• Villot and Guichardot collections
• Philippe Marquis de Chennevières, his mark lower right (L 2073)
• His third sale from April 4 to 7, 1900 - included in lot 186
• Sotheby's sale June 30, 1986, lot 134 (as anonymous, 17th century)
While other drawings kept in various European public collections can be attributed to the same draughtsman, this artist remains mysterious and anonymous. This masterly sheet was attributed by the Marquis de Chennevières, one of its first collector, to Jean-Baptiste Forest (1635 - 1712), a French painter who became an Academician in 1674, but this attribution does not seem relevant anymore based upon the few known drawings of this rare artist.
The dreamlike character of this landscape points to a Flemish artist active in Italy in the first half of the 17th century. The proximity to the graphic work of another Flemish painter who lived in Vicenza from 1582 onwards, Loedwiijk Toeput, known as the Pozzoserrato (circa 1550-1605), led Carolina Trupiano Kowalczyk to propose the attribution of all these drawings to a single draughtsman, the " Follower of Pozzoserato ", in the hope that one day the appearance of other similar artworks will enable us to identify this mysterious - and talented - artist.
1. Description of the artwork
The group formed by a man with a bundle on his back, guiding a donkey ridden by a woman in amazon, a child in her arms, evokes the theme of the Flight to Egypt. The man is greeted by another man dressed in a toga (a Roman soldier?) who was warming himself around a fire with three of his companions, but our traveler seems determined to pursue his journey.
Behind this group we discover a vast landscape, probably imaginary, depicting a small town built on a hill overlooking a lake. A few fishing boats have been moored alongside its coast. The houses are dominated by a bell tower and by the fortified tower of a large medieval fortress on the right, from which a plume of smoke rises into the cloudy sky, confirming the wintry character of this scene.
In the background, a landscape of rugged mountains, quickly sketched out, lends the scene a fantastic, slightly unreal quality. This strangeness is further enhanced by the presence on the left of a bridge - whose arches are reminiscent of those of the Ponte Molle in Rome -. A mysterious ruined fortress is located opposite the city on the bank on which the group of the Holy Family is advancing.
This drawing was executed in pen and brown ink wash over preparatory red chalk lines. The artist shows great vivacity in his pen strokes, often freeing himself from the preparatory drawing. While the influence of Claude Lorrain is obvious, the nervous, choppy character of the drawing evokes the work of a Nordic draftsman, inspired during his trip to Italy by the mountainous landscapes of the northern part of the peninsula.
2. A prestigious provenance: Philippe, Marquis de Chennevières
Charles-Philippe, Marquis de Chennevières-Pointel, is one of the most prominent figures among the 19th century connoisseurs, having collected both as a connoisseur and as an erudite historian. Born in Falaise (Calvados) in 1820, he was raised in Argentan, and studied law at the Faculty of Aix. He joined the museum administration at the Louvre in 1846, and became a protégé of Napoleon III's Superintendent of Fine Arts, the Count de Nieuwerkerke, who in 1852 entrusted him with the exhibition department and gave him the honorary title of Inspecteur des Musées de province. From that year until 1869, the Marquis de Chennevières organized the annual Salons and produced their catalogs. His activities brought him into close contact with almost everyone of importance in the world of art and literature. After serving as curator of the Luxembourg Museum from 1861 to 1868, he was promoted to the highest post in 1873, becoming Director of Fine Arts for four years.
He devoted his retirement to writing his Souvenirs, but also to describing his rich collection of 4,000 drawings in 22 consecutive articles published between 1894 and 1897 in L'Artiste. While the foreign drawings in his collection were sold in Amsterdam in 1882, the core of his collection, the drawings of the French school (or considered as such), were dispersed in two sales, from May 5 to 6, 1898, and from April 4 to 7, 1900.
Our drawing, described by Chennevières as "a very nourished and of a very warm pen", is number 824 or 825 in the catalog of his collection as compiled by Louis-Antoine Prat (with the collaboration of Laurence Lhinares).
3. Some interesting similarities with other drawings kept in major European cabinets
While the artist who produced this artwork remains anonymous, several landscapes held in major European museums can be related to him. They all have in common the fact that they remain anonymous or have been probably misattributed, but all of them were probably executed by the same hand as our drawing.
A landscape preserved in the British Museum (9th photo in the gallery), very similar in size to our drawing (285 x 395 mm), shows striking similarities, both in many of its motifs (such as the trunk of the dead tree in the foreground, the beached ships and the town in the background, and the overall treatment of the vegetation) and in its technique, which mixes preparatory red chalk drawing, pen and ink wash (with the addition here of some grey ink wash, not found in our drawing).
It was formerly attributed to Pierre-Antoine Patel, but this attribution was not accepted in Natalie Coural's monograph on the painter.
We find the same hand in another drawing in the British Museum, also formerly attributed to the Patel school. Slightly smaller in size (202 x 308 mm), it depicts a city in flames. The red chalk has been replaced here by black chalk for the preparatory drawing, but the treatment of the vegetation, of the clouds and the few figures in the foreground are also reminiscent of our drawing.
A third drawing, comparable in size to the City in Flame (10th photo in the gallery), shares the same execution characteristics. Kept at Stockholm's Nationalsmuseum, it is today attributed to Pier Francesco Mola. Although the black-and-white reproduction makes comparison more difficult, we find several similarities with our own drawing, particularly in the composition: beyond a group of figures in the front left corner, at the foot of a large tree that accentuates the distance from the background, a vast landscape featuring a town built on the shores of a lake unfolds at the foot of the mountains. Various details, such as the rendering of the clouds and tree leaves or the mountain peaks (which are faintly outlined in the distance), are very close to the landscape we present.
Carolina Trupiano Kowalczyk also suggests linking our drawing to a fourth drawing, an anonymous one, from the Musée du Louvre (inv. 12561).
4. The influence of Pozzoserrato
Loedewick Toeput, whose name which means "the closed well" in Flemish, has been translated in Italian into Pozzoserrato, was a Flemish painter who arrived in Venice around 1573-1574. He then traveled to Florence and Rome, before settling permanently in Vicenza in 1582. He is best known for the allegorical scenes depicted in vast landscapes, blending Flemish and Venetian influences. His taste for landscapes is also reflected in his graphic work, of which the drawing below (presented for sale at Sotheby's on July 5, 2006 - lot 209) is a good example.
The ruined structure to the left of our drawing, the fantastic atmosphere that blends lacustrine elements and medieval architecture, are strong evidences that lead us to discern in our drawing the predominant influence of Pozzoserrato beyond those of other artists such as Claude Lorrain or the landscape painters active in Rome in the early 17th century like Salvador Rosa or Pier Francesco Mola.
In this respect, it is worth mentioning another drawing from the late 16th century (last photo in the gallery), in which we find a number of elements very similar to our landscape: a town on the shores of a lake, boats in the harbor, a fortress topped by a smoking chimney, all set in a mountainous cirque....
As an interesting example of this connection with Pozzoserrato, it is interesting to underline that this landscape, which is now attributed to the Dutch school of the 16th century, was previously attributed to ... Pozzoserrato!
This drawing is sold unframed. As a framing proposal, a 17th-century gilded wood Bolognese frame is available (8th photo in the Gallery - price on application).
Main bibliographical references :
Louis-Antoine Prat, with the collaboration of Laurence Lhinares - La collection Chennevières Quatre siècles de dessins français - Editions du Musée du Louvre 2007
(A cura di) Stefania Mason Rinaldi & Domenico Luciani - Toeput a Treviso - Acelum Edizioni, Asolo, 1988
Delevery information :
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