Le Faune et sa Femelle (The Faun and his Female) by Nicolas Chaperon (Chateaudun 1612-1655 Lyon), oil on canvas, size 59 x 44.5 cm. As one of the pupils of Simon Vouet, Chaperon was not only a painter but was also an engraver who made prints from works by Vouet, Poussin and Dorigny, all with themes from Greek and Roman mythology. The subject matter was mainly taken from Roman writers such as Ovid and Catullus, who wrote about the childhood and life of the wine god Bacchus, called Dionysus by the Greeks. Bacchus was the son of Zeus by the priestess Semele and he was celebrated in ancient mythology for his orgies surrounded by satyrs, female revelers and fauns (a famous depiction of Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian hangs in the National Gallery in London). The secular taste for such light hearted scenes, allowing the artist to freely use his imagination became early on fashionable in Italy and France. Chaperon produced paintings of Bacchanalia and a series of engravings from his own works in Paris before leaving for Rome in 1636. In this work the influence of Poussin is clearly visible in the cherub to the left and the influence of Vouet in the female figure, but both the seated faun with his huge shoulders and the satyr looking down from the tree are typical of Chaperon as is the small cherub leaning against the Faun and looking up at him. There is an engraving (in the same direction) after this painting by Chaperon in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, size 227 x 163 mm, signed in the plate Chaperon f., Mariette excudit, engraved by Chaperon and published by Pierre-Jean Mariette, a Parisian dealer in prints and illustrated in the exhibition catalogue Nicolas Chaperon, 1612-1654/55, Du graveur au peintre retrouvé, Nîmes musées des Beaux-Arts, 1999, authors: Sylvain Laveissière, Dominique Jacquot and Guillaume Kazerouni, pages 102-104, illus page 102, Catalogue number 21. The image has also been painted on one of a pair of French seventeenth century ceramic water containers now in the Louvre (http://www.louvre.fr/oeuvre-notices/paire-d-aiguieres). This painting has great charm, and relates to the similarly appealing Drunken Silenus by Chaperon in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The juxtaposition of the Faun and his Female in the foreground, reclining in opposite positions is an image going back to antiquity. Dr. Dominique Jacquot one of the editors of the Nimes exhibition catalogue and author of the chapter on Chaperon’s early years in Paris and his Bacchanalia has fully approved of the attribution. What makes this canvas and the preparatory drawing for it so interesting is that it is a distinct parody on the many Holy Families being produced at that time, which makes one wonder in how far the anti-clerical movement in France was expressed by the fashion for such mythological subject matter like these works.
Le Faune et sa Femelle (The Faun and his Female), a preparatory drawing for the above painting by Nicolas Chaperon (Chateaudun 1612-1655 Lyon), pen and brown ink with brown wash, size 28.5 x 21.5 cm. Provenance Jules-Alexandre Duval Le Camus (1814-1878), Paris, whose collection stamp it bears lower left (Lugt, Marques de Collections de Dessins et d’Estampes,, no. 1441). This high quality drawing follows Chaperon’s superb graphic style as well as his preferred medium of pen and brown ink and brown wash (cf. Sylvain Laveissière, Dominique Jacquot and Guillaume Kazerouni, Nicolas Chaperon 1612-1654/55 , catalogue for the exhibition at the musées de Nîmes, 1999, Cat. 35, p. 140 illus. passim). Dr. Jacquot mentions in his description of the engraving in the same direction made by Chaperon himself (cf. idem, Cat. 21, pp. 102/4, illus. collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris), that despite the heavy influence of Poussin and Vouet, one finds here the typical features of Chaperon’s modeling of figures. The faun seen from the rear with large shoulders, the child with his round face who looks up at him and in particular the satyr with horns on a bald and knobby head seen from above, which he describes as a sort of signature of the artist. As comparison Jacquot mentions paintings sold at Christie’s London in 1997 and a design correctly attributed to Chaperon by Kazerouni, illustrated in the drawing catalogue by Richard Harprath, Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée et alia, Simon Vouet: 100 neuentdeckte Zeichnungen for an exhibition at the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munchen, 1991. The fact that the composition has been copied many times and that the engraving exists in many impressions shows that it was a much admired image during Chaperon’s life time.There are copies after our drawing in the Louvre (copie après Chaperon 41 x 30.6 cm., inv. 25205, Fonds des dessins, Grand format) and one in the Albertina in Vienna (Satyrfamilie 24.8 x 19.5 cm. inv. no.11591).
