9: Art in Seventeenth-Century France
Since the Italian Wars at the end of the fifteenth century, the achievements of the Italian Renaissance had fascinated the French (see pp. 177ff., below). Motifs from Italy found favour in sixteenth-century French architecture, and Italian artists and craftsmen were imported for such important projects as the decoration of the Chateau of Fontainebleau. French-born painters could not at first compete with the Italian immigrants, and even in the later sixteenth century their styles were but versions of the Mannerism of the paintings of Rosso and Primaticcio at Fontainebleau, or of the northern Mannerism of the Antwerp School. Little is known of the aptly named Second School of Fontainebleau, for few of their decorations have survived. Like the court artist Antoine Caron, they are far removed from the classical tradition, although one adherent, Martin Freminet, painted in a more Renaissance-like style. He was in Italy from c. 1586 to 1602, and his ceiling in the Chapelle de la Trinite at Fontainebleau is a tribute to Michelangelo and the first sign of the importation of a High Renaissance as opposed to a Mannerist style into France.
In short, there was no painter in sixteenth-century France who, like Philibert de 1'Orme in architecture, might be considered the originator of a French classicism. The dearth of painterly talent was such that in 1622 Marie de' Medici employed Peter Paul Rubens, a Fleming, to decorate the new Luxembourg Palace. This had been designed by a Frenchman, Salomon de Brosse—but the patron had sent the drawings to Italy to be checked, as it were, for quality! Rubens's canvases were regarded with indifference until nearly the end of the century, demonstrating a French lack
of sympathy for the full-blooded Baroque. Soon, however, French painters were to be available for large commissions, for a French style was being developed in Rome by a group of young students. They had gone there to study both the products of the Renaissance and the equally impressive recapitulations of Caravaggio and of the Bolognese School. Claude Vignon was there from c. 1616 to 1624, and imported into France a mixture of Cara-vaggesque tricks, impasto technique and some Venetian ideas, all laid over his original Mannerist training. Valentin de Boulogne went to Rome in 1612, and died there in 1632. Sandrart says he was a pupil of Vouet, and certainly Caravaggism is strong in both men's works in the 1610s and 1620s; Valentin is remembered today chiefly for painting the Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinianus, a much more successful pendant to Poussin's Martyrdom of St Erasmus in a fully Caravag-gesque style.
More important than Vignon and Valentin, and, in the short run at least, more important than Poussin himself, was Simon Vouet. As Felibien remarked in 1685/8, 'it was from this time that painting in France took on a nobler and more beautiful aspect than ever before'. He went to Rome in 1613 and followed first Caravaggio, then the Bolognese.588 In The Birth of the Virgin in S. Francesco a Ripa in Rome (early 1620s?) the model is Caravaggio, but Vouet never approaches that master's emotionally-charged pathos.589 If we look forward to the monumental figures in those blond, bright paintings which he was to execute after he
Michel Dorigny's engraving after Simon Vouet: Martyrdom of St Eustace.
Nicolas Poussin: "She Martyrdom of St Erasmus, 1628-9, Rome, Vatican, Pinacoteca.
returned to Paris in 1627, it is clear that while Caravaggio's technique fascinated him, he saw that technique as but one path toward the development of essentially classical principles. He places large and simply clothed figures in noble poses, and avoids both strong emotion and the extravagances of Baroque composition. There are, in fact, many more connections between his work and that of the Bolognese School: his Assumption of the Virgin in Rheims (c. 1645) is somewhat similar to Annibale Carracci's work on the same theme in the Prado, and his St Merri liberating prisoners (late 1630s) in the church of St-Merri in Paris derives from Lodovico Carracci's Bargellini Madonna in Bologna.
