In 1965 the Institute increased its holdings in the great production of art that the Europe of the 17th and 18th centuries poured forth in such extraordinary volume and quality. The early Prud’hon and the table by Piranesi are published elsewhere in this volume, and a number of other works in the so-called minor arts are illustrated or listed. It is my privilege to note here a group of paintings which have been acquired from this period where it is still, curiously enough, possible to find major works and works of the highest quality within budgetary sanity and even at modest prices.Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), born Pietro Berrettini in the ancient Tuscan city of Cortona, was both a painter and an architect: not only one of the most original but also one of the most important artists of 17th-century Europe. In his ceiling for the Palazzo Barberini in Rome he produced one of the purest and ripest statements of the Baroque style; in his decorations in Florence and the Pamphilj Palace in Rome, and in many smaller commissions, he painted works that, in a sense, do for the 17th century what Veronese did for the 16th century—the most fertile, natural, and joyous wall decoration that could be imagined. Highly personal and perfectly bold in the agreeable rhetoric of his personality, it is always a surprise to see his architectural works which, while they possess the opulence one would expect, also make evident an intelligence of the very first order.Cortona’s portraits are rare: the small self-portrait in 1665 in the Uffizi, an early anonymous head in the Capitoline Museum, the two fine Sacchetti portraits of 1626 in the same collection, and the somewhat dull full-length portrait of Pope Urban VIII in the Museo di Roma—this is almost the entire list of those now existing. The Institute can add, by Anonymous Gift, a portrait of a cardinal, long called a work of Carlo Maratti but identified as Cortona by Professors Voss and Briganti. The obvious power and quality of the painting1
were noted in the last century by the German scholar Waagen2
when the picture was still in the collection of the Earl of Harrington at Elvaston Castle, Derbyshire.The plump, tough, large-eyed, moustachioed and goateed prince of the church is shown in scarlet mozzetta with flowing, lightly starched collar and lace undervestments, his scarlet cap in the left hand, a letter in this right, which is shown before a table bearing a silver inkwell decorated with an eagle and a dragon. Professor Milton Lewine has identified the subject of the portrait, having noticed that the inkwell’s symbols refer to the Borghese family, as the Cardinal Pietro Maria Borghese (c. 1599-1624, created October, 1624). A likeness of the Cardinal engraved in 16283
shows the same features, the same grand whiskers, the same person at about the same age.Piermaria Borghese was Pope Paul V’s grandnephew from Siena. His greater relatives in Rome treated their cousin—di elegante aspetto, di colto ingegno, di vivacita di tratto, e di gentili maniere4
—very well indeed. He became not only an important cardinal but the heir to the ecclesiastical titles, wealth, and splendors of the great Cardinal Scipione Borghese, Bernini’s patron, whose large bronze arms (which Piermaira may also have inherited) hang in the Institute’s Fountain Court. It is probable that Cortona painted this portrait shortly after the death of Scipione (October, 1633) when his cousin came into his great prominence. This would mean that it was done contemporaneously with the Barberini ceiling, in the artist’s early maturity, almost a decade after the Sacchetti portraits.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 65.39. Anonymous Gift. Oil on canvas, 53” x 39”.
- G. F. Waagen, Treasures of Art in Great Britain, Vol. 4 (London, 1854), p. 495.
- See: Sanctissimi D. N. Urbani PP. VIII Ac. Illustrissimorum & Reuerendissimorum DD. S. R. E. Cardinalium nunc viuentum (Romae: Typis Vaticanus, 1628 [Andreas Brogiottus]), pl. LVIII.
- L. Cardello, Memorie Storiche de’ Cardinali . . ., vol. 6 (Rome, 1793), pp. 248-249. Cardello reproduces the standard biography.
- Pietro Da Cortona
Cardinal Pietro Maria Borghese, before 1642
Oil on canvas, 53” x 39”
Anonymous Gift, 65.39
Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) was the prime painter of the age of Louis XIV and shares the honors with Poussin as the greatest of French 17th-century painters. A classical and academic painter in the best sense, his authority and influence were, in his own time, unsurpassed. It has very recently been recognized again strongly. Also by Anonymous Gift the Institute has gained a devotional painting by Le Brun, The Holy Family in Egypt,1
which was finely engraved for the artist by N. de Poilly with its more proper title, Le Christ lisant.2
In a style close to that of the older Poussin, and also influenced by the Bolognese masters of Italy, the idealized and very carefully realized Family are shown in a Roman and park-like Egypt, having made their home (and perhaps carpenter shop) among the ruins, as the Child reads to His Mother from scrolls inscribed with correct Hebrew letters. Just as the landscape is derived from the ruins (and climate) of Rome, the figure of Christ reproduces a pose familiar in a number of classical statues of Eros and child satyrs, although it is reversed as if a print had been used. Thus the exquisitely painted picture would have been considered fully civilized, religion and classical learning being in it married. Another version of the painting, the same size but uninitialled and without the letters on the scrolls (which appear in the engraving), recently was on the New York market.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 65.40. Anonymous Gift. Oil on canvas, 20 1/4” x 16 3/4”. Initialled on the bottom step at lower right C.L.B.F.
