(Honfleur, 1812 - Nemours, 1854)
The Knight of Bois-Guilbert going to the castle of Cédric le Saxon (father of Ivanhoé)
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right
67 x 100 cm
This Norman painter was the pupil of Paul Delaroche, which probably explains his taste for painting with a historical theme. He presented himself at the Grand Prix de Rome de Peinture in 1840, and came second behind Brisset, the subject to be illustrated being Caïus Gracchus; he persevered in 1841, and this time was the winner with The Robe of Joseph presented to Jacob. The painting, measuring 1.13 x 1.46 m, is kept at the National School of Fine Arts, while the Magnin Museum in Dijon houses a painted study. Lebouys (or Lebouy, both spellings exist) exhibited at the Salon two paintings devoted to Marie-Antoinette: Queen Marie-Antoinette at the Conciergerie (No. 1225), and Trait de bonté de la reine Marie-Antoinette (No. 1226) ; he also exhibited at the Salon of 1853 (3rd medal) The harbor of Havre de Grâce, taken from the place d'Honfleur, while he was domiciled at 3, rue Mazarine in Paris. But it is especially in religious painting that Lebouys distinguished himself: we find an oil on canvas at the town hall of Orleans, The Death of Saint Paul the Hermit, executed in Rome around 1842/43 under the direction of Jean-Victor Schnetz, an Assumption from 1841 preserved at the town hall of Monteroux in the Var, two paintings (commissioned in 1850) in the chapel of the Calvary of the Church of Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet (Our Lady of Sorrows), a painting in the sacristy of the 'Notre-Dame des Champs church in Montparnasse. In the mythological register, the Princeton Museum of Art keeps a Bacchus and Ariadne, whose composition somewhat resembles that of our painting. Lebouys had a daughter, Catherine, born in Rome around 1847, who had an interesting career as a violinist. “Ivanhoe”, the medieval historical novel by Walter Scott aroused, quickly after its publication in 1820, the interest of artists of the new romantic generation, who saw it as an alternative to traditional subjects. Léon Cogniet thus painted in 1828 Rebecca Abducted by Bois-Guilbert, now in the Wallace Collection in London, in a rather romantic vein; Edouard Pingret also produced a version representing Rebecca, in 1827, in a more “troubadour” style; As for Eugène Delacroix, he had produced a representation of Rebecca and Ivanhoe wounded in 1823, before painting The Abduction of Rebecca in 1846 (New York Met), or Rebecca Abducted by the Templars in 1856 (Louvre). Our painting represents one of the very first episodes of the novel. A group of ten Norman horsemen crosses the immense forest of central England between Doncaster and Sheffield; led by Aymer (the rather bawdy prior of Jorvaulx Abbey) and by Chevalier Brian de Bois-Guilbert (a soldier monk commanding the Templar order), they go by road to Cédric de Rotherwood's castle ( Cedric the Saxon), Ivanhoe's father. They are about to ask the two characters in the foreground, Saxons in the service of Cédric, for directions. On the left, Gurth is a swineherd, while his companion Wamba, dressed in red, is Cedric's jester. The weather is stormy, and the two men have started to round up the herd of pigs. Lebouys manifests in this canvas his belonging to the current of painters illustrating historical literary works. There he demonstrated a real talent as a colorist, with the very likely collaboration of Jules Coignet (1798-1860) for the landscape, well recognizable in the treatment of the tree and the sky. The two men may have met in Honfleur, where Coignet was for example in 1831. We know of another four-handed painting, signed Coignet with the date 1835, and Lebouys with the date 1837, sold at Christie's (09/26/1997) under the title European travelers ambushed in a forest.