When he was recalled to France in 1627 to become First Painter to Louis XIII, he was able to supply works in the modern Italian manner, yet purged of that Baroque vigour and high colour which Pietro da Cortona was currently infusing into his own works. We might say that the style he adopted in France was a
version of the Baroque tempered by classicism. His Martyrdom ofSt Eustace in the church of St-Eustache in Paris (1637/8), when compared with Poussin's Martyrdom of St Erasmus, displays a less complicated composition and a greater clarity in both figures and setting; instead of the saint being pressed forward towards the spectator, he is centrally placed and framed by repoussoir figures to either side. At Vouet's workshop in the Louvre many collaborators and students were trained, including, at various times, Francois Perrier, Pierre Patel, Eus-tache Le Sueur, Pierre and Nicolas Mignard, and Charles Lebrun, the cream of the next generation of French artists. The fame of Vouet's work was extended through prints; his pupil Michel Dorigny provided a record in etchings of Vouet's important decorative work for the Chancellor Seguier, which included a chapel, gallery and library at the Hotel Seguier. Vouet's decorative work is in a similar tradition to that of his altarpieces. The frieze of figures in the chapel of the Hotel Seguier is constrained behind a simple balustrade, and this is the extent of the illusionism. Simple structures such as this, taken from the decorations of Niccolo dell'Abbate and Primatic-cio in the chapel of the Hotel de Guise (c. 1555; destroyed) and from the tradition of Annibale Carracci, were to provide the model for the schemes of Lebrun and his school later in the century. Full Baroque ceiling decoration from now on found little favour in France.
Philippe de Champaigne
What Vouet did for the Italian Baroque style, Philippe de Champaigne did for the work of Rubens, whose studio, Felibien tells us, he wished to enter. He arrived in Paris from Brussels in 1621, and painted the Portrait of Richelieu, of which one version is in the National Gallery, London, between 1635 and 1640. This is a demonstration of how the Van Dyck idiom may be made sculptural instead of painterly, sober instead of voluptuous. In the early 1640s he developed an interest in Jansenism, and that sobriety which is never absent from his early works was now emphasized in paintings whose sparseness reflects the Christian austerity with which the subject-matter is infused.590 Colour, setting, gestures, expression, emotion are all subdued. Such an attitude parallels that of Nicolas Poussin, who had worked with Philippe de Champaigne on decorations for the Luxembourg in about 1622. Both, in contrast with the majority of French seventeenth-century painters (and conspicuously so in the case of Vouet and Lebrun) came to regard art as something more serious than pretty decoration or propaganda Christian or political. Both saw the aim of art as the expression of and incitement to virtue. Although Philippe de Champaigne adopted an unorthodox Christian, and Poussin an essentially secular point of view, Poussin would certainly have concurred in the belief that Man is at the mercy of his passions and that, to become good, a just scale of values must be sought. For Philippe de Champaigne, this would entail a seeking for the grace of God by every individual; for Poussin, although always a Christian, an attempt to live according to the moral precepts of the Stoics. Their essential pessimism about Man, their zeal for a withdrawal from the world with its enticements and follies, presupposes an intel-lectualism which is far removed from the Jesuitical mainstream of French Catholicism, which confidently predicted a relatively easy salvation because of Christ's sacrifice for us. Different attitudes to such fundamental questions affected the tenor of painters' works.
We shall look in vain in the works of Nicolas Poussin for that optimistic assertion of faith and salvation which is a cornerstone of the Italian Baroque. Nevertheless, Poussin was middle-aged before he arrived at his most austerely classical works. There is good reason to believe that his artistic journey was in a sense a pilgrimage of purification, almost of mortification, for his early period shows no such characteristics. However, his earliest work, commissioned by the Italian poet, G. B. Marino, a series of drawings illustrating Ovid's Metamorphoses,596 shows a straightforward narrative gift and a sense of the dramatic quite foreign to those successors of the Second School of Fontainebleau (Lallement and Elle) under whom he probably studied in Paris from about 1612. They date from about 1623. The following year he went to Rome, no doubt hoping for further commissions from Marino, who had recently returned there from Paris. Marino soon died, but not before he had put ' Poussin in contact with Cardinal Francesco Barberini, who obtained for him the commission for The Martyrdom of St Erasmus of 1628/9, now in the Vatican Picture Gallery, but painted for an altar in St Peter's. This work and The Virgin appearing to St James (c, 1628, Louvre) are Poussin's only flirtations with the Baroque. The composition of the former must be studied warily, for the lineaments of the design had been fixed by Pietro da Cortona who was then transferred to a more important commission. And yet Poussin simplifies Pietro's design, strengthens its geometry, and increases its drama. In addition, he adopts a blond tone, a figure style and a type of
