet

Jean Journet (1799-1861), Paris, c. 1858. Fourierist “apostle.” Champfleury included Journet in his Excentriques and Nadar looked to achieve a passionate and inspired image in this photographic portrait portrait to offset Courbet’s anti-idealized artwork of Journet included below (Lithograph in black on wove paper, 1850, The Art Institute of Chicago).

Courbet Journet 1850
Francois Guizot

François Guizot (1787-1874), Paris, c. 1857. Guizot was a government official in certain of the conservative governments that ruled in early-to-mid-nineteenth century France. Where Guizot was contentious and controversial as a public official, his breath of learning on French History and European Civilization led to the publication of historical tomes that he wrote on these subjects that are comprehensive and well written and remain exciting classics of the period.

moses saphire

Moses Saphire (1795-1857), Paris, c. 1857. A cartoonist and satirist known as Maurice Gottlieb.  

eugene Delacroix

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863), Paris, 1858. Many volumes could be and are dedicated to the work of this great French Romantic artist and painter. The Musée Delacroix in Paris reports that the artist lived in ten different dwellings and changed studios six times prior to 1857, the year he moved to 6 Rue de Fürstenberg. The apartment he occupied there became the Musée Delacroix in 1932. Delacroix decorated the Salon du Roi (1833–1838) and the library (1840–1846) of the Assemblé Nationale, followed by the library of the Sénat (1840–1851). He was then commissioned for the ceiling of the Galerie d’Apollon for the Musée du Louvre (1850–1851). Between 1851 and 1854, he also created the décor of the Salon de la Paix in the Paris Hôtel de Ville, although his work was unfortunately lost in the fire of 1871. Apart from that particular ensemble, all of Delacroix’s secular decoration still remains in its original location for our viewing pleasure today. The Musée Delacroix has the model of the Orpheus for one of the hemicycles of the Assemblée Nationale ceiling, as well as the model for the hemicycle of the Sénat library depicting Alexander Placing Homer’s Poems in a Golden Chest.

Two Bearded Heads after Veronese from The Marriage at Cana delacroix 1820

Delacroix, Two Bearded Heads, after Veronese (detail from “The Marriage at Cana”), 1820, oil on canvas. Photo by author.

Delacroix Lion Hunt 1861

Delacroix, Lion Hunt (detail), 1861, The Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by author.

adolphe cremieux

Adolphe Crémieux (1796-1880), Paris, c. 1858.

Isidore Severin

Isadore Severin, Baron Taylor (1789-1879), Paris, c. 1858. 

Nadar chennevieres c. 1855

Nadar, Philippe de Chennevières-Pointel (1820-1899), c.1855. Museum administrator and scholar. A good friend of Baudelaire who praised Chennevières’ modesty in the face of his humanitarian ideals and work ethic.

emma livry

Emma Livry (1842-1863), Paris, c. 1859. 

Nadar self portrait c 1857

Nadar, Self Portrait, c. 1858. 

Nadar c 1859

Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1859. 

Nadar c 1860


Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1860.

Nadar in artificial light c 1859

Nadar, Self Portrait in artificial light, c.1859-1860. 

Nadar c 1865


Nadar, Self-Portrait, c. 1865. 

nadar self portrait

Nadar Self Portrait.

Nadar

Nadar in old age.

giacomo meyerbeer

Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), Paris, 1860. 

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

Nadar atelier, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), Paris, 1862. 

Mikhail Bakunin

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876), Paris, c. 1863. 

Manet

Nadar, Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Paris, c. 1864. 

steamboat-leaving-boulogne

Manet, Steamboat Leaving Boulogne, 1864, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Manet Dead Christ with Angels 1864 Met NY

Manet, Le Christ mort et les anges / Le Christ aux anges (The Dead Christ with Angels), 1864, Oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Nadar Legrand c 1858

Nadar, Legrand, c. 1858. An understudy to Baptise Deburau as Pierrot and a friendly rival to Charles Deburau, Legrand was short and stocky and in his performances was known for his deftness in pantomime to convey character, especially sentiment and tears.

George Sand

George Sand (1804-1876), Paris, 1864.

Sarah_Bernhardt 1864

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), Paris, c. 1864. 

Sarah Bernhardt late teens

Sarah Bernhardt in her late teens, c. 1859. 

Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923), Paris, c. 1864.
In 1893 Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) took over the direction of the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris. Built in 1873, the theater stands next to the Porte Saint-Martin monument constructed in 1674. During the next six years (until 1899) many productions premiered in Bernhardt’s theater: Gismonda, a Greek melodrama in four acts, by Victorien Sardou (1831-1908) in 1894; La Princesse Lointaine, a play based on the story of a 12th-century troubadour, by Edmond Rostand (1868-1918) in 1895; two plays by Maurice Donnay (1859-1945), Amants in 1896 and L’Affranchie in 1898; La Figurante by François, Vicomte de Curel (1854-1928) in 1896; and two other productions in 1898, La Ville morte by Gabriele D’Annunzio (1863-1938) and Lysiane, a five-act play, by Romain Coolus (1868-1952). In 1896, Sarah Bernhardt in the Théâtre de la Renaissance, played the title role in Alfred de Musset’s Lorenzaccio, performing the part at the age of 52 and declared by the critics to be “from beginning to end, and at every moment, incomparably sublime.”

Sarah Bernhardt 1864

Théâtre de la Renaissance1

Théâtre de la Renaissance, Paris (10e).

stage, Le théâtre de la Renaissance à Paris

Stage, Théâtre de la Renaissance, 20 boulevard Saint-Martin (10th), Paris. Sarah Bernhardt directed this theater from 1893 to 1899. It was built in 1873.

Divine Sarah by nadar

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar.

SB in title role of theodora 1884

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar in the title role of Théodora in 1884.

Theatre SB 1899

In 1899 Sarah Bernhardt signed a long lease for the Théâtre des Nations/Théâtre Lyrique at 2 Place du Châtelet in the Fourth arrondissment and renamed it Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt. It was designed by Gabriel Davioud (1824-1881) and built in 1862 by Baron Haussmann (1809-1891). It was virtually  completely destroyed by fire in May 1871 at the end of Paris Commune and rebuilt according to the original plans in 1874. The renowned actress produced there until her death in 1923.

The impressive Haussmannian architecture of the Théâtre de la Ville has stood opposite the Théâtre du Châtelet, on the square of the same name in the centre of Pa

Impressive Haussmannian architecture of the Théâtre de la Ville has stood opposite the Théâtre du Châtelet, on the square of the same name in Paris, since 1862.

Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt today is Théâtre de la Ville.

Theatre SB program 1906-07 for La Vierge d'Avila

Part of a program for a production of La Vierge d’Avila in 1907-1907 at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt.

Divine Sarah by Nadar in La Tosca 1887

Sarah Bernhardt photographed by Nadar in a production of La Tosca in 1887.

Jules Champfleury

 Jules Champfleury (1821-1889), Paris, c. 1865. French writer and modern art critic. Champfleury was a prominent supporter of the Realist movement in painting and fiction and a champion of Gustave Courbet.

Nadar_Champfleury
Gustave Courbet

Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), Paris, c. 1866. 

Courbet Woman with a Parrot 1866 Met

Courbet, Woman With A Parrot, 1866, oil on canvas, 51 x 77 in. (129.5 x 195.6 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York. When this painting was shown in the Salon of 1866, critics censured Courbet’s “lack of taste” as well as his model’s “ungainly” pose and “disheveled hair.” Yet the provocative picture found favor with a younger generation of artists who shared Courbet’s disregard for academic standards.

Charles-François Daubigny c. 1857

Nadar, Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878), c. 1857. Born near Paris into a family of artists, Daubigny was first taught by his father, the artist Edme François Daubigny. His uncle Pierre Daubigny, a miniaturist, was also influential in his life. Daubigny carried on the tradition by his son Karl Daubigny (1846-1886), an accomplished landscape painter.

Daubigny Village of Groton 1857 San Francisco

Daubigny, The Village of Groton, 1857, Oil On Panel, 29.8 x 53.7 cm (11 3/4 x 21 1/8 in.), Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Nadar Millet c. 1857

Nadar, Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), c. 1857. Nadar admired Millet of whom he wrote in 1857 was “one of the most serious talents of the French school.” Some wanted to make Millet’s canvases into sociopolitical manifestos such as in Courbet’s works, but Millet was not intentionally political. Rather Millet’s works looked to depict a toiling peasantry with monumentality and the noble simplicity.

