LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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NICOLAS-BERNARD LÉPICIÉ (Paris 1735 – Paris 1784)

Le Jardinier de Bonne Humeur

signed and dated N.B. Lépicié 1777 in the center right

oil on canvas laid down on panel

18 1/8 x 14 ½ inches        (46 x 37.5 cm.)


PROVENANCE

Philippe Henri, marquis de Ségur

Philippe Henri, marquis de Ségur sale, A.J. Paillet, Paris, April 9, 1793, lot 98

M. Pallu de Poitiers

M. Pallu de Poitiers sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 4, 1863, lot 14

M. Boitelle

M. Boitelle sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, April 24-25, 1866, lot 79, there repurchased for 1,150 francs by

M. Boitelle

M. Boitelle sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, January 10-11, 1867, lot 138

Collection Maillet du Boullay

Maillet du Boullay sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, January 22, 1870, lot 9, there purchased by

Pamart

Vicomtesse Vigier

Vicomtesse Vigier sale, Musée Galliéra, Paris, June 2-3, 1970, lot 6, illustrated, there purchased by

Herner Wengraf Ltd, London, from whom acquired by

Ron & Michael Shears, London, 1972

Estate of John G. Scanlon, Naples, Florida, 2009

 

EXHIBITED

Paris, Salon, 1779, no. 30 (from the collection of Philippe Henri, marquis de Ségur)

 

LITERATURE

Emile Bellier de la Chavignerie, “Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié” in Dictionnaire général des artistes de l’école française depuis l’origine des arts du dessin jusqu’ à nos jours, volume I, Renouard, Paris, 1882-1885, p. 1013

Philippe Gaston-Dreyfus (in collaboration with Florence Ingersoll-Smouse), “Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint et dessiné de Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié” in Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art Français, Edouard Champion, Librairie de la Société, 1922, pp. 210-211, no 193

Philippe Gaston-Dreyfus (in collaboration with Florence Ingersoll-Smouse), Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint et dessiné de Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié (1735-1784), A. Colin, Paris, 1923, pp. 82-83, no. 193

Florence Ingersoll-Smouse, “Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié – Lépicié peintre de genre”, in La Revue de l’Art, LIII, March 1928, Paris, pp. 161-162

John Collins, “Genre Paintings Exhibited at the Salon, 1699 – 1798” in The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, June 6 – September 7, 2003 & traveling, pp. 398, 402

 

Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié was the son of François-Bernard Lépicié, secretary of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and Renée-Elisabeth Marlié, both of whom were engravers.  Around 1751 he entered the studio of Carle Van Loo and won petits prix at the Academy in 1751 and 1753.  In 1764 he was accepted into the Academy, followed by full membership in 1769 as a history painter.  Starting in 1765 he began to exhibit regularly at the Salon.  By 1777 he had become a full professor at the Academy.  His production encompassed historical as well as religious subjects, portraits and genre. [1]

This painting alternatively titled Le Jardinier de Bonne Humeur or La Collation (a reference to the bread and pear the young boy holds) in its provenance, exhibition and literature, is a charming example of the artist’s work at the height of his powers.  Lépicié around 1773 began to paint genre works inspired by Dutch seventeenth century art as well as its reinterpretation formulated by Jean-Baptiste Chardin and Jean-Baptiste Greuze.  He had a particularly intimate knowledge of Chardin’s work as his father had been the artist’s favorite engraver, an influence immediately recognizable in this work. [2]  The gingerbread hues, small format, simple composition, and exquisite modeling of the figures and objects created from a web of delicate brush strokes are the essential components found in the genre paintings executed in the last ten years of Lépicié’s life. These works are now regarded as his most memorable. [3]

The shared emotional bond between the father and son in this painting is obvious.  As ties to church and king began to wane in the ancien régime the family unit came to the forefront as the means of holding society together.  Images of love and domesticity in literature and art especially among the lower classes gained ascendancy starting in the 1750s, to reach a crescendo by the 1770s.  Such images were the direct reflection of the new ideas put forth by the philosophers of the Enlightenment, most notably those of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  Everywhere in paintings, novels and the theater as well as medical, philosophical and educational tracts the image of the happy and healthy often humble family were idealized and popularized. [4]  Rural life was put forth as the most noble, a model for a “community of nature”, [5] and one in which fathers took over the main responsibility of rearing their children.  Rousseau especially held paternal love as crucial for social order in this new world. [6] 

Our gardener, surrounded by the tools of his trade, accompanied by his young son eat and drink in a simple setting enveloped by a feeling of mutual satisfaction.  The open-handed gesture of the gardener signifies a presentation and endorsement of the work’s depciction of life’s essentials in the symbols of love, sustenance and honest labor.  Lépicié well aware of the new ideological shifts fully demonstrates them in Le Jardinier de Bonne Humeur.  In his personal life he was known for his generous donations to the poor. [7]  The empathy of feeling exuded in this composition suggests a familiarity between the artist and his sitters, a suggestion further strengthened by the reappearance of the young boy three years later in the guise of the poacher’s son in Lépicié’s The Departure of the Poacher in the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie J. Déchlette, Roanne (reproduced in The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard, op. cit., p. 319).

A preparatory drawing for this painting was formerly in the Edmond and Jules de Goncourt Collection, Paris from which it was sold February 15-17, 1894, lot 171.  The brothers Edmond (1822-1896) and Jules (1830-1870) de Goncourt were French art critics who were responsible for reintroducing the taste for eighteenth century art, a period which had been out of favor since the rise of Jacques Louis David.  Most recently it was auctioned by Sotheby’s New York in the Estate of Florence J. Gould sale, April 25, 1985, lot 106.  It was engraved by C. I. Braun and reproduced by Florence Ingersoll-Smouse in her article on the artist, op. cit., p. 167.

Le Jardinier de Bonne Humeur’s original owner was Philippe Henri, marquis de Ségur (1724-1801).  He was the son of Henri François, comte de Ségur and his wife Angélique de Froissy.  He was given a command of an infantry regiment at eighteen and served under his father in Italy and Bohemia.  In 1748 he succeeded his father as lieutenant-general of Champagne and Brie, and in 1753 received the governorship of the county of Foix.  In 1780 he was appointed Minister of War.  In 1783 he became a marshal of France.  During the Reign of Terror he was imprisoned in La Force.  After his release he was impoverished until Napoleon granted him a pension in 1800.

 

 

[1]Biographical information taken from Pierre Rosenberg & Marion C. Steward, “Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié”, in French Paintings 1500-1825, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 1987, p. 223, and Colin B. Bailey, “Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié”, in The Loves of the Gods, Mythologial Painting from Watteau to David, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1992, p. 487.

[2]Colin B. Bailey, op. cit, p. 487.

[3]Richard Rand, “Nicolas-Bernard Lépicié”, in Intimate Encounters, Love and Domesticity in Eighteenth Century France, exhibition catalogue, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, October 4, 1997-January 4, 1998, p. 176.

[4] Sarah Maza, “The ‘Bourgeois’ Family Revisited: Sentimentalism and Social Class inPrerevolutionary French Culture”, Intimate Encounters, op. cit., pp. 42, 44 & 46.

[5] The term a “community of nature” refers to the Enlightenment’s desire to strip mankind of all characteristics that were perceived as the direct results of social conventions.  It was felt by doing so the basic traits of human nature that were unchanging and universal would be revealed, and that this in turn would lead to the most effective and legitimate forms of government.

[6] Thomas W. Gaehtgens, “Etienne Aubry” in The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard, op. cit., p. 322.

[7]  Bailey, op. cit., p. 489.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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