monumentality close to those of contemporary works by Domenichino (such as the frescoes in S. Andrea della Valle), whom we know Poussin to have much respected. The painting was not a success, perhaps because it represented a compromise between the Baroque and the classical. Valentin's pendant, The Martyrdom of 55. Processus and Martinianus (Vatican, 1629/30) found greater favour because of its Caravaggesque manner. Poussin's connections with Caravaggio are few, but it might be that he was inspired by Caravaggio's often startling simplicity of composition. Thus Poussin's Massacre of the Innocents at Chantilly (1627?) certainly derives from Guido Reni's composition on the same subject, but there is perhaps a common source in Caravaggio's Martyrdom of St Matthew in S. Luigi dei Francesi. All three works feature an almost schematic stylization of certain figures, helped by the parallelogram of force and emotior which makes the actions of the participates seem inevitable. In Poussin's painting, the action of the soldier balances that of the mother, and both are frozen by the geometry. During the late 1620s and 1630s there is no consistent line of development in Poussin's work.600 He takes up and drops styles and subject-matter almost at random, or so it appears, Titian being the most consistent source of inspiration during these years.599 Yet his involvement with Titian's Bacchanals (then in the Aldobrandini Collection in Rome) is tempered by his study of Annibale Carracci and the classicizing school. The Death of Ger-manicus (c. 1627, Minneapolis) displays a Venetian feeling for colour and for paint texture, yet the composition as well as the stoic subject, both of which derive from his study of the antique,597 provide an air of restraint. In the later 1630s, after painting a Titianesque series of Bacchanals591 for Cardinal Richelieu in 1635/6, Poussin began to pay great attention to Raphael's style. Another composition for the Cardinal, The Triumph of Neptune and Amphi-trite (c. 1637, Philadelphia) is based on the exuberance of Raphael's Galatea and other frescoes in the same Villa Farnesina, and has reminiscences of the Farnese Ceiling by Annibale Carracci. The putto in the foreground,
copied from Raphael, has its source in the antique relief of Tritons and Sea-Nymphs which Poussin would have seen in the collection of his patron, Prince Giustianini, and it is feasible that the general composition reflects some lost fresco or mosaic. Another patron and life-long friend, Cassiano dal Pozzo,594 had a remarkable reference library of drawings after the antique (on all kinds of subjects) to which Poussin had access. Perhaps, indeed, Poussin
was one of the artists employed as draughtsmen in the project for this 'paper museum', of which a substantial part is now at Windsor and in the British Museum.603"5
As was the case with Annibale Carracci, it was to the later Raphael that Poussin looked, particularly the Raphael of the Tapestry Cartoons. He saw in that series not just a source of compositions but a demonstration of how, by gesture, expression and drapery, a noble mind in a noble body might be conjured up in paint. A presage of this attitude appears in the conspicuously un-Venetian Adoration of the Magi of 1633 in Dresden, which owes much to Raphael's rendering in the Vatican logge. The main document of Poussin's absorption of such rhetoric is The Gathering of the Manna of 1638 in the Louvre, of which he had written the previous year that it allowed him to show 'hunger, joy, admiration, respect. A crowd of women and children, different ages and temperaments—things which, I believe, will not displease those people who know how to read them . . .' In other words, a painting is now, for Poussin, something to be 'read'.602 It
is not simply an intellectual exercise, of course, but it is far from being only a means of delighting the eye. The subject-matter, whether Christian or secular, is chosen for its moral import, and the lineaments of the picture are presented on a 'stage' so bare, so purged of extraneous detail and of luscious colouring, that the emotional impact made by the few 'actors' is thereby heightened.
