Louis-Léopold Boilly, The Happily Married Couple.
1807, Black and white chalk, with stumping on brown
paper. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
I recently stopped by The Morgan to view their exhibition The Age of Elegance: The Joan Taub Ades Collection. This intimate show is not to be missed if you are in the area. It is clear from the show that the collector truly has a passion for art and drawings. Each piece on display was very delicate and beautiful from material to style.
The exhibition is in the Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery, an incredibly intimate room. I was fortunate enough to visit when there were only a few people in the gallery, all moving from left to right then right back out the door. The works are hung along each wall, smaller works directly above others. If this layout does anything it enhances certain prominent pieces such as Boucher's Reclining Nude with Outstretched Arm and Jean-Baptiste Greuze's Head of a Sorrowful Woman. Other notable artists include Jean-Francois Millet and Francesco Panini.
Some of the drawings feel unfinished, as if the artist has just stepped away after a preliminary sketch. There is a particular image of a woman sewing that seemed this case. The view is a profile where the subject sits in a wooden chair, simple yet elegant.
There is a suggestion of a background, very little furniture and nothing on the walls. Her neck is bent down over her work, and you know if she has been at work for a while she aches. She wears a simple bonnet and cotton garment, completely focused on the project at hand. She is not alone in this show. There are not grand ladies and princes (nay they can be found at the next exhibition over, "Illuminating Fashion") but everyday men and women, even children.
Francesco Fontebasso, A Scene of Sacrifice. Pen and brown ink, over black chalk, on two
pieces of paper. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
Achille Michallon, Peasants Gathering Fruit near Naples, 1822, Pen and
brown ink and wash, over traces of black chalk. Joan Taub Ades Collection.
Jean-Baptiste Pillement, River Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats. 1797/98,
black and red chalk with watercolor.
Joan Taub Ades Collection.
One particularly captivating piece is River Landscape with a Goatherd and Goats by Jean-Baptiste Pillement. The painting was completed in 1797/8, inspired, no doubt, by the artist's new surroundings. When the French Revolution began, Pillement moved to south France, a move that proved not only to be an escape, but also inspirational.
The calm river flows through the landscape which is elevated by rocks and hills. Goats are herded across an uneasy bridge. The landscape is lovely and ideal, but incredibly muted against the reds and blues of the figures. The figures in the image pop, and only they stir, it seems, where no wind rustles trees, goats refuse to budge, and the river, lazy and slow, gently pushes a boat.
I moved along through the show at the same pace as the river, steady and slow. Absorbing all the fine details of line and shadow these artists have created. The figures in this collection are easy to connect with, and unless you are claustrophobic, you may find yourself wanting to take another turn around the room. Their humble dress and settings suggest they were not all people of great elegance, but the compositions and presentation prove the period was an age of elegance.
The Age of Elegance will be on view until August 28, 2011 so there is plenty of time to stop by!
If you can't make it, you can get the exhibition catalog here.
Anonymous, Woman with Flowers.
18th century, Material oil on canvas.
Villa La Pietra.
And now for an 18th century tale of love, separation and death! Gentle reader, this may upset your sensibilities, but the case of Gabrielle de Launay was brought to the High Court of Paris, and sparked a great public interest. I would love to hear what you think of this one.
The story begins in the mid 18th century, with the beautiful Gabrielle de Launay, daughter of M. de Launay. At just 18 years old, she was not only beautiful and elegant but also in love. She was betrothed to Captain Maurice de Serres, and the couple were very fond of each other. The wedding was to be a happy affair and just before all was to take place, Maurice de Serres was called away to India for duty.
Fearing that he would lose his beloved daughter, or worse, she would not survive the trip, M. de Launay postponed the marriage until the Captain's safe return to Paris. Both young lovers were devastated at her father's decision, and with tears and broken hearts, they parted.
Norry, Croquis de l'Église de St Roch, 1787.
Two long years passed before word was sent to Paris that Maurice de Serres had died while in India. Anxious that his daughter should marry, for she was now twenty years old, he arranged a match with a M. du Bourg. He was much older than Gabrielle (nearly 30 years) and a lawyer, who had both money and reputation.
Five years later, a man arrived in Paris, Captain Maurice de Serres, his death, as it turned out, had falsely been reported. Shortly after his arrive he passed the church of San Roch, where a grand funeral service was being held. He made inquiries as any curious party might, to discover the tragic funeral was for a young and beautiful lady, no older than 25.
Richard Wilson, Head of a man. Drawing.
Victoria and Albert Museum.
She has fallen ill and laid sick for two days before perishing. She was Madame du Bourg, née de Launay! After making more inquiries he discovered this Gabrielle was his very own, and she had fallen ill two days ago resulting in a sudden death. His heart sunk.
That night, the young captain, crazed with grief, approached the sexton of the cemetery. He offered a large amount of gold, if he would exhume the recently buried box, only so that he could see his love's features one last time. Unable to resist the bribe, the sexton agreed, and when they unearthed the coffin, they broke the locks to open it....