Neptune calmant la tempête (Neptune calming the storm), an exceptional and large work by Pierre Brebiette (Mantes-la-Jolie 1598?-1642 Paris), oil on canvas, size 111.7 x 148.6 cm., attributed with the full support from Dr. Paola Bassani Pacht author and Dr. Sylvain Kerspern, co-author of the exhibition catalogue Pierre Brebiette, Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Orleans, 2002. As Jacques Thuillier wrote in his preface to the catalogue ” On peut voir en Brebiette un petit maître charmant qui poursuit en plein XVIIe siècle le vieux rêve païen de Fontainebleau et retrouve pour chanter Bacchus, les dryades et les satyres, les accents point si lointains ni oubliés de la Pléïade. Mais un autre image s’impose : celle d’un artiste indépendant, dont les expériences romaines eurent un role déterminant pour le développement du courant néo-venétien des années vingt “ (One could see in Brebiette a charming small master who pursues in the full seventeenth century the old pagan dream of Fontainebleau and recovers for our enchantment Bacchus, the dryads and satyrs, returning to the quite far removed but not forgotten sounds of the ‘Pléïade’- i.e. the Pléïade is the name given to a group of 16th-century French Renaissance poets, inspired by Alexandrian poets and tragedians of the 3rd century B.C. -. But another image imposes itself: that of an independent artist, to whom the Roman experiences were a determining role for the development of the neo-Venetian trend in the years twenty – i.e. 1620’s -). Brebiette’s works have great charm, but there are traces of melancholy like in our painting as if celebrating a vanishing mythological world. His depictions of Proserpina abducted to the Underworld (there is an example in the Louvre and a small variation on copper in private hands) denote a regret as if with her all of antiquity disappears into the dark. This large Neptune calmant la tempête with the prominent figure of Neptune en colère (wrathful), seems almost a warning not to forget or neglect the ancient gods while we navigate our uncertain fate. The ship with its torn sails struggles to reach safe haven, while a Triton heralds Neptune’s triumph. It is in fact a depiction inspired by the Aeneid of Virgil where Aeneas’ ship threatened by a storm invoked by Aeolus the god of the wind to exert a revenge by the goddess Juno on Aeneas is calmed by Neptune himself so that Aeneas will safely reach the coast of Africa, here seen in the distance. Brebiette is an idiosyncratic painter as can be seen in his self portrait engraved after the death of his wife Loyse de Neufgermain in 1637, which bears the inscription animum pictura pascit inani (Painting nourishes the heart of him who is overwhelmed), but also with a poetic and romantic nature almost modern in sensibility. His love for a vanishing ancient world was encouraged in Rome by the Cavaliere Dal Pozzo, the sophisticated patron of Poussin whose deep interests in Roman archeology were well known. Having become peintre du roi (court painter to Louis XIII) Brebiette enjoyed success in Paris with his tales from ancient mythology. Both Dr. Bassani Pacht and Dr. Kerspern place our Neptune calmant la tempête to about 1640 towards the end of Brebiette’s working life, a date supported by the structure of the struggling ship and by an engraving by Brebiette dated 1640 of Le Temps sur son Char…etc. (in the Orleans catalogue number 103, page 102, illustrated) which shows the figure of Time (see detail below) whose physiognomy resembles that of Neptune in our painting seated on a chariot and with fluttering robes comparable to the torn sails on Aeneas’ ship. Dr. Bassani Pacht states that she plans to publish our painting in an article on Brebiette’s landscapes in a forthcoming collection of essays in honor of the eminent art historian Jacques Thuillier, edited by Alain Merot, Philippe Sénéchal et Denis Lavalle. The painting is at present with the Galerie Alexis Bordes, 4 rue de la Paix, 75002 Paris with a special illustrated catalogue written by Dr. Paola Bassani Pacht (http://www.alexis-bordes.com/images/news/BREBIETTE2014/ABordesCatalogue_Brebiette2014.pdf).
