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Marcellin DESBOUTIN (1823-1902), The Two Lovers, 1859
Ref : 105360
5 000 €
Period :
19th century
Provenance :
Medium :
Oil on canvas
Dimensions :
l. 31.89 inch X H. 39.76 inch
Tomaselli Collection

Old Painting

+33 (0)6 69 15 87 18
+33 (0)6 64 40 58 53
Marcellin DESBOUTIN (1823-1902), The Two Lovers, 1859

Marcellin Desboutin, who studied with Couture, worked a good deal in Italy. He was also a writer, albeit only a modestly talented one. He made his debut at the Salon de Paris in 1878 and devoted himself firstly to engraving. He was one of the promoters of dry-point engraving and earned himself a well-deserved reputation in this genre by producing portraits of his most famous contemporaries. He was awarded a third-class medal in 1879 and a silver medal in 1889. He also produced numerous portraits as a painter, which earned him an honourable mention in 1889. He was awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 1895.

In the shade of a hanging vine, a darkly handsome young man offers a ring and a letter to a beautiful young blonde woman. Upset, she seems to reject his advances. This intense romantic couple is a rare work from the Italian period of Marcellin Desboutin, who then lived at Villa Ombrellino, near Florence, a large country house he had bought in 1857. His biographer, Clément-Janin, did not start cataloguing paintings until 1860, and to our knowledge, the only other Desboutin canvas dating from the late 1850s is the beautiful Mother and Child, painted around 1858, in the collection of the Palazzo Pitti-Galleria d'arte moderna in Florence.

The form and subject of our painting testify to Desboutin's interest in Italian Renaissance art, and it was precisely at this time, before his financial difficulties, that Desboutin owned an important collection of Old Master paintings at Villa Ombrellino. However, even though he lived in Florence, as a colorist, it was to the Venetians, and especially to Titian and Veronese, that Desboutin turned. Later, Desboutin, a friend of Manet and Degas, took part in the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, and Deux amants au temps de la Renaissance represents an interesting bridge between French Romanticism and Impressionism. See, for example, the veins in the young woman's hand painted sky-blue, an extraordinary detail.

The painting's subject is interesting but difficult to pin down. Clearly unhappy, the young woman turns her head away from the young man, and her gestures suggest that she doesn't want to receive the ring and letter. At the same time as the young man seems stoic, he's also sympathetic. There's tenderness between them, they're close to each other and he has his hand around her waist. There's no doubt that the young couple are in love, but did the letter and ring come from the young man himself, or perhaps from someone else he's standing in for? Unfortunately, it has not been possible to identify the subject of the painting with any certainty, even though it is clearly a literary subject - and it should not be forgotten that Desboutin was also a playwright and poet. One might suggest that they represent Dante's Paolo and Francesca, where Paolo presents Francesca with a marriage proposal and engagement ring in the name of his evil brother Giovanni. But whatever the exact literary reference, Desboutin has created a complex situation with complex emotions through the gestures and beautiful faces of the two protagonists.

Over the course of his career, Desboutin would sometimes use a monogram, as here, of an M joined to a D, and below a dividing line, the date.

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Tomaselli Collection


19th Century Oil Painting Napoléon III