The mention of a stage is not gratuitous. Poussin would build a little box-theatre, with draped wax figures which he would move about until he had arrived at a suitably logical composition and at lighting of a suitable direction and intensity: all this, as Sandrart tells us, after reading carefully all the available texts, then pondering on them, and making preliminary sketches. Such a process, unusual in the seventeenth century, is reflected in aspects of the finished paintings. The figures are often disposed in a frieze which is parallel to the picture plane, because such an arrangement
clarifies the action just as it does on a real stage. The background is often reduced to a simple screen, whether of architecture or landscape, which reflects our concentration back onto the figures and conditions our mood. The sculptural basis of Poussin's figures is evident, and they gain thereby in authority and dramatic presence. A work like The Judgement of Solomon of 1649 in the Louvre, which Poussin considered his best work, makes us think of the theatre. A preparatory drawing in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris shows Solomon's throne set amidst the airy sweep of a crowded room, with massed groups disposed in depth to either side. The painting dispenses with crowd and with detailed architecture, and concentrates on the throne, flanked on either side by a blue column, and on the action before it. A door frame or blind window to left and right closes this space, which is similar in type to that in the works of Domenichino. The judgement has been given, and the evil mother demands her pound of flesh, pointing in hate to the woman whose child is to be divided. She in her turn makes a magnificent gesture which
Poussin: Ordination from the Second Set of Sacraments. 1647-8. Collection of the Duke of Sutherland.
halts the cruel division, gives her child to the other mother and cries to Solomon in surrender. This moment of crisis is echoed by the very composition. Here is the essential High Renaissance triangle of meaning, with other elements which heighten the tension. The bright columns both point out Solomon and separate the protagonists from the impassive, fully-frontal king and from the spectators who, chorus-like, express our emotion.
Poussin's mature paintings are about passion. We might draw a parallel between both his methods and his ends and those of Corneille and Racine, the foremost dramatists of the age in France.592 They usually contain their plays within the classically based 'three unities' of time, place and action: there must be only one plot, and the action must be accommodated in one day and one place. They make their nobly-born characters speak in the measured, elegant alexandrine metre, which might seem at first reading to stifle the emotion so carefully dissected and analysed in their1 clear-sighted and conspicuously introspective speeches. In fact, such restraint intensifies and does not nullify passion; such clarity of speech, such
analysis of intention, such potent and tragic inevitability help us to concentrate on the one vital theme, whether this be a stoic resignation to duty and virtue (as so often in Corneille) or a helpless decline from a sense of morality to ruin and probable death, as in Racine's Phedre. The characters are usually far removed from us in time and space, as well as in social station, but it is essential to understand that this does not make their thoughts and problems irrelevant to us. On the contrary, the conventionality of setting and character allows us to focus on the struggle between reason, or virtue, and emotion, which leads to ruin—a struggle of eternal significance in human affairs.
Such considerations should prevent our seeing Poussin's paintings with antique characters and settings as mere antiquarian costume-pieces. From the late 1630s he became increasingly interested in representing details of dress, custom and architecture as accurately as possible, as can be seen by comparing the First and the Second set of Sacraments. He did
this because 'they will not displease those people who know how to read them', and will add more pieces to the jigsaw of Truth. The Sacraments were the institutions of the early Church; he therefore determined to represent them as accurately as his researches would allow. The settings and details served to heighten the veracity of the subject-matter, not to decorate it.598
Poussin paid a short visit to Paris in 1640/2, when his presence had been commanded by King Louis XIII who required him to provide decorative paintings for the Louvre. His manner of painting could not provide pretty or pompous paintings on a large scale, since he preferred to paint smaller canvases, often for a small circle of connoisseurs whom he met at this time through his patron Freart de Chan-telou. He soon made his excuses to the King and returned to Rome, although he kept in contact with his Parisian patrons. From then on he often based his paintings on subject-matter taken from Stoic authors, thereby depicting that struggle for virtue in the midst of a corrupting and fickle world which, as his letters make clear, was the main preoccupation of his own life. 'All your actions being guided by reason,' he wrote, 'you can then do nothing which will not lead to a virtuous end/ It was with this in mind that he painted The Testament of Eudamidas in about 1650 (now in Copenhagen State Museum of Art). The poor Corinthian, on his death-bed, leaves the care of his wife and daughter to his friends in a gesture
Poussin: preparatory drawing for The Madonna of the Steps, 1648. Paris, Louvre.