A glowing Allegory of Requited and Abdundant Love, by Charles Poerson (Vic-sur-Seille 1609 – 1667 Paris), circa the mid-1630’s (?), oil on canvas, size 93 x 75 cm. Venus, whose lower torso is loosely wrapped in a mantle, sits in an informal pose between two putti representing Anteros as Requited Love and Eros as Abundant Love or in another sense, spiritual and sublime emotion against base and material wants. Cupid as Anteros stands confidently to one side, leaning on his bow and against the goddess’ knee, a stalwart defender of love’s sanctity and spiritual power. The other cupid jumping animatedly in front of a broken column is Eros, by contrast, an emblem of unchecked appetites as he attempts to seize the bunch of grapes that Venus prudently withholds. One can infer from this tantalizing juxtaposition — along with the gathering storm clouds in the background — that a momentous decision has been made. The goddess, whose arm rests on Anteros’s shoulder, has chosen love that is high-minded and everlasting over the quest for more fleeting, sensual pleasures. It was not uncommon for artists of seventeenth century France to flatter their aristocratic female patrons by portraying them as classical goddesses like Venus or Diana and in poses reminiscent of Greek and Roman sculpture. This may be the case here, although the sitter is unknown. Nudity was no impediment to such portrayals provided that the goddess was clearly shown as the embodiment of beauty, chastity, wisdom, good breeding, and/or as a devout patron of the fine arts. (It was only from the mid-eighteenth century on that the middle class virtues of literacy, religious devotion, or motherhood became popular modes of representation). The composition takes its inspiration clearly from the 16th century engraving by Giovan Battista de’ Cavalieri (1525-1601) after a seated antique marble Venus flanked by Anteros and Eros, kept in the Chiaramonti collection in the Vatican museums. The figure of Cupid as Anteros is directly taken from a fresco by Raphael circa 1516 in the Vatican (Stufetta del Cardinale Bibbiena) which was engraved by Agostino Veneziano (ca. 1490-ca. 1540) now kept in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (Inv. 59.570.230 and Bartsch XIV 218.286) (see below). Charles Poerson bathes the figure of Venus in strong white light emanating somewhat from the left, and frames her face and flowing locks with the contrasting tones of black and royal blue in the sky. The flesh tones are sumptuously rendered in fine gradations of color. A pink ribbon in Cupid’s hair marks him as the favorite of the goddess. The landscape background efficiently conveys a poetic atmosphere, and the broken column alludes to the vanity of once mighty civilizations now lost. This Allegory of Love and Abundance would appear to be an appropriate summation of Poerson’s Atticiste style inspired by the Bolognese school of painters, incorporating an inventive disegno and subtle coloration with an admirable gift for conveying refined sentiment. The face of Venus is directly reflected in the face of Helena in Poerson’s small tondo of L’Enlèvement d’Hélène in the Louvre (Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée, Nicole de Reyniès and Nicolas Sainte Fare Garnot, Charles Poerson (1609-1667), Arthena 1997, color plate 2, cat. no. 3, page 78). It is only in the last thirty years that historians have come to recognize Charles Poerson as a major exponent of the new classical style in France during the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Art historians like Clementine Gustin-Gomez have attempted to restore him to prominence by distinguishing his work from that of his contemporaries.
