Like James Bertrand and Pierre-Charles Comte, Jean-Baptiste – "Joanny" – Chatigny is a forgotten representative of Lyon's "post-troubadour" school. His formative years at the art schools in Lyon (1848-1852) and Paris are scantily documented, and his biographers differ as to the chronological order of his trip to Italy and the twelve years in Paris during which he studied under Picot, Couture and Chenavard. His declared allegiance, though, was to Hippolyte Flandrin, a name more likely to attract religious commissions In Lyon when Chatigny moved there definitively in 1862. His career as a decorator in this field was an honourable one, including chapels in Chalon-sur-Saône (Saint Vincent's cathedral), Villefranche-sur-Saône (Notre-Dame-des-Marais), Paray-le-Monial (Visitation convent) and Lyon (Hôtel-Dieu). Until his death he also showed regularly at the salons in Paris and Lyon: history paintings, genre scenes and portraits.
In 1865 Chatigny took Ascanio, Benvenuto Cellini's young apprentice, as the subject of a picture presented at the exhibition of the Société des Amis des Arts de Lyon. Ascanio had been made a popular figure by the novel named after him by Alexandre Dumas (1847), which was inspired by Cellini's memoirs, first published in France in 1822. Cellini wrote of Ascanio at the time he himself was leaving for France: "Now he had been with me a good many months. When he left his former service he was thin and wan, and we called him, therefore, II Vecchino (the little old man); and indeed I thought he was such, partly because he served me so well, and partly because he was so knowing that it did not seem natural he should be as clever as that at thirteen years old, as he said he was … In a few months his health was restored … and he became the handsomest boy in Rome. And since he was an excellent servant, as I have said, and wonderfully quick at learning our art, I treated, clothed and loved him as if he were my own son."
Better disposed to the artist than critic and collector Philippe Burty, who found the overall tone of the picture "superficial, and the intention of the gesture unclear", the Lyon reviewer in L'Écho de Fourvière homed in neatly on the influence at work on a painter still powerfully affected by his experience of Paris: "Despite all his efforts to conceal the fact, his Ascanio, 16th-Century Florentine Engraver unquestionably harks back to Couture's Le Fauconnier, one of the best things by this master. Ascanio is a very sound piece of observation and displays an ensemble of virtues which, if developed in the opposite direction from the creator of La Décadence des Romains, could lead to originality." Chatigny's composition, though, is less indebted to Le Fauconnier (Toledo Museum of Art) than to Couture's Soap Bubbles (see supra ill. 1, p. 70), as evidenced by the pose, the black/white detailing of the clothes and the studious interior setting of this scene of contemplation. It was, no doubt, in order to conceal this imitation from his master that Chatigny did not show his picture at the Salon in Paris. Piquantly, in doing so the young painter was reproducing the tactic of Ascanio himself, who, when Cellini had gone back to Italy, betrayed his master by canvassing for commissions in his place at the court of François I. But while Chatigny had indeed imitated a work by his teacher, he distinguished himself by a more nuanced and sophisticated sense of colour that points up the enduring prestige of the old Venetian school in the 19th century.
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