Poussin: The Testament of Eudamidas. Seventeenth-century print after the painting, now in Stockholm.
of the reciprocity of friendship. The setting is as subdued as the emotions of the participants are restrained. In Poussin's works of this period, it seems as if the very architecture conspires to uphold the same principles as the figures; precisely the same scheme operates in his paintings with landscapes, which derive largely from the example of Annibale Carracci, the inventor of the classical landscape. In the two works on the theme of Phocion, the commander wronged by his fellow townsmen, the landscape setting is imbued with a heroism which is the result of its architecture-like arrangement.593 Its mood of reflective sobriety picks up the implications of the subject. As is often the case with the mature paintings, hard edges and straight lines predominate, in a relationship almost as mathematical as The Madonna of the Steps of 1648 (Washington, National Gallery of Art). Although, of course, no stoic theme, it owes its air of grandeur and heroism, its backbone, as it were, to the mathematical disposition of its setting quite as much as to the firm triangle and Raphaelesque arrangement of the figures. The elements are clear in the measured preparatory drawing in the Louvre.
Poussin's very last paintings have landscape settings,601 for they represent at one level The Four Seasons (1660-4, Louvre). Although their subject-matter has one obvious interpretation, it has been shown to have much wider implications also. The painting of Spring shows
Poussin: The Four Seasons: Summer (Ruth and Boaz), 1660-4. Paris, Louvre.
Adam and Eve, but may also refer to Apollo; Autumn with the gathering of the grapes refers perhaps to both Bacchus and the Eucharist. The canvases, through their biblical stories and their seasonal symbols, seem to represent a pantheistic union of pagan and Christian beliefs, as well as a more generalized meditation on human life and destiny. What higher task could there be for art than to explore the relationship between Man and the elements? Such generalization is of the essence of classicism, and gives a wider interest to some of Poussin's paintings than the specific nature of their subject would suggest. This is the case, for example, with The Exposition of Moses of 1654 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), which is used as a vehicle both for telling the story and for explaining the posture a man must adopt in the face of destiny. 'We must acquire virtue and wisdom', Poussin stated, 'in order to stand firm before the blandishments of mad, blind Fortune/ The emotions of the adult participants are expressed with an understatement made more severe by the economy of gesture and the silence which it engenders. The implications of the work, 'to those people who know how to read', are no less important than
those of Et in Arcadia Ego of the early 1640s (Louvre). The subject here is antique, the theme of wider importance. Bellori describes it as 'happiness subjected to death', which is no less than the dilemma of all men. I am not suggesting that the apparent meaning of the subject-matter was of no importance for Poussin, but rather that he uses his mature paintings as explorations of something more than straightforward commentaries on pagan or Christian literature or history. From the happy, colourful and sometimes erotic works of his early years, he deliberately chastens the painterly qualities of his work in the 1640s and 1650s. Bernini is supposed to have remarked on his visit to France in 1665, 'Poussin is a painter who works from here', and to have pointed to his forehead. There is no more intellectual painter than Poussin, and it was on the example of his late period, where his maniera magnifica is most developed, that the standards and vitality of French academic painting were to be based for more than two hundred years.595'606
Poussin: ABOVE The Exposition of Moses, 1654. Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, and BELOW Et in Arcadia Ego, early 1640s. Paris, Louvre.
Poussin, like most of the Italian artists, was a figure painter who sometimes set his scenes in a landscape. Claude, on the other hand, was exclusively a landscape painter. Since he was a good friend of Poussin's, it is conceivable that Poussin encouraged the development of his landscape style, and equally possible that he led Claude toward his more classical style of the 1640s. Although all Claude's works contain figures, and most have definite subjects611 prescribed by his mainly aristocratic patrons, Claude's true concern in his painting was to show the subtly changing atmosphere of the different times of day. As Sandrart writes of one of his morning pieces, 'one can truly recognize how the sun, risen for some two hours above the horizon, dissipates the nebulous air ... showing everything perfectly in natural light and shadow, including the reflection, so that the distance of each object can be, as it were,
measured in proportion and found correct, as in life itself
Claude left his native Lorraine in about 1618 to go to Rome, and was in the large studio of the landscapist Tassi from about 1620 to about 1625. There he gained experience in the use of perspective which, allied to the emphasis on light alluded to above, provided the basis of his own ideal landscape style of the 1640s. His earlier works, indeed, take their basic vocabulary from Tassi: landscapes or coast scenes, with figures mythological, biblical or genre, and natural or man-made features.