Dr. Gustin-Gomez wrote about the Allegory of Love and Abundance that the attribution is a very good idea without having seen the painting in person. Dr. Dominique Jacquot at the Strasbourg Museum of Fine Arts concurs. The attribution is fully accepted by Patrice Marandel, European painting curator at the Los Angeles County Museum. This painting was suggested already as a work from Charles Poerson’s hand by Jean-Claude Boyer, formerly from the Académie de France in Rome and by Sylvain Laveissière, the Louvre’s emeritus chief curator of paintings, based on the resemblance of the figures in this work to paintings and drawings known to be by the artist. The French collector Paul Micio who owns a major Poerson also recognized this work as autograph. Charles Poerson appears to have entered in 1634 the studio of Simon Vouet (1590-1649). It is reported that he worked with Philippe de Champaigne and Simon Vouet on Cardinal de Richelieu’s palace circa 1632. It is possible that he went to Italy sometime during 1630s, which would support the connection of this composition with the antique marble sculpture and Raphael’s fresco in the Vatican (see above) although there is no direct evidence that documents this. In any event, he developed an Italianate style under Vouet’s tutelage, characterized by a restrained palette, strong lighting effects, the use of monumental figures modeled after antique prototypes, and a tendency to set the action against rather static but evocative architectural settings. His pictorial language became also closely aligned with Vouet’s. After the death of Vouet in 1649, Poerson’s style became more classical, that is, less theatrical and more intellectually complex both in composition and in his deployment of color. He settled as a painter in Paris from 1638 onwards and in 1651 he was elected member of the Académie royale. Charles Poerson designed a large number of cartoons for the royal tapestry works, les Gobelins. Among his more famous works are the large and fine allegorical portrait of the young Louis XIV as Jupiter and victor over the Fronde rebellion hanging in Versailles and his beautiful and classical Camma et Synorix in the musée des Beaux-Arts in Metz, both of which relate directly to this superb Allegory, in particular in the faces and bodies of the grand figure of Louis XIV and the suffering Camma. The painting comes from a notable private collection in Rome and was exhibited at the New Orleans Museum of Art as by a close pupil of Vouet in 2008-2010. The painting was also on loan to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as attributed to Poerson in 2012/2013 (http://www.lacma.org ). The relationship of this image to the sculptural works in marble by Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720) and François Girardon (1628-1715) at Versailles and in the Louvre is remarkable in particular to their seated allegorical goddesses surrounded by putti.
An intriguing oil sketch for an ‘enigma’, ordered by the Jesuits and attributed to Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), Supplice ordonnée de Mézence (Torture commanded by Mezentius) painted circa 1646/7, oil on canvas, size 54 x 43.5 cm., sold in Paris as Entourage de Charles le Brun, Le martyre de saint Gervais et saint Protais. (Mezentius is a figure from Etruscan myth described by Virgil as an extremely cruel king who condemned his victims to death by tying them to a corpse). Everything in our painting shows his quality, in the articulation of the figures and their three-dimensionality, the logic of their interactions and the balance of volumes and color. This painting is in fact described as lost and illustrated in Bénédicte Gady, L’ascension de Charles Le Brun, 2011, pages 221, 224 and 225, with three ‘preparatory’ drawings which are illustrated in Lydia Beauvais, Charles Le Brun, Inventaire général des dessins école française au Louvre , 2000, Vol. 2, no. 2838, page 814 (see below), no.2828, page 812 and no. 2826, page 812, all mentioned as dating from the first years of the 1650’s. The final painting for which our sketch is a model was described in detail by Claude Nivelon, the pupil and admirer of Le Brun in his Vie de Charles Le Brun et déscription détaillée de ses ouvrages (The life of Charles Le Brun and a detailed description of his works) from 1689, edited by Lorenzo Pericolo in 2004, pages 127-131. The enigmatic and symbolic depiction of the mythological cruel Etruscan king, seated on a high dais to the right and directing the execution for the atrocious fate of the condemned man, who begs for the intervention of the Roman flamen priest standing with his back to the viewer is accentuated by the presence to the right foreground of two small royal children, the very young Louis XIV, king since the death of his father Louis XIII in 1640 and his brother Philippe d’Orleans holding a document which is probably meant to be a lettre de cachet (see below) and both sitting in the final version on a sack of gold coins surrounded by the symbols of royal power, weapons, jewels and what was called Spanish wax, used for sealing official documents. The soldier, priest and executioner represent the social classes in seventeenth century France. The presence of the two very young royals at respectively age nine and seven, expressed the hope for a better judicial system in the coming new regime. It is indeed very rare to find a social comment like this one from the hand of the young and already celebrated artist Charles Le Brun, who later in his career concentrated in depicting the symbols and majesty of the establishment (with maybe some hidden exceptions like the curious small bronze of a Lion devouring his Prey at the upper right of the impressive Jabach family portrait recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum). What intrigued Nivelon despite his not understanding the symbolic meaning of this painting was that Charles Le Brun had a taste for what were called ‘enigmas’, painted moral riddles to be solved by the pupils of the Jesuits in their school Collège de Clermont which still exists as Lycée Louis-le Grand in the rue Saint Jacques in Paris. It was thought that these enigmas would be instructional and in this case the solution was ”cachet” (seal) because the impression from a corpse would cause a reaction, the death of the man tied to it. There was more to this riddle because the Jesuits were in the person of the then chancellor Séguier closely involved with the Lettres de cachet signed by the king, which condemned people to imprisonment in the Bastille fortress. Jennifer Montague has described in her article “Painted enigma and French seventeenth century art” (Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 31, 1968, pages 307-335), the function and appearance of these ‘enigmas’ and the final version of the painting on pages 318 and 319. The differences between this oil sketch and the more refined ‘preparatory’ drawings as Gady mentions them, makes it impossible that it would be a copy after Le Brun. Then this oil sketch would reflect those drawings which it does not. The logical and the most probable explanation is that our oil sketch is a première pensée, a quick lying down of Le Brun’s thoughts for this composition, as Sylvain Kerspern has convincingly argued in Une “enigme” sort de l’ombre (an “enigma” emerges from the shadows) on his website http://www.dhistoire-et-dart.com/approche/LeBrun-Mezence.html. That this oil sketch misses the three-dimensional richness that one finds in most of Le Brun’s finished works and oil sketches points all the more to the fact that our work is simply a superb aide-memoire for the painter in how he wanted to present his composition. The more worked-out drawings were then produced afterwards for the final version, a tactic often used by Le Brun as well as other artists. The date for Le Brun’s enigma of Supplice de Mézence is said by Nivelon to be just after his return to Paris circa 1646/7, like the fine also by the Metropolitan Museum in New York newly acquired “Polyxena” (symbolic for Innocense to be Sacrificed for political expediency), which shares with our painting the curious composition from right to left as a converging arrow pointing in our case to the corpse, in the Polyxena to the funerary urn of Achilles. In fact Christie’s in Paris who sold the “Polyxena” as lot 36 on 15 April, 2013, mentions in their catalogue description by Dr. Olivier Lefeuvre our sketch (still as a copy), quote: ”During these years, Le Brun also painted The Torture of Mezence, King of Etruria, for the College of the Jesuits in rue Saint-Jacques in Paris. This lost painting is now only known through an old copy and three preparatory drawings in the Louvre (B. Gady, L’Ascension de Charles Le Brun. Liens sociaux et production artistique, 2011, fig. 130, p. 224). The Sacrifice of Polyxena compares closely with that painting and shares the same vertical format and dimensions (the size of the Torture is not known but Nivelon tells us that the figures are ‘life-size’) and the same sense of rigorous construction and legibility inherited from Poussin”. It may well be that our oil sketch is the one mentioned in a sale of his collection of paintings, drawings and etchings by Pierre Louis Honoré Corvisart, lawyer at parliament to his colleague Jean-Baptiste Benissein recorded on January 6, 1785, which contained works by Desportes, Le Nain, Deshays etc. and in which our oil sketch is mentioned as ” une esquisse de le Brun ayant pour suject ‘Le Supplice de Mezence’ (a sketch by le Brun, having as subject ‘The cruelty of Mezence’)”. (Patrick Michel, “Le Commerce du tableau à Paris dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle “, Presses Universitaires 2007, page 198)