Millet The Angelus c. 1857


Millet, The Angelus, c 1857, Oil on canvas, 55.5 x 66 cm, Musée d’Orsay.

Jacques Offenbach

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), Paris, 1875. 

The famous can-can from Orphée aux Enfers (“Orpheus in the Underworld”) composed in 1858.

Charles Garnier

Charles Garnier (1825-1898), Paris, 1877. Architect of the opulent Opéra Garnier constructed between 1861 and 1875.  The Palais Garnier  is probably the most famous opera house in the world and one of the symbols of Paris.

opera garnier 1

Paris Opera exterior and interior. Stock photos.

Le Grand Foyer Opera Garnier Paris
Constance Queniaux 1861

Constance Quéniaux (1832-1908), Paris, 1861. Documentary evidence (a letter between Alexandre Dumas fils and Georges Sand) points to the sitter in Nadar’s photograph, a former dancer at the Paris opera and a mistress of the Ottoman diplomat and art collector Khalil Bey as the subject in Gustave Courbet’s erotic painting, The Origin of the World (1866), in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Ernestine Nadar 1854

Ernestine-Constance Nadar (1836-1909), Paris, 1854. 

nadar_photographers_wife1890

Nadar, Ernestine Nadar, 1890. The Photographer’s wife displays a winsome expression in this portrait.

vitorhugonadar2g

Victor Hugo (1802-1885).

NADAR

EUGÈNE ATGET (1857-1927, French): Photographer Dans Le Vieux Paris.

FEATURE image: Eugène Atget, Place Saint-Médard, 1889-99.

Atget anonymous
Eugène Atget in an anonymously-taken photograph.
Eugène Atget Studio c. 1910

Eugène Atget, Photographer’s Studio, c. 1910.

Atget was born in 1857 near Bordeaux (Libourne) and after his parents died in 1862, the 5-year-old boy was brought up by his grandparents in Bordeaux. Atget received a solid education and, similar to Paul Gauguin, eventually went to sea in the merchant navy and later, in 1878, settled in Paris where he aspired to be a dramatic actor. For the next decade, Atget was a traveling thespian in the Paris theaters. Even after he left Paris and the theater profession in 1888 to become a fine arts painter in the provinces, Atget always considered himself to be an actor. By 1890, his brief painting career over, Atget was back in Paris where he decided to become a documentary photographer.

There is a portrait of Eugène Atget (1857-1927) by Berenice Abbott created in 1927 that can be found here: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/eug%C3%A8ne-atget?all/all/all/all/0. The portrait was taken in Berenice Abbott’s studio after Atget had recently taken up photography again. In August 1927, he died. It was at Man Ray’s suggestion that Berenice Abbott introduced herself to Atget in 1925 and began taking photographs of him. Of her subject she observed: “[Atget] will be remembered as an urbanist historian, a genuine romanticist, a lover of Paris, a Balzac of the camera, from whose work we can weave a large tapestry of French civilization.” (quoted in Paris Eugène Atget 1857-1927, Taschen, 2000, p. 22).

Atget, Children Playing Luxembourg Gardens, c 1898


Eugène Atget, Children Playing, Luxembourg Gardens, c.1898. Atget created many photographs with people in them, including this straightforward portrayal of Parisian life that also serves as a document of historical interest.

Atget The Old School of Medicine, 1898.


Eugène Atget, The Old School of Medicine, Rue de la Bûcherie, 1898. Near the cathedral Notre Dame de Paris and the Place Maubert, between La Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain, Rue de la Bûcherie is one of the oldest Left Bank streets. In the Middle Ages discarded meats were prepared here to feed the poor. The dome of this sixteenth-century building built for the University of Paris housed an auditorium in which classes were held. In Atget’s time it was a hotel that housed a street-level wine shop. After 1910 it became a school dormitory and a library after that. Today, the Old School of Medicine has been restored to original appearance.

Atget, St-Julien-le-Pauvre Facade


Eugène Atget, Façade, St-Julien-le-Pauvre, 1898. The chapel on this site since the sixth century was destroyed in the ninth century by the Normans. Remnants of a twelfth century church that was sacked by students in 1524 remain after the church was reconstructed in 1651. During the French Revolution the church was used to store and sell various stock, and rededicated as a church in 1826. When Atget photographed it, St Julien-le-Pauvre was a Melkite Catholic Church which it is today. The arch at the top of Atget’s photograph is a camera effect from the glass plate not being covered by the lens. The church guard is seated to one side of the main door. The buildings to the side of the passageway in the photograph are largely gone today.

