National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Annual Bulletin 6, 1982-1983 

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Paintings by Restout on Mythological and Historical Themes: Acquisition by the National Gallery of Canada of Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas

by Pierre Rosenberg and Antoine Schnapper

Pages  1  |  2  |  3  |  4     

The other argument can be drawn from the second part of the 1771 article, that is that Jouvenet's influence is more perceptible in the Ségoura canvas than in the Ottawa one, which has a much more personal style. In the Ségoura painting, the pose of Vulcan resting an elbow on his workbench, the large plank attached to the wall, and the bare-breasted Venus, are all taken from a painting on the same theme exhibited by Jouvenet at the 1699 and 1704 Salons. This painting is known primarily through a print by L. Desplaces. (15) The helmet resting on the table, the dog, the descriptive realism given to the details of the furniture, stressed by the light, are all pure Jouvenet. Conversely, not many people would see a "reincarnation of Jouvenet" in the Ottawa painting, where Jouvenet's influence is much more subdued and is really apparent only in the details (the heads of the putti, the rendering of the clouds and the hands, the raised shoulder of Aeneas, and so on). Oddly enough, there are none of the slender forms which are so striking in the Ségoura painting and which are also present in Alpheus and Arethusa painted as a reception piece in 1720. (fig. 4). Need it be said that, but for the inscription on the back of the Ottawa canvas, we would have suggested a later date for it. The preparatory drawing for the Ségoura painting, which resurfaced in 197716 (fig. 5), shows much more independence from Jouvenet and has a much more personal style than does the completed work.

What is the answer then? There is a coincidence which might be significant: both canvases are the same size (although the height and width are transposed), and both appear to come from Switzerland. Could it be that, in order to prepare for the grand prize, Restout painted two complementary works, on two related subjects, in two different styles - one of which, if not both - gained him admission to the Academy as an associate member? The grand prize was made more formal in 1717, thanks to the generosity of the Surintendant, the Duc d'Antin, announced on 23 May 1716. The students were informed that they would have to prepare themselves on 20 March 1717; however, Restout was not one of the four finalists on 24 April. (17)

Like Jouvenet, Restout concentrated mainly on church paintings; but, as the 1771 article so elegantly put it, "However, from time to time he tempered the nobility of his chalk and enriched private collections." Some of these mythological and historical paintings have surfaced since 1970, and we would now like to publish them as well.

To do this, we will use our 1970 catalogue. It should be pointed out that this catalogue was composed, on the one hand, of traditional catalogue entries and, on the other, of a systematic list, which was to be a complete inventory of all of Restout's works known in 1970 or mentioned in an eighteenth-century text.

In addition to the twenty-nine compositions with mythological or historical subjects that were catalogued in 1970 {the list comprised a total of 143 entries), only one new work has appeared - the Ottawa piece.

However, a number of changes and additions give reason to re-examine some of the twenty-nine compositions. To do this, we will use the numbering system that appeared in our systematic list, which, it should be noted, was intended to be chronological.

Preserved Paintings

No. 5 This is the Ségoura composition mentioned and reproduced in fig. 2.

No.8 Diane and Endymion (Hôtel de Ville, Versailles). In 1970, we were unable to obtain a photograph (fig. 6) of this painting, which dates from 1724.

No.9 Jupiter and Callisto. 1725 [?] and not 1752 [?]. A copy [?], (fig. 7) graces the prefecture of Châlons-sur-Marne (reported by Nathalie Volle).

Nos 38 and 39 Abdalonymus Working in his Garden (1737); Abdalonymus Appearing before Alexander in Royal Dress. For more complete information on these paintings, see the excellent catalogue by Mary O'Neill entitled Tableaux français des XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles du Musée d'Orléans (1981).

No. 74 This painting, signed and dated 1749, belonged to the Mèwes Collection in 1970. It was judiciously acquired in 1977 (Musées à Strasbourg, no.1, October, Oecember 1977, shown on the cover) by the Strasbourg Musée des Beaux-Arts. J. D. Ludmann La Revue du Louvre...,1979, nos 5-6, pp. 451-452), attempted to prove that the Strasbourg painting represented not The Deification of Aeneas but rather Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas. A comparison with the Ottawa painting on the one hand {fig. 1), and The Deification of Aeneas of Le Brun in Montreal Le Brun exhibition catalogue (Versailles: 1963), no. 5 ill.) on the other, proves that we correctly identified the theme of the Strasbourg canvas (in fact, the two events follow one another in Ovid's account). The Caen museum recently purchased a fine preparatory drawing of this canvas (Hôtel Drouot sale, Paris, 6 November 1980, no. 100); black chalk with white highlights on blue paper, squared, with significant changes made to Venus' face using a flap, 42.5 x 35.2 cm. We are reproducing here the two "versions" of the drawing (figs 8 and 9).

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