In the 1640s, Claude began to take his subjects from classical mythology. His compositions became more serene and more firmly balanced. Because they are bigger, there tend to be more details to delight the eye. This development can be seen by comparing the recently discovered Pastoral with a Rock Arch and a River (c. 1629, private collection), which shows features from the manner of both Paul Bril and Tassi, with the Pastoral Caprice with the Arch of Constantine (c. 1651, Grosvenor Estate), where the elements of a classical landscape are displayed: a flat foreground is marked by a tall, back-lit tree to one side, with smaller trees to the other. These lead the eye to a prominent feature in the middle ground, in this case an antique structure, beyond which the ground undulates to a hazy distance. A river, a herd of cows, and the movement of the ground connect the foreground figures with the middle ground and the horizon. Bridges, gently leaning trees and winding rivers, grazing animals, idyllic peasants, and an idealized, tranquil picture of nature are echoes of Claude's sketching trips into the Roman Cam-pagna, which many of his canvases evoke, but do not depict exactly. The formal elements are combined with subjects classical or religious, or even simply genre, to portray a pastoral or heroic mood. As Claude grew older, this mood became increasingly poetic and elegaic, as in the renowned Landscape with Psyche at the Palace of Cupid (1664, T. C. Lloyd Estate).
The impetus toward antique subject-matter, especially from Virgil,609 might have come from Poussin, whose own style was becoming more sober and heroic, and his themes much more serious, during the same period. But the inventor of the heroic landscape was Annibale Carracci, whose excursions into landscape are crucial because they were the first to demonstrate that landscape, like architecture, could be organized. The prime examples of Annibale's landscape style are lunettes painted in about 1604 for the chapel of the Aldobran-dini Palace in Rome, now in the Galleria Doria-Pamphili. In Landscape with the Entombment of Christ, Annibale made the mood of the setting evoke and concentrate that of the small figures executing their mournful task. The Flight into Egypt, a less sombre subject, plays a closed and dark foreground against a lighter middle distance which is filled with incident. The placing of the figures, the cattle, the slope of the ground, river and waterfall, the angle of the light, the links between the planes of the composition are all calculated to enhance the significance of the main figure group and to help their measured progress from right to left. A similar landscape style was continued by Annibale's heir, Domenichino, well represented in London by his frescoes of The Story of Apollo of 1615-17 (National Gallery).
Claude also painted works with the monumental seriousness of an Annibale Carracci or a Domenichino (see pp. 149ff., above), such as the group of eight large canvases painted between 1652 and 1675. Among these are numbered the 'Altieri' Claudes of Landscape with the Father of Psyche sacrificing at the Milesian Temple of Apollo (1663) and its much later pendant, the Landscape with the Arrival of Aeneas at Pallan-teum (1675; both National Trust). Both works show a much stricter reliance on the antique texts than had earlier been Claude's custom, and a desire to accurately construct both setting and monuments.608 But if they equal their literary sources (principally Apuleius and Virgil) in heroic style they surpass them in delicate poetry. It is this poetry, never so apparent as in these late works, which ensured Claude's continuing reputation as the greatest of all landscape painters. Admiration for his compositional techniques, and for his idealized vision of the Roman hills and fields of classical Antiquity, made his art one of the foundation stones of English landscape painting in the eighteenth century,607 and of its three-dimensional extension, landscape gardening.610
Claude recorded his compositions in a volume, the Liber Veritatis, to guard against plagiarism and forgery. The volume was bought by the 2nd Duke of Devonshire in about 1720, and the designs were the subject of a series of engravings by Earlom, published in 1777. The popularity of Claude in England is to be judged not only by the profusion of prints after his works, by men like Arthur Pond and Charles Knapton, but also by the fabulous prices fetched by his pictures. Thus the two 'Altieri' Claudes were sold for £12,600 in 1808, much more than any work of the Dutch School. The English critics of the eighteenth century, schooled in the academic tradition, tended to place landscapes on the lower rungs of the ladder of the genres. Jonathan Richardson declared in 1719 that landscapes 'cannot
Richard Earlom after Claude: Landscape with Goats. Etching and mezzotint after a drawing in the Liber Veritatis, 1775.