Atget Place Saint Medard


Eugène Atget, Place Saint-Médard, 1889-99.

Atget, Hotel de Brinvilliers Rue Charles V


Eugène Atget, Hôtel de Brinvilliers, Rue Charles V, 1900.

Atget, Au Bon Puits, rue Michel-Le-Comte, 1901


Eugène Atget, Au Bon Puits, rue Michel-Le-Comte, 1901.

Atget, Lampshade seller, rue Lepic


Eugène Atget, Lampshade Seller, rue Lepic, 1901.

Ragpicker, avenue des Gobelins, 1901

Eugène Atget, Ragpicker, avenue des Gobelins, 1901.

Atget, Fountains at Juvisy, 1902.

Eugène Atget, Fountains at Juvisy, 1902.

Atget. Petit Bacchus, 61, rue-St-Louis-en-l'Ile, 1901-02


Eugène Atget, Petit Bacchus, rue-St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 1901-02.

Atget,Au Petit Bacchus rue St-Louis-en-Ile detail


Eugène Atget, detail, Petit Bacchus, rue-St-Louis-en-l’Ile, 1901-02.

Atget, Temple of Love, the Petit Trianon, 1902.


Eugène Atget, The Temple of Love, the Petit Trianon, 1902.

Atget, Paris Antique Store, Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honore 1902


Eugène Atget, Paris Antique Store, Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, 1902.

Atget, Paris Maison, Place du Caire, 1903


Eugène Atget, Façade du no 2 , Place du Caire, 1903.

Atget, Courtyard of Farewells, Fontainebleau, 1903

Eugène Atget, Courtyard of Farewells, Fontainebleau, 1903.

Atget, Ancienne Barrière du Trône, Paris, 1903-04.

Eugène Atget, Ancienne Barrière (tollgate) du Trône, Paris, 1903-04.

Atget, France Triumphant, Versailles, 1904

Eugène Atget, France Triumphant, Versailles, 1904.

Atget, Paris Palais Royal


Eugène Atget, Palais-Royal, Paris, 1904-05.

Atget, Tree Roots, Saint Cloud Park, 1906.


Eugène Atget, Tree Roots, Saint Cloud Park, 1906.

Atget, Rue Sainte Opportune, Paris, 1908 (or 1912)


Eugène Atget, Rue Sainte Opportune, Paris, 1908 (or 1912).

Eugène Atget, Water Lilies, before 1911.

Eugène Atget, Water Lilies, before 1911.

Old Courtyard, rue Quincampoix, 1908 or 1912.


Eugène Atget, Old Courtyard, rue Quincampoix, 1908 or 1912.

Atget, Entrée du passage de la Réunion, 1 et 3 Rue du Maure, 3° arrondissement en 1911.


Eugène Atget, Entrée du passage de la Réunion, 1 et 3 Rue du Maure, 3° arrondissement, 1911.

Atget, Tinsmith's Shop, rue de la Reynie, 1912


Eugène Atget, Tinsmith’s Shop, rue de la Reynie, 1912.

Dress shop, rue de la Corderie, 1920.


Eugène Atget, Dress shop, rue de la Corderie, 1920.

Atget, Hairdresser's shop, boulevard de Strasbourg, 1912


Eugène Atget, Hairdresser’s shop, boulevard de Strasbourg, 1912.

Atget, Ragpicker's Hut, 1912.


Eugène Atget, Ragpicker’s Hut, 1912.

Atget, old mill, Charenton 1915.

Eugène Atget, Old Mill, Charenton, 1915.

Atget, Reflecting Pool, Saint-Cloud, 1915-19.

Eugène Atget, Reflecting Pool, Saint-Cloud, 1915-19.

Atget, rue de l'hotel de Ville 1921

Eugène Atget, Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, 1921.

Atget, Cour de Rouen, 1915.

Eugène Atget, Cour de Rouen, 1915.

Atget, Hotel Richelieu, 18 quai de Bethune 4th 1900

Eugène Atget, Hôtel Richelieu, 18 quai de Béthune, (4th arr.), 1900.

Atget, Ancienne maison de la maitrise 1902

Eugène Atget, Ancienne maison de la maîtrise, 1902.