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The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon
The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon  - Paintings & Drawings Style Directoire The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon  - The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon  - Directoire
Ref : 111826
4 800 €
Period :
18th century
Artist :
Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758 - 1832)
Provenance :
France
Medium :
Oil on cardboard
Dimensions :
Ø 4.72 inch
Paintings & Drawings  - The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon 18th century - The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon Directoire - The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon
Stéphane Renard Fine Art

Old master paintings and drawings


+33 (0) 61 46 31 534
The Departure of the Vendéens by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon

Diameter: 12 cm (4 ¾”)- Framed: 28.2 x 28.2 cm (11 1/8”x 11 1/8”)

Literature : E. de Goncourt, Catalogue raisonnée de l'œuvre peint, dessiné et gravé de P.P. Prud'hon, Paris 1876 (quoted on page 126 under the title "Departure for the Hunt" and on page 331 )
J. Guiffrey, L'œuvre de P.P. Prud'hon, Paris 1924 page 268 number 722 (under the title "Departure for the Hunt")

This charming news scene, painted on a round cardboard around 1794-1795, is an atypical production in Pierre-Paul Prud'hon's oeuvre. Presented in Jean Guiffrey's 1924 catalog of the artist's artworks as an early work by the artist, it was already included in Edmond de Goncourt's 1876 catalog raisonné of the artist, having been offered for sale that same year under the title "The Departure of the Vendéens". We therefore propose to retain this title, which we feel is more in line with the spirit of this commissioned work, probably produced during the French Revolution shortly after the start of the Vendée wars.

1. Pierre-Paul Prud'hon

Pierre-Paul Prud'hon was born in 1758 in the Burgundian town of Cluny, the son of a stonemason. Both parents died when he was very young. A Benedictine of the abbey of Cluny, Father Besson, befriended the boy and saw to his education. Supported by a recommendation from the bishop of Mâcon, Prud'hon was admitted to the provincial Academy of Dijon. In 1778 he returned to Cluny to marry Jeanne Paugnet, the daughter of a notary, who was pregnant by him. The match was a miserably unhappy one from the start. Eager to escape, he obtained funds from a local amateur, Baron de Joursanvault, that enabled him to continue his studies in Paris under the tutelage of Jean-Baptiste Pierre (1713-1780, First Painter to the king, who introduced him to a classicizing late rococo much influenced by Correggio. The Rome Prize of the Burgundian Academy, won in 1784, enabled Prud'hon to spend four years in Italy, where he developed a liking for the work of Leonardo. He returned to Paris in 1789 and there lived through the Revolution in poverty, earning a scant living with portraits and graphic work. Though a Jacobin and member of the revolutionary Commune des Arts, he sought no political office.

To the Salon of 1793, at the beginning of the Terror, Prud'hon submitted erotic subjects, graceful allegories on the pleasures or torments of love, romantic in feeling and curiously unrevealing of the grimness of their time. After Robespierre's fall (1794), he sheltered in the rustic security of a village in Franche-Comté, where he spent two years painting portraits and designing illustrations for the publisher Didot. After the establishment of the Directory (1795), he returned to Paris, coolly received by Jacques-Louis David and his followers. His design for a ceiling intended for the Louvre, Wisdom and Truth, Descending to Earth, Dispel the Darkness That Covers It (1799), hinting at peace and renewal after revolutionary strife, won him the commission and the privilege of lodgings at the Louvre. Though he was held in low esteem by David's faction, Prud'hon from this time on had to be reckoned with as a history painter.

In 1803 he separated from his mentally ill wife. Shortly thereafter a young painter, Constance Mayer (1775-1821), came into his life, at first as a pupil, then as his collaborator and intimate companion. Prud'hon by this time was receiving generous state commissions. After the establishment of the empire in 1804 he was in demand as portraitist for the imperial family (Portrait of the Empress Josephine, 1805, Louvre). He designed the decor of court celebrations, as David had once overseen the pageants of the Revolution, and was charged with the artistic detail of festivities and ceremonies, notably those accompanying Napoleon's second marriage, in 1810, to Marie Louise of Austria.

The fall of the empire, regretted by Prud'hon, did not impair his career, but his work now began to show signs of fatigue. In 1816, the year of David's exile, he was admitted to the Institute. His very existence was shattered in 1821 when Constance Mayer, who had been suffering from spells of depression, committed suicide in his apartment at the Sorbonne. Prud'hon survived this catastrophe by little more than a year, at work on a painting of Christ Expiring on the Cross (1821, Louvre), unfinished at his death, that he had intended as a monument to his grief. He left no pupils. Many of his paintings have suffered serious damage from his excessive use of bituminous paints. He is now most admired for his drawings, studies of the nude in black and white chalk on tinted paper, that rank, together with Ingres' very different drawings, among the high achievements of French classicism.

2. Description of the artwork

"At the edge of a wood, hunters take leave of seated women whom they kiss". Jean Guiffrey's rather dry description does not reflect the drama or the pre-romantic mood of this scene, and the "hunters" seem to us to be young aristocrats joining the Vendée army during the uprising of 1793. It was under this title that Alfred Stevens, the first known owner of this painting, is said to have purchased it.

Nine figures make up the scene, executed with a miniaturist's precision: on the far right, a mature man armed with his rifle, his dog at his feet, seems to be watching with some impatience the tender farewells exchanged by a young man in the center of the composition. Also holding his rifle, he receives a final kiss from a young woman in a white dress, whose red shawl illuminates the composition. On the left, a teenage boy also bids farewell to a seated woman (presumably his mother), who tries to embrace him in a final farewell as he tries to extricate himself.

The drama of the scene (which wouldn't be appropriate for a hunting trip) contrasts with the bucolic setting in which the life of this elegant family, stricken by this dramatic separation, unfolds. The reliefs of a meal served on an immaculate tablecloth, the elegance of the various characters' costumes testify to the social standing of the participants. In contrast to this nonchalant elegance, the dramatic character of the scene (treated here by Prud'hon with a certain irony) is reinforced by the leaning, almost melodramatic position of another young woman. She has just left the still outstretched arm of a fourth male character busy holding back his horse at the back of the scene. Under the shadows, two women complete the gathering; the black dress of one of them, who is watching this farewell with fear, is like a foreboding of the misfortune about to befall these reckless combatants.

This scene was probably commissioned (presumably as a box lid or "snuffbox cover" ) by Prud'hon around 1794-1795, perhaps after he left Paris for Franche-Comté. The position of the two main characters (the young man with the rifle in his hand, embraced by the young woman in the red shawl) is reminiscent of The first Kiss of Love (last photo in the gallery), an illustration for Rousseau's Nouvelle Héloïse from the same period.

3. Provenance and framing

An inscription on the back of the cardboard gives us the identity of the composition's first known owner: the painter Alfred Stevens (1823 - 1906).

This painting became thereafter part of the personal collection of Paul Touzet (1898 - 1981). Between the wars, he opened his first gallery on rue de l'Université. He then moved to rue des Beaux-Arts, where he mainly exhibited Dutch and Flemish paintings. In the 1960s, his main activity became that of expert at public auctions, and he remained one of the most renowned experts in Paris until his death in 1981.

Our painting is presented in a rich Empire-period carved and gilded wood frame, which is most likely its original frame.

Delevery information :

The prices indicated are the prices for purchases at the gallery.

Depending on the price of the object, its size and the location of the buyer we are able to offer the best transport solution which will be invoiced separately and carried out under the buyer's responsibility.

Stéphane Renard Fine Art

CATALOGUE

18th Century Oil Painting Directoire