A remarkably charming and well executed image from the Saint Nicolas legends of a quality not quite visible in the illustration (many Old Master paintings photograph badly as the natural colors tend to be too subtle) by the rare French Lorraine painter François Nicolas called de Bar (Bar-le-Duc 1632-1695 Rome). The painting, oil on canvas, size 69 x 53 cm. shows the Saint with the indigent father of three maidens who lack the funds for a dowry, at which the Saint threw three golden apples through their window, thereby making them marriage-fähig. François Nicolas traveled to Rome as a young man (he was recorded already as being there in 1652 and he remained in the Eternal City all his life). The dating of our painting should be fairly early in de Bar’s career, probably circa 1660 as it follows his master Claude Deruet’s manner before de Bar was influenced in Rome by painters such as Pierre Mignard and Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy. He is noted for his two large altar pieces in the Chiesa San Nicola dei Lorenesi (the church of Saint Nicolas for the Lorraine residents in Rome because he was their patron saint), which reflects also his saintly namesake because in fact his last name was Nicolas, a known Lorraine family name and the de Bar refers only to his birthplace. This makes the present painting so poignant as obviously the artist felt a special relationship to the saint. Dr. Sylvain Kerspern has written about this painting because he placed already two articles on his website http://www.dhistoire-et-dart.com about the painter, who still remains fairly unknown despite publications on him by Jacques Thuillier and Paulette Choné. Dr. Kerspern remarks on the similarities with such as the Lorraine painter Claude Deruet, but in fact de Bar seems to have more in common with Georges Lallemand (Nancy 1575-1636 Paris) in the physiognomy and modeling of his figures. The fact remains that his work does not seem to fit in with the classicism of the time (later 1600’s), which makes this half-discovered painter so very intriguing.
Psyché abandonnée par l’Amour oil on copper, oval, size 41.5 x 35 cm. by Nicolas Bertin (Paris 1668-1735 Paris), a charming image, fully attributed, described and illustrated in Thierry LeFrançois ‘Nicolas Bertin’, Arthena 1981, catalogue raisonné, cat. # 57, pages 136/7, page 46, 223, illus. fig. 46. The tale of Psyche and Amor was taken from the Roman writer Apuleius (A.D. 125-170) and became a popular theme from the Renaissance onwards, because it illustrated the seduction of the human soul by sensuality. Psyche deeply in love with an unseen nightly visitor, tries to discover who her lover might be and with her human curiosity wakes Amor and causes the evanescent god to flee. She despairs but Zephyr, the gentle god of the winds carries her upwards into Amor’s divine domain. One is reminded here of the beautiful and elegant verses by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), published in 1669: Tout l’Univers obéit à l’Amour; Belle Psyché, soumettez-lui votre âme. Les autres dieux à ce dieu font la cour, Et leur pouvoir est moins doux que sa flamme. Des jeunes coeurs c’est le suprême bien. Aimez, aimez; tout le reste n’est rien (The whole universe obeys Love; Beautiful Psyche, submit to him your soul. The other gods pay court to this god, And their power is less soft than his flame. For young hearts it is the supreme good. Love, love; all the rest is nothing). The painting comes from the collection of a well-known curator at the reputed Kunsthalle in Bremen, Germany and was included in an exhibition there in 1971 of Bildkunst im Zeitalter Johann Sebastian Bach, number 115. LeFrançois mentions that it was painted in the period of 1710-15 and may well have been intended for inclusion in a decorative scheme. It reminds him of earlier compositions by Bertin in showing influences of Louis de Boullogne as well as of Jean Jouvenet, his masters especially in the figure of Amor with his refined facial traits and curly hair which strongly recall the adolescent angels of Jouvenet. LeFrançois discusses the painting extensively under catalogue number 57 by comparing it to other works and how the diagonal lines of the composition relate to similar ones in Chartres, Amsterdam, Autun and Baltimore. LeFrançois notes an interesting fact that this painting was acquired in Munich by the previous owner and thus he ventures to speculate that this work of small format could have been bought in France between 1709 and 1715 by one of the members of the extended court of Maximilien Emmanuel, the Elector of Bavaria, whose military defeats chased him temporarily from his estates and that the original owner of this painting brought it back home with him after 1715.
