Two exhibitions in Parisian galleries

All the versions of this article: English , français

28/3/23 - Art market - Paris - From Bourdon and Buffon, Christian Le Serbon displays a diversity of portraits in his gallery in the rue de Penthièvre, in collaboration with the Galerie de Frise. Painters, scholars, publishers, soldiers, children or women are represented on sheet, on canvas and in marble, more or less flattered by nature and by the artist. Sébastien Bourdon stands in a trompe-l’oeil oval, captured in pen by a master of Gonzales Coques’ circle, a drawing intended for engraving. The portrait of the Count of Buffon is a miniature in gouache imitating a cameo. The naturalist and philosopher did not hesitate to offer effigies of himself as a token of thanks. Further on, two self-portraits respond to each other, both in pencil, both showing their author at the age of 20: that of Henri Édouard Truchot, done in 1818, will be included in the catalogue raisonné of the artist drawn up by Philippe Nusbaumer; that of Johann-Friedrich Dietler, drawn in 1824, is linked to a painting kept in the Solothurn Museum.

1. Francis-Antoine Conscience (1795-1840)
Légion d’honneur, belle... mais inutile !, 1831
Aquarelle sur traits de crayon - 25 x 19 cm
Galerie Christian Le Serbon
Photo : Galerie Christian Le Serbon
See the image in its page

And then there is the portrait of the French people, embodied by a rooster, in a caricature by the aptly named Francis-Antoine Conscience. The artist hijacks the fable of the Cock and Pearl by replacing it with a Legion of Honour placed on a rock (ill. 1). "It is beautiful" he says, "but the smallest grain of millet would do my business much better". King Louis-Philippe, by the Charter of 1830, made the Legion of Honour the only French order. He distributed it generously, probably a little too generously, so that in 1840 the Chamber of Deputies voted to limit it.
As for the cockerel, it had been disowned by Napoleon, who saw in it only a barnyard animal, far too weak to "be the image of an Empire such as France. One must choose the eagle, the elephant, the lion". But he regained the feathers of the beast with the King of the French. In 1830, the Duke of Orleans issued an order and the Gallic cockerel appeared on the flags of the National Guard; in 1831 Louis-Philippe gave each region the tricolour flag, decorated with a cockerel at the top of its staff.
If the fable of the Cock and Pearl inspired many artists, François Chauveau, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Philibert Léon Couturier or Gustave Moreau (see article), Francis Conscience adapted the criticism to his time. His drawing is a preparation for a lithograph published in 1832 in La Caricature.

2. Entourage de Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)
Portrait de Théophile Malo de La Tour d’Auvergne-Corret (1743-1800), vers 1798
Huile sur toile - 55 x 45 cm
Galerie Christian Le Serbon
Photo : Galerie Christian Le Serbon
See the image in its page

Born in Besançon, the one who was simply nicknamed Francis had "a spirit of counting and a talent for imitation of the most original kind, of which he gave many proofs in high school by capturing with a rare finesse the foibles, the ridiculousness of his teachers and fellow students [1]" An admirer of Géricault, he had a passion for horses, which he studied and painted tirelessly, and for wine, which he studied assiduously, and ended his life in poverty. "He had weakened his robust health by the excessive abuse of strong liquors, and also for not always being content to draw his models". Henry Jolivet painted his portrait which was shown at the last edition of Fine Arts Paris (see article). The "Héroïnes romantiques" exhibition presented a strange representation of him as Charles Kemble and Harriet Smithson in Romeo and Juliet (see article).

3. Édouard Armand-Dumaresq (1826-1895)
Portrait d’un cuirassier du Ier Empire, 1857
Huile sur toile- 103 x 89 cm
Galerie Christian Le Serbon
Photo : Christian Le Serbon
See the image in its page

Two military portraits are shown side by side, of very different tones: that of Théophile Malo de La Tour d’Auvergne-Corret is attributed to the entourage of Jacques-Louis David (ill. 2). The soldier, who refused the ranks of colonel and battalion commander, did not want to become a member of the Corps Législatif either, so Napoleon created a specific title for him, that of Premier Grenadier des Armées de la République. He was awarded a sabre of honour, which is now in the Musée Carnavalet.
More monumental is the portrait painted by Armand-Dumaresq, which is attractive because of its impasto, its broad brushstrokes and the effects of the reflections on the armour (ill. 3). The model wears a beard and moustache in the fashion of the Second Empire, but is dressed in the cuirassier troupier uniform of the First Empire, and more precisely that of 1812. He is probably a veteran who wants to pose in the uniform of his glory days. A pupil of Thomas Couture, Édouard Armand-Dumaresq exhibited A Glorious Death, A Memory of 1812 in 1855, and specialised in military painting. In 1867, Cambronne at Waterloo earned him the cross of the Legion of Honour awarded by Napoleon III. During a study mission to the United States in 1870, he stated that the superiority of the French school was universally acknowledged. One of his paintings, The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, July 4, 1776, painted around 1873, can still be seen in the White House today.