Improve the Mind . . . excite no Noble Sentiments'. Towards the end of the century, however, James Barry, Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy (1782-99), praised Poussin's landscapes as 'sometimes verging to sublimity, and always engaging from their characteristic unity, graceful simplicity, or ethical associations'. Claude had been approved by Sir Joshua Reynolds himself, for in his work 'truth is founded upon the same principle as that by which the Historical Painter acquires perfect form' (Fourth Discourse, 1771). Thanks mainly to the Grand Tour, an institution rather strangely neglected by the French, Great Britain is rich in the works of Poussin and Claude, and their example is of the greatest importance for the patronage in Britain of Neoclassicism.
A lesser figure in classical landscape painting was Gaspard Dughet. He is sometimes called Gaspard Poussin, since he married Nicolas Poussin's sister and took his name, probably seeing in it a commodity of value. Baldinucci, writing in 1684, claimed that Dughet was a pupil of Claude, and implied that he learned fresco painting from him. Certainly, his early works in and around Rome are frescoes. He has never been fully studied, but he appears to have imitated both Claude and
his brother-in-law, to the confusion of scholars and collectors. He sometimes seems to have steered a middle course between Poussin and Claude, avoiding the reticence and austerity of the one and enlivening somewhat the tranquillity of the other. His fame in eighteenth-century England was great, and may be gauged by the attitude of Sir Henry Hoare, who in 1758 was searching for a Claude. None was to be had in Italy at any price, so he made do with two Dughets, both of which are still at Stourhead, whose gardens were a realization of a Claudian landscape.
The three artists discussed above, Poussin, Claude and Dughet, we tend to think of as French, but this needs qualification. Claude was from Lorraine, worked in Rome from the 1620s until his death in 1682, and received commissions almost equally from Italians, French and English. Poussin, apart from the abortive visit to Paris in 1640-2, likewise remained in Rome from 1624, but many of his mature works went to bourgeois French patrons. His work was therefore well known in the original in France—much better than Claude's, whose mature works are almost all in England, even today ('and may they always remain with us', wrote Turner in 1811). Gaspard's work followed much the same routes as that of Claude. All were frequently engraved. Claude and Gaspard made their own etchings, but their fame through engravings came mainly in the eighteenth century, in England. Nicolas Poussin, on the other hand, was copied in engravings much earlier, and his works were used to support the academic structure in France in the later seventeenth century. All three artists can justly be seen as members of the Roman school of painting, for it is in Rome that the origins of their styles are to be found, and not in their native lands. About Poussin's importance in France, more will be said later. Claude's early works had frequently been sold to French collectors, and it was therefore his early style which was imitated in France, by artists like Pierre Patel and Sebastien Bourdon. This was continued by a whole series of Claudian artists in the next century, the most noteworthy of whom was Claude Joseph Vernet, the friend of Richard Wilson.
The rise of Paris as the artistic capital of Europe
In the early seventeenth century, Rome was the artistic capital of Europe, and her artists were wooed by foreign connoisseurs to work abroad. Charles I invited Guercino to England in 1625, then Albani, then Tacca. All refused. In France, Richelieu and Mazarin were keen collectors; at his death in 1641, Richelieu probably owned at least ten Poussins, and his cabinet was hung with treasures from the sack of Mantua in 1630, including Mantegna's Parnassus and Perugino's Combat of Love and Chastity. His chateau at the town of Richelieu was adorned with the Michelangelo slaves which are now in the Louvre. At first, he commissioned little from Italian artists, but eventually the success of the Barberini family as patrons must have impressed him. Mazarin, his successor, who was in power from 1642 to 1661, continued his policy of trying to attract artists from Italy. Mazarin was, of course, Italian himself, and had been secretary to members of the Bentivoglio, Sacchetti and Barