8 1/8’’ x 11 5/8’’ (206 x 295 mm) - Framed: 11 5/8’’ x 14 ¾’’ (29.5 x 37.5 cm)
Provenance: inscription on the verso "bought in Florence in 1810". Stamp of Count Jan Pieter van Suchtelen (Lugt 2332) on the lower right and stamp of the Ullmann collection on the verso (Lugt 3533)
French Regency period carved and gilded wood frame in the Bérain style
This luminous drawing by Michel Corneille the Younger, inspired by an artwork by one of the Carracci, seduces us with its rigorous composition and the joie de vivre that shines through this bucolic bathing scene which evocates Cézanne.
1. Michel Corneille the Younger, a French painter under the influence of the Carracci family
Michel Corneille the Younger was born in Paris in 1642 into a family of artists: son of the painter Michel Corneille the Elder (1601 - 1684), one of the professors of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture when it was founded in 1648, he was also the elder brother of the painter Jean-Baptiste Corneille (1649 - 1695), who became also a member of this Academy.
Trained in his father's studio, then with the painters Charles Le Brun and Pierre Mignard, Michel Corneille the Younger was the winner of the prize founded by the Royal Academy and was thus able to travel to Italy from 1659 to 1663. He devoted a large part of his Italian stay to copying the works of the great Italian masters and studied at the Bolognese Academy of the Incamminati founded by the Carracci, modelling his style on that of their school.
On his return from Italy, he was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1673. A history painter, he painted important religious compositions, influenced by the Carracci, and carried out several commissions for the King at Meudon, Fontainebleau, the Grand Trianon and Versailles. He lived at the Manufacture des Gobelins in Paris where he died in 1708.
Hundreds of drawings illustrate the practice of copyist that he exercised on behalf of the great Parisian collector Everhard Jabach (1618 - 1695), copying in particular drawings by the Carraci family. Dezallier d'Argenville said of him: "No one has drawn better in the Carracci style than Michel Corneille". There are three hundred drawings by Michel Corneille after the Carracci in the graphic collections of the Louvre Museum, which were acquired through the Jabach purchase in 1671.
2. Description of the artwork
On a wooded mound, in the shade of tall trees, a group of three figures rest, a dog lying at their feet. The nudity of two of the figures is explained by the fact that they are bathing in a large lake below. Three other bathers are shown swimming in the water. The presence of a town in the background, in front of a mountain landscape, evokes the typical landscapes of northern Italy.
Copies of drawings by Michel Corneille have often been mistaken for originals by the Carracci, as the inscription on the back of our drawing attests, and it seems that Jabach sometimes sold Corneille's copies as originals. While the graphic work of Michel Corneille le Jeune has not yet been the subject of a comprehensive study, we have not found any other drawing by the artist depicting exactly the same scene, or a drawing by one of the Carracci that could have served as inspiration. The fluidity of the composition, the alternation of different planes separated by watery spaces, and the treatment in pen are, however, typical of the many landscapes executed by the Carracci.
Despite its somewhat schematic character, our drawing conveys an impression of great unity and joie de vivre. When seeing the muscular bodies of the bathers, one cannot help but think today to the brilliant interpretation of the same theme executed by Paul Cézanne many years later.
3. A cosmopolitan origin
Our drawing seems to have travelled a long way in three and a half centuries. A handwritten inscription in brown ink on the verso, probably dating from the late eighteenth century, identifies our drawing, paradoxically described as 'of great frankness', as a work by Annibale Carracci. Another inscription, probably later and drawn in grey ink wash, indicates, also in French, that this drawing was bought in Florence in 1810, which shows that our drawing was in Italy by that time.
This drawing later belonged to Count van Suchtelen (1751 - 1836) who put his mark on it. Dutch by birth (he was born in Grave), he studied at the University of Groningen and entered the army in 1768. He remained in the Netherlands until 1783, when he was called to Russia at the suggestion of Count Morkoff. There he made a rapid career: general-major in 1789 and general in 1799 under the emperor Paul. From 1814 he was Russian ambassador to the Swedish court and died in that country. He assembled an important collection of paintings, prints and drawings which were sold in Paris in 1862. Our drawing has remained on the French market ever since, as evidenced by the fact that it later belonged to the Ullmann collection.
We have chosen to frame this drawing in a Regency type frame in carved and gilded wood in the Bérain style.
Main bibliographical reference:
Louis-Antoine Prat – Le dessin français au XVIIème siècle – Somogy – Paris 2013
Delevery information :
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