- See Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 66 (July, 1965), 8, fig. 40.
- Charles Le Brun
The Holy Family
Oil on canvas, 20 1/4” x 16 3/4”
Anonymous Gift, 65.40
Through the 18th century Jan Both (c. 1618-1652), who died near the time our Le Brun was painted, was considered one of the greatest of landscape painters, almost equal of his slightly older contemporary, Claude, and almost as expensive. As Claude, he was strictly a landscape painter, and he dominated the second generation of Italianate Dutch landscapists, such as Berchem and Dujardin, who painted the lovely Italian light and scenes and, returning to Holland, continued to do so. Both was influenced by Claude but assimilated his influence: his lyricism is far more naturalistic, and his airy topographies, inhabited by great, fern-like trees, bathed in a far warmer golden hue than Claude ever used, are rehearsals of the stronger rhetoric such painters as Hobbema were to employ. His early paintings done in Rome are of great purity and immediacy; his more artificial and established paintings done on his return to Holland, with their fabulous luminosity, are delicate but massive memories of a warmly practical Italy preserved in the amber of a very grand and Northern style. The Institute’s acquisition, purchased through The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund,1
is one of Both’s later works, with small figures of peasants painted not by his brother but by the artist himself. This picture handsomely joins the Institute’s excellent European landscape collection.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 65.1. The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund. Oil on canvas, 35 1/2” x 43 1/4”. Signed in the foreground at lower left J. Both.
- Jan Both
Extensive Landscape with Figures
Oil on canvas, 35 1/2” x 43 1/4”
The Putnam D. McMillan Fund, 65.1
Francesco Solimena (1657-1747) in his very long and productive life was one of the celebrated masters of Europe and, with Luca Giordano to whose fame he succeeded, the greatest Neapolitan painter of the Baroque age. Modelling himself on Giordano and the earlier artist Mattia Preti, he furthered the former’s prevision of the 18th-century style, and in the first half of the settecento
there was virtually no European artist of prominence not influenced by Solimena or not directly indebted to him.A large sketch, presumably done at the end of Solimena’s first period (c. 1690), has been given to the Institute.1
It is apparently a working sketch for the top of a large altarpiece or part of a cupola decoration, executed with great force and broadness rather in Giordano’s manner but with clear reference to Preti (as in the Baptist, upper left). It is for an unknown commission and shows St. John the Baptist, an Evangelist (?), St. Philip Neri, and five other saints and an angel in Glory. A similar type of sketch was sent to the great Florence Baroque Exhibition of 1922 (no. 929) by Salvatore di Giacomo of Naples; the pose of St. Philip reappears in a model at Capodimonte (no. 234) which shows a different saint. Although a model in the Harrach collection in Vienna (no. 246) painted in the 1730s is technically somewhat similar, that picture is, as all the later Solimenas, darker, tighter, and more theatrical than his earlier work in which only a suggestion of the artist’s familiar Neapolitan “blackness” occurs, as in the central, bearded Saint in the Minneapolis picture. Since sketches of this size are almost unknown, some hesitancy about the date must, however, be shown. There is, for example, a partial return to the rather free monumentality of the seicento
in the chapel of St. Philip Neri in the Girolami, Naples, which Solimena painted between 1727 and 1730.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 65.42. Anonymous Gift. Oil on canvas, 45” x 34”.
