JULES JOSEPH LEFEBVRE
"Allegory of vices and virtues"
Oil on canvas, 97x148 cm, with the inscription "paint par J.Lefebvre" on the back.
Provenance: Private collection from Italy
The painting depicts a kneeling young man being coaxed by a group of young women depicting vices and virtues. On the right standing the Glory hands him a laurel branch, beside him he has a woman who is an allegory of Silence. A mature and wise woman caresses the child's head: she has a winged crown and is the allegory of Victory. Behind the Victory a beautiful young woman in a blue dress quilted with stars points towards the sky and the virtues that lead upward. Immediately after she follows Venus, half-naked crowned with roses with a dove (his lei attribute of hers)
in her hand: she looks at the boy smiling and holds a lyre, signifying the pleasures of love and of fragile and fleeting things. At the feet of Venus a bacchant crowned with ivy and dressed in red observes her lascivious young man, kneeling next to her an auleta with long flutes, blue robes and a head covered with flowers, invites to oblivion and enjoyments. In the background are a veiled woman and a half-naked bacchant with a thyrsus intent on a wild dance.
The painting is an important work of one of the most significant French painters of the late nineteenth century: Jules Joseph Lefebvre.
The artist specialized in allegories, genre scenes, portraits and nudes. Winner of the Prix de Rome in 1861, during his stay in Italy he also painted many works with subjects drawn from classical antiquity. Back in Paris he became a famous academic, known for his paintings depicting beautiful and statuary women, both nude and draped. His paintings are in the main French and European museums.
Jules Joseph Lefebvre (Tournan-en-Brie, March 14, 1836 - Paris, February 24, 1912) was a French academic painter.
A very fine portrait painter, he was William-Adolphe Bouguereau's rival for his female nudes.
Having entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1852, Lefebvre was a pupil of Léon Cogniet and won the Prix de Rome in 1861 with La morte di Priam. From 1855 to 1898 he exhibited 72 portraits in the Paris Salon. He taught at the Académie Julian, where he had numerous students. Lefebvre owed his fame mainly to his female nudes, a genre in which he rivaled William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
In 1868 the Reclining Woman caused a sensation, but his most famous work is La Verità, a nude statuary of a woman holding up a mirror, visible in the Musée d'Orsay. Popular portraits are those of Madame Reynaud and the Imperial Prince (1874). He won a first class medal at the Paris Expo of 1878 and a medal of honor from the Salon in 1886. In 1891 he was elected a member of the "Académie des Beaux-Arts" and was appointed commander of the Legion of honor. Jules Joseph Lefebvre died in Paris at the age of 75.
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