Claude Lorrain

Landscape with a Temple of Bacchus

Greek and Roman literature inspired the taste for pastoral landscapes - visions of a tranquil and fertile nature. Here shepherds bring cattle home at end of day, while peasants pray before a statue of Bacchus. The subject is banal, but the mood is dream-like - the golden light of the setting sun transforming the carefully composed landscape. Although set in the distant past, Bacchus' temple is overgrown and already partly decayed, as if looking forward to the ruins of Claude's own day. Claude enjoyed fame across Europe: this is one of two works he painted for an unidentified English patron. The other, "Landscape with Narcissus and Echo" (now in the National Gallery, London) is set in early morning. Regardless of their ostensible subjects of rustic peasants or ancient myth, the contrasting times of day and the quality of light are Claude's real interest. Frame: carved wood, gilded. France, second half 17th century

c. 1644 –
Private collection, UK (?) [1]

– 1682/04/18
Sir Peter Lely (1618–1680), London, UK (?) [2]

1682/04/18 –
Austin Collection, UK (?), purchased from Sir Peter Lely [3]

– 1711/03/06
Graham collection, London, UK [4]

1711/03/06 – 1722/02/24
Henry Bentinck, 1st Duke of Portland, (1682–1726), London, UK [5]

1722/02/24(?) – still in 1838
Sir Paul Methuen (1672–1757), London, England; his cousin Paul Methuen (d. 1843), Corsham Court, Wiltshire, UK, by inheritance [6]

by 1851 – 1928/05/18
Robert Stayner Holford (d. 1892), Westonbirt House, Gloucestershire, and Dorchester House, London, UK; his son Sir George Lindsay Holford (d. 1926), Dorchester House, by inheritance [7]

1928/05/18 – still in 1929
Bernard Houthakker (1884–1963), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, purchased from Sir George Lindsay Holford [8]

– 1937/08/23
Frederick B. Daniell & Son, London, UK [9]

1937/08/23 – 1939/02/23
Colnaghi, London, UK, purchased from Frederick B. Daniell & Son [10]

1939/02/23 –
National Gallery of Canada, purchased from Colnaghi [13]

The main source for this provenance is Marcel Röthlisberger's catalogue raisonné [Röthlisberger, Marcel. “Claude Lorrain: the paintings.” New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961, p. 224, LV 78]. Exceptions and other supporting documents are noted.

[1] The painting [“Liber veritatis” no. 78] is believed to be a pendant to a drawing [“Liber Veritatis” no. 77], which is annotated: “quadro per Angletere. Claudio fecit in V.R.

[2] Sir Peter Lely was a German-born painter who studied in the Netherlands and moved to England in the 1640s. It is uncertain if he was the original patron of the work. However, a painting by Claude, entitled Sun-setting, Temple Shepherd and Sheep was included in the sale of Sir Lely's estate, held at his house in Covent Garden on April 18, 1682 [“The Executor's account Book of Sir Peter Lely 1679–91.” London, British Museum, Add. MSS 16174, cited after Borenius, T. “Sir Peter Lely's Collection.” “Burlington Magazine” (Aug. 1943): p. 185]. According to an annotated version of this catalogue, the work was purchased by “Mr. Austin for £80” [Ogden, Henry and Margaret. “Sir Peter Lely's Collection: Further Notes.” “Burlington Magazine” vol. LXXXIV (1944): 154].

[3] See note [2].

[4] On March 6, 1711, a painting described as; “Claude Lorrain. An evening landscape, the temple of Bacchus, with figures and cattle, painted at Rome, anno 1644” was included in a sale of “Mr. Graham's collection” in London, as lot 45. [“A Catalogue of Extraordinary Pictures and Limnings by several excellent Masters Together with some curious figures in Brass, etc. To be sold by auction on Thursday the 6th day of March 1711 at Mr. Pelitiers, next House to the Wheat–Sheaf, in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden where catalogues may be had, and the Pictures, etc. May be seen on Monday in the afternoon and the two days proceeding the sale.” reprint in “Historical Manuscript Commission. 15th Report.” National Archives, London 1898, appendix VII, p. 204–06.]. It is unclear, if this was the sale of the art historian and author Richard Graham (fl.1680 – 1720) or of James Graham, a reputable auctioneer. The catalogue notes that the painting was purchased by Lord Portland for £210 [Pears, Iain. “The Discovery of Painting. The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England, 1680–1768.” New Haven and London 1988, p. 72, notes 93 and 95].

[5] See note [4]. The 1st Duke of Portland, also known as Viscount Woodstock, was a British politician and colonial statesman. He put his art collection of up for sale after losing his fortune in stock speculations and leaving the country to become Governor of Jamaica. A manuscript copy of this sale, dated Feb. 24, 1722, lists as lot no. 125:“CL. Lorrain. A Landscape with Sun Setting. Methuen £ 151.” [letter by Frank Simpson, librarian, Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, to R. H. Hubbard, Chief Curator, NGC, dated Dec. 7, 1956, NGC curatorial file]. Another copy of this catalogue, however, mentions a different purchaser: “There were two Claudes in the Portland sale of 1722, the most complete annotated copy of the catalogue being at Chatsworth Mss 134.2. Both are described solely as Landscapes with figures. The first, lot 137, went to the Duke of Bridgewater for £210 and the second to the Earl of Scarborough for £294. Whoever bought it, the painting next turns up in the Methuen collection and is now in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa as the Temple of Bacchus.” [Pears Ian. “The Discovery of Painting.” p. 243-44, note 95].

[6] See note [5]. Sir Paul Methuen was a diplomat and member of the House of Commons. He left his collection of paintings to his cousin, Paul Methuen of Corsham Court, Wiltshire. While in the possession of the Methuen family, the painting was seen and described by several authors, e.g. Waagen [Waagen, G. “Works of Art and Artists in England, London 1838, vol. 3, p. 107].

[7] By 1851, the painting had been acquired by wealthy art collector and horticulturist Robert Holford [Graves, Algernon. “A Century of Loan Exhibitions 1813– 1912.” London 1913, p.176, listed as: “Claude Lorraine, British Institution No.90, 1851, R.S. Holford”]. By 1927 it was on display at the family's London residence [Benson, R.H. “The Holford Collection. Dorchester House.” Oxford and London 1927, vol. 2 no. 133]. After Sir G.L. Holford's death, it was sold at Christie's. A handwritten note in the sale's catalogue marks “Houthakker” as the purchaser. [“Important Pictures by Old Masters. The property of the late Sir George Lindsay Holford.” Christie's, London, May 17 and 18, 1928, lot no. 125].

[8] See note [7] Bernard Houthakker was a Dutch-Jewish art dealer. In 1929 the painting was included in an exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In the catalogue Bernard Houthakker is mentioned as lender of the work [“Catalogus van de Tentoonstelling van Oude Kunst door de Vereenigung van Handelaren in Ouder Kunst in Nederland.” Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 1929, cat. no. 88]. He is also marked as owner of the painting in an annotation found in Witt Library photographic collection [no. 4163, box 411–12].

[9] The name of the London print dealer Frederick B. Daniell & Son can be found along with the date of sale on the stock card of the London art dealer Colnaghi [photocopy of Colnaghi stock card, stock number A 2020, NGC curatorial file].

[10] See note [9].

[11] Accession log [NGC curatorial file]

Landscape with a Temple of Bacchus
oil on canvas
96.5 x 123.1 cm
Credit line
Purchased 1939
Accession number