An art-historically interesting and elegant autograph replica of a May from 1705 depicting Saint Paul recevant les adieux des prêtres éphésiens (Saint Paul bid farewell by the Ephesians) by Louis Galloche (1670-1761), oil on canvas, size 92 x 73 cm. The Mays were large religious scenes, 3.60 meters high (about 141.5 inches) commissioned by members of the Paris gold and silver smiths’ guild, called La Confrérie Sainte-Anne des orfèvres parisiens to be hung inside the cathedral of Notre Dame starting in the year 1449 after the One Hundred Years war when the people of Paris were exhausted and needed moral and religious rehabilitation. The May paintings were exhibited before the Notre Dame and then hung inside, but the first examples which were of smaller format are now lost. Thus the earliest still extant date from about 1630 and their name originates indeed from the month of Mai or May, which is a time of renewal and rebirth dedicated to the veneration of the Virgin. The payment was a generous 400 livres (about 10,000 dollars). The painters were expected to make copies of their May entry for the two members of the guild who commissioned the large version for the cathedral. Ours is one of these and the procedure is fully described in the excellent small catalogue of Les Mays de Notre Dame de Paris edited by Annick Notter in 1999 for the Arras museum. The greatest French artists of the period were given this commission and it must have been a very prestigious task. Several of these large Mays have been preserved in the Arras museum where they were sent after the Revolution when the religious symbols were destroyed or dispersed, but the large May of 1705 by Galloche is kept at the Louvre (illustrated in Notter on page 100, as number 76 and described on page 94 and listed in 1763 – see below). Louis Galloche was the last link between the grand style of Le Brun and the more intimate one of the eighteenth century and he had a great reputation during his lifetime which waned over time. This elegant work forms thus an accurate ricordo of Galloche’s 1705 entry which was unlike several large Mays not returned to the Notre Dame.
