France, second half of the 18th century
Attributed to Thomas Compigné
After Joseph Vernet (1714-1789)
Tortoiseshell, pewter, and gold
Inscription “First view of Marseille. Executed on tour by Compigné, Tourneur du Roi à Paris after the original painting of Mr. Vernet painter of her Majesty”
- Thomas Compigné, Pair of Compigné paintings with an animated view of Marseille, first painting of the pair, second half of the 18th century, after a painting of Joseph Vernet, Paris, Galerie Léage
This Compigné painting is inserted on a cover of a round case in tortoiseshell. The painting is placed under a glass, surrounded by a gilt border. This work depicts a maritime scene at the background of which figures the Saint-Jean fort, monumental front door of Marseille’s harbor. At the foot of the fort, extends the sea on which navigate a sailboat and a bark with a fisherman on board. At the foreground, figures the shoreline on which is standing a woman holding her child in her arms as well as a fishing rod. At her right, a man is jumping on a small bark where a fisherman is already on board. This painting is a representation of the everyday life at Marseille, which economy rests on maritime commerce and fishing.
Paintings in Compigné
Of great preciousity and variety of materials, the paintings in Compigné were made according to a mysterious process starting from a sheet of cardboard or tortoiseshell to which a pewter or gold leaf was applied. The surface could then be decorated with gold, silver, gouache and coloured varnishes. These “miniatures”, known today under the name of Compigné, had a great success in the 1760s. The small format, characteristic of this production, required to work in extreme precision, probably with the help of a magnifying glass, to develop the perfection of these technical details and colours.
Arrived from Italy, probably around 1750, Thomas Compigni took the name Compigné when he settled under the sign of Roi David, rue Greneta, in Paris. As an ivory turner, he specialised in the manufacture and sale of boxes, knitting sets, draughts and chess sets, snuffboxes and other cane handles of blond tortoiseshell inlaid with gold. Renowned for the quality of his objects, he passed on to posterity through the production of precious paintings which technique remains mysterious today. In 1773, he presented two views of the Château de Saint-Hubert to the King and obtained the title of "tabletier privilégié du Roi" under Louis XV and Louis XVI. His themes of predilection are most often views of towns, monuments and castles from the perspective of parks or landscapes animated by small characters.
Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), marine painter
Trained in the southwest of France, Claude Joseph Vernet became from an early age a promising young artist in the local milieu. The Marquis de Caumont intervened on his behalf regarding a trip to Rome, which he undertook in 1734: instead of studying the great masters of the Renaissance and Antiquity, he favored the study of landscape and marine painters such as Claude Gellée, known as the Lorrain. His painting found its resonance in these genres, which eventually made him very popular in the eyes of French, then Italian and English patrons. This success first started when he entered his Roman period. His name was soon renown throughout Europe, largely thanks to multiple travels, and specifically those undertook by aristocrats accomplishing their Grand Tour. In 1745, Joseph Vernet was accepted by the Académie Royale de peinture et de sculpture. In 1753, he returned to France: he first stayed in Marseille, where he painted several views of the harbor from different angles, and then settled in Paris. At this time, he received one of the most important commissions of his career thanks to the intervention of the Marquis de Marigny, Directeur Général des Bâtiments du Roi, to Louis XV: 27 paintings representing “the most beautiful harbors of the kingdom”. He produced only 15 paintings, now in the Musée National de la Marine and the Louvre, but the series Vue des ports de France ensured his posterity.
Plaisir de France, « Les Compignés et leurs créateurs, ces délicats chefs-d’œuvre de la tabletterie au XVIIIe siècle », n° 427, March 1975.
Compigné, peintre et tabletier du Roy, catalogue d’exposition, Grasse, Villa-Musée Jean- Honoré Fragonard, June-July 1991.
48 000 €