Charles Caïus RENOUX
(Paris 1795 - Paris 1846)
Oil on canvas
H. 125 cm ; L. 149 cm
Signed lower right and dated 1841
Provenance: Private collection, Bordeaux
Exhibition: Salon of 1841
A talented landscape painter, Caius Renoux belonged to the cenacle of "antique dealers" who, in the 1820s, rediscovered the medieval heritage of France. Many of the paintings he exhibited regularly at the Salon from 1822 onwards depict church or cloister interiors, often dramatically lit and animated by mines or pilgrims. He collaborated with Baron Taylor for his work on Brittany, and the seven paintings he showed at the 1824 Salon had all been acquired by M. du Sommerard, founder of the Musée de Cluny. Finally, he frequented two other specialists in the genre, Daguerre and Bouton, who also painted ruined churches, and with whom he participated in the famous Daguerre diorama project. During the reign of Louis-Philippe, Renoux received several commissions for historical subjects for the Versailles museum.
Leaving the pure register of architecture, Caüs Renoux sometimes delivered scenes in period costumes in a medieval setting, which put him in the last phase of the "troubadour" trend. It is more by his pictorial treatment than by his choice of medieval subjects that he is linked to the movement illustrated under the First Empire by a Pierre Revoil or a Fleury Richard. In 1842, he exhibited Albert Dürer in his studio at the Salon, and in 1843 Henri d'Albret was made Canon of the Chapter of Auch.
Of large dimensions, our painting obviously represents the interior of a 16th century astrologer, who comes to consult a noble lady followed by a maid of company. The celestial globe, as well as a whole bric-a-brac of human or mammoth skulls, grimoires, a monster in a jar, philtres and elixirs in bottles or an apothecary's mortar and pestle, leave little doubt as to the profession of the master of the house - no more than his appearance as a magician or the hand that the lady holds out to him to have her future read.
This genre scene of a subject often treated by the Dutch of the 17th century is the pretext for imagining a contemporary interior of the French Renaissance. Under a barrel vault richly ornamented with grotesques and children in foliage, the artist has arranged all the furniture of the last decades of the sixteenth century, restored with a certain accuracy. One can recognize a two-body piece of furniture sculpted with caryatids, mascarons and motifs in the manner of Hugues Sambin, a dresser, a ceremonial table with a "fan" base, and a rock crystal cup. The chairs with backs could be contemporary with Henri IV. Flemish greenery with exotic birds covers the top of the walls, while a high fireplace offers in the foreground its white stone mantle adorned with a bas-relief with Adam and Eve. In the background, a curtain half hides a staircase bathed in golden light, probably leading to a naturally lit floor. The theme of the staircase starting from a cellar to go towards the day was a leitmotiv of certain troubadour painters such as Fleury-Richard.
This sumptuously decorated gallery, set up in a basement apparently without openings, is a fiction cobbled together from true elements, as is this astrologer-alchemist worthy of a novel by Alexandre Dumas. Preceding the opening of the Musée de Cluny by a few years, our painting is a superb example of the imagination that artists of the early nineteenth century developed around the rediscovered period of the French Renaissance. And as Dumas himself said, "you can violate history as long as you make beautiful children for it"!