- Francesco Solimena
Saints in Glory, c. 1685
Oil on canvas, 45” x 34”
Anonymous Gift, 65.42
Lodovico Mazzanti of Orvieto (1679-1775) was a pupil of G. B. Gaulli and, in his earliest stages, was said to have been influenced by Giordano. He worked in Naples on familiar terms with Solimena, painting with him in the Girolami, but is principally known for frescoes and various altars in Rome and the Papal States. Very little is know about him, but apparently Mazzanti enjoyed considerable celebrity, for he acquired not only the papal title of cavaliere
(given only to the leading artists) but also that of conte,
perhaps from the Grand Duke of Tuscany. The main works are datable from the first decade of the century to slightly after 1750, after which Mazzanti seems to have been in retirement. The frescoes and altars are in a style chiefly derived from Gaulli but strongly influenced by the more official language of those Maratti followers who inclined, with considerable verve and not much backbone, into the world and precious manners of the Rococo. Mazzanti also did portraits and one of these has entered the Institute.1
Formerly attributed to Amigoni, the Lady
is plainly in the Roman settecento
portrait idiom with its better drawing, more formal conception, more intellectual coloration, and greater awareness of French prototypes at the end of Largillière’s career than Amigoni ever showed. The handling of the park land behind the sitter and the various intimacies of style and manner in her portrayal can easily be traced within Mazzanti’s documented works.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 64.72. The Ethel Morrison Van Derlip Fund. Oil on canvas, 35 1/2” x 28 1/2”.
- Count Ludovico Mazzanti
Portrait of a Lady
Oil on canvas, 35 1/2” x 28 1/2”
The Ethel M. Van Derlip Fund, 64.72
Now in rectangular form, the painting of a Vestal1
holding a fiery urn originally had a discreetly baroque form with slightly curved top, shallow oval bottom, and small oval corners. It is a spiritedly painted French work intended as an overdoor, and related to the brilliant manner of Fragonard, to whom it has ambitiously been attributed by Professor Voss.2
It comes to the Institute with a more humble attribution to Jean-Jacques Lagrenée le jeune
(1739-1821) who was the pupil of his more staid brother L.-J.-F. Lagrenée (called l’ainé
), with whom he worked in Russia. Lagrenée le jeune
produced feeble works at Fontainebleau and for the Salons between 1771 and 1804 and, although the mannerisms his few published paintings demonstrate resemble, in modest fashion, the style of the Institute’s painting, his name can only be tentatively assigned and is perhaps chosen too easily from among those of this overpopulated and understudied period of French painting. The quality and vigorous, rather informal painterly ability are indeed comparable to a better than average, but not the best, Fragonard.Endnotes
Referenced Work of Art
- 65.48. The Ethel M. Van Derlip Fund. Oil on canvas. 35” x 42”.
- Letter of 10 July, 1957.
- Jean Jacques Lagrenée, Le Jeune
Oil on canvas, 35” x 42”
The Ethel M. Van Derlip Fund, 65.48
The neo-classical style, by its severe and moral purposes, may have eliminated some of the magic of the painter’s brush and all of its frivolity but, in terms just as precious as that of the Rococo, it had its graceful side too. The great advantage of French Rococo painting—the intimate subject seen as intimately as by the admired Dutch minor masters of a century before, but far more exquisitely—was only transformed in the work of a large number of French painters from the reign of Louis XVI to the end of the new style with the Romantics of the next century—from Greuze through Boilly. There are a number of painters of exquisite quality, mainly poorly known, who produced superb works in small format; and these made the private apartments delightful and ravishing while the latest machines of David or Regnault uttered their big, inspiring doctrines in the public rooms. Through the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky, a pair of lovely examples of this less-celebrated production enters the Institute. La Rose Mal Défendue
and La Lettre
(signed and dated 1791)1
are by Etienne Barthélmy Garnier (1759-1849), a Parisian pupil of the Neo-Classical innovator Vien who had studied in Italy. This is the very end of the Rococo (as well as of the ancien régime
), as the style and the costumes witness. Charming and slightly provocative, the two scenes are painted with the probity of superb and fresh observation by an ultimately elegant hand. The scenes are still as from the late Rococo theater; the observation (notice the potted rose bush) scientific and absolute, if with an aristocratic brilliance of style appropriate to all most elegant decoration.Endnotes
Referenced Works of Art
- 64.63.1 and 2. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky. Oil on canvas, 18 1/2” x 14 3/4” each, the latter signed and dated on the chair: Ee. Bel. Garnier/1791.
- Etienne Barthélmy Garnier
La Lettre, 1791
Oil on canvas, 18 1/2” x 14 3/4”
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky, 64.63.2
- Etienne Barthélmy Garner
French, 1759-1849 (fl. 1790-1814)
La Rose Mal Défendue
Oil on canvas, 18 1/2” x 14 3/4”
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky, 64.63.1