Odysseus (Ulysses) punches the beggar Arnaeus (Irus or Iros) in front of the Suitors on Ithaca (Homer, book XVIII), a strong stoical and rare oil study on canvas, size 32 x 40 cm., by Marie-Louis-François Jacquesson de la Chevreuse (Toulouse 1839 – 1903 Paris), a pupil of Flandrin, Ingres and Gérôme. This oil sketch which conforms to the dimensions required for the competition of the pupils at the École nationale superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1860 represents the first price in this competition as obtained by Jacquesson (La Peinture à L’École des Beaux-Arts, Philippe Grunchec “Les Concours d’Esquisses Peintes, 1816-1863”, publ.1986, Vol. II, 1860, pages 73/75, VI: ‘concours de composition admettant à celui de la figure peinte, les concurrants sont au nombre de cinq; le sujet à traiter est: ‘Combat d’Irus et d’Ulysse’. Jacquesson de Chevreuse No. 1. Idem: pages 100/101, notes, no. 24, Marie-Louis-François Jacquesson de la Chevreuse, né à Toulouse le 5 mars 1839, inscrit sur registre des élèves d’École (no. 3100) le 8 avril 1858, présénte par Ingres (Paris, Arch. Nat. AJ235). Décedé à Paris 1903 (Bénézit, op. Cit., t. 6, p.15). Arnaeus is a character in Greek mythology. Irus (also Iros) was a nickname given to Arnaeus, the beggar due to his willingness to run messages for the Suitors of Penelope (see also Iris, the divine rainbow messenger). He was a beggar in Ithaca who sees Odysseus (disguised as a beggar) encroaching on his territory so he becomes aggressive and begins to insult him. They go back and forth threatening each other until Antinous notices the confrontation and exclaims that watching the two beggars square off would be entertaining. Antinous says that the winner of the fight will be given food and would be permitted to dine with the suitors. The rest of the suitors crowded around the two beggars and they prepared to fight. Odysseus removed his rags and tied them around his waist, revealing a surprisingly muscular body because Athena was standing close by making him appear bigger and stronger than he was. When Irus saw this he was intimidated but the suitors pushed him towards Odysseus. Odysseus entertained the idea of killing Irus but then decided he should just knock him out so the suitors would not suspect anything. Irus aimed a punch at Odysseus but before he could do anything, Odysseus hit him below the ear, crushing his jawbone. Irus crumpled and Odysseus dragged him outside the hall, leaned him up against the courtyard wall and told him to sit there and scare off the pigs and dogs. He also threatened that if Irus did not stop pushing around the other beggars, things would get worse. Irus’s appearance within the epic develops the Homeric themes of punishing the inhospitable and appearances versus reality.
A recent fortuitous discovery is a charming and impetuously painted oil sketch portrait on its original canvas (size 48 x 38 cms) of a Young Boy, by François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869). “Though it appears as almost too clever for Navez” (quote from a French scholar). Dr. Denis Coekelberghs, the co-author of the definitive exhibition catalogue on Navez from 1999/2000, compares it closely in technique to the oil sketch portrait of his ailing son, Auguste Navez dated 1846 (cf Coekelberghs page 146, color illustration 262). However there can be no doubt that this is a portrait of a very young Leon-Pierre Suys (1823-1887), circa 1829/30 and probably at six years old. Unlike the above more worked-out portraits of Mademoiselle Luisa and the one of Léon-Pierre Suys, looking shyly up through his eyelashes, the very free energetic brushwork in this work is remarkably rare with Navez and a continuation of such dexterity as seen in Jacques-Louis David’s portraits, Navez’s master. In fact Navez inherited the manner of scumbling from David as clearly seen in the latter’s portrait of Madame Trudaine from 1792 (see below). It is as if the brush is handled like a charcoal pencil quickly sketching the hair, ear, background and dress, while as is usual for Navez, the skin of the child’s face is carefully composed of thin layers of white, pink and gray glazing. It is quite amazing how the painter succeeds in catching the delicate features and childish innocence of the boy depicted in this portrait. Dr. Coekelberghs very sagely points out that one has to be a thorough student of Navez’s work to fully understand this remarkable oil sketch. As a realist painter of children Navez hardly has a competitor and all his sitters have a serious demeanor as if they are aware of the importance of being ‘eternalized’ in paint. This portrait was probably never intended to be created for a final product but to have served as a fully autograph premiere pensee and as aide-memoire for the artist himself and an immediate quick observation of the child who is caught in between his play, casually seated down for the painter while he is looking sideways for an escape. In fact this feature of a side-ways glance is fairly typical for the artist as also seen in the beautiful ‘Musicians’, presently in the Clarke Institute in Williamstown, Mass. The image by laying down an impression of the moment is characteristic for an artist who has reached secure maturity in the handling of his brush. The spontaneity is surprising and enchanting, while the brilliant but controlled brushwork precedes the later efforts of the Impressionist painters to reflect with the medium of paint and movement of their brush an instant impression of their physical environment.