4. Lelio Orsi (1508 ? - 1587)
Portrait de Camilla Ruggeri
Plume et encre brune - 17,3 x 11,8 cm
Galerie Charles Ratton et Guy Ladrière
Photo : Ratton-Ladrière
See the image in its page

On Quai Voltaire, the Galerie Ratton-Ladrière offers an anthology of drawings from all periods. A woman raising an arm, a pastel study by Paul-Louis Delance (1848-1924), is thus confronted with a kneeling nun, sketched in red chalk by Michel-François Dandré-Bardon (1700-1783). Also from the 18th century, several drawings by Jean-Guillaume Moitte recall that he went to Italy after winning the Prix de Rome in 1768. Two watercolour caprices, inspired by the work of Piranesi, depict an imaginary palace and a monumental staircase. A third sheet in red chalk captures the profile of Minerva in helmet. The sculptor’s wife, Adélaïde-Marie-Anne Castellas-Moitte, was highlighted by Jonathan Den Otter at Benjamin Peronnet (see the news item of 25/3/23).

The 16th century is particularly honoured, with an Assumption of the Virgin by Pietro Negroni and a Charity by Antoine Caron, an artist who is also the subject of an exhibition at the Château d’Écouen. By the Mannerist Lelio Orsi, the gallery exhibited a drawing of three draped figures at the Paris Fine Arts show in 2019. They are now joined by the Portrait of Camilla Ruggeri (1550-1576), preparatory to a medal made by Alfonso Ruspagiari, of which the National Gallery in Washington holds a copy (ill. 4). Having settled in Reggio Emilia in 1535, Orsi moved to Novellara around 1546, stayed in Venice and then in Rome. He created frescoes for the façades of monuments, decorated churches and palaces, and painted extravagant pictures. This drawing, of which the Galleria Estense in Modena holds an engraving and its engraved plate, proves that Orsi was active in fields other than painting. He also provided designs for silver vases for Duke Alfonso II d’Este and probably made models for sculptors and architects.

5. Louis Janmot (1814-1892)
Apparition de la Vierge Marie à Cécile Mille, 1842
Crayon noir - 25 x 33 cm
Galerie Charles Ratton et Guy Ladrière
Photo : Ratton-Ladrière
See the image in its page

The 19th century is represented by three sheets by Louis Janmot of Lyon. The first is a head of Christ, the second a woman’s face, probably the portrait of Amélie Soulacroix, wife of the founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Frédéric Ozanam. The third is a representation of the Appearance of the Virgin Mary to Cécile Mille (ill. 5). It was in the valley of the Loue that the young Cécile Mille, returning from the church where she had made her first communion, saw a woman dressed in white appear, accompanied by four young girls. The procession led her to an oak tree, then disappeared. Little Cécile was called a liar and a simpleton by those around her, but a few months later a light came out of the oak tree, and a terracotta statue of the Virgin Mary was discovered in its branches.
Jérôme Bouchet, in the catalogue entry, wonders how the Lyon painter knew about this story, which took place in the parish of Maisières, near Ornans. Indeed, his drawing is dated 1842 and the diocesan enquiry conducted to recognise the Marian apparition was not opened until 1844. A chapel, Notre-Dame-du-Chêne, was built on the site of the apparition, designed by Pierre Bossan, architect of Fourvière and friend of Louis Janmot. Blessed in 1869, it was endowed with a bronze tympanum that reproduced Janmot’s composition; a reproduction of this drawing is preserved in the chapel’s archives.
This very accomplished sheet is particularly noteworthy in the graphic production of the artist, who was better known for his sketches. The figure of the floating Virgin dressed in white can be found in the Assumption painted in 1844 and placed in the church of La Mulatière in 1863, while the female figures of the famous Poem of the Soul are represented in a similar manner.

6. Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) et collaborateurs
Le Retour de la conférence
Aquarelle et rehauts d’or
Galerie Charles Ratton et Guy Ladrière
Photo : Ratton-Ladrière
See the image in its page

Hanging above, a watercolour by Courbet and his collaborators (ill. 6) gives a mischievous counterpoint to this pious scene, showing no longer a procession of evanescent white figures, but a bevy of stodgy, black curates, in every sense of the word, dressed in their cassocks and well-voiced. They pass in front of the oak tree inhabited by the statue of the Virgin.

Practical information:

"Portraits & Figures 1640-1918," from 8 to 30 March 2023. Exhibition organised by Galerie Christian Le Serbon and Galerie de Frise (Florent Piednoir), 45 rue de Penthièvre, 75008 Paris. Tel: 01 40 76 08 50 Open Monday to Friday from 11 am to 7:30 pm, Saturday from 2 pm to 6 pm.

Galerie Ratton-Ladrière, 11 quai Voltaire 75007 Paris. Tel: +33 1 42 61 29 79. Open from Monday to Friday from 10:30 am to 1 pm and from 2:30 pm to 7 pm.

Your comments

In order to be able to discuss articles and read the contributions of other subscribers, you must subscribe to The Art Tribune. The advantages and conditions of this subscription, which will also allow you to support The Art Tribune, are described on the subscription page.

If you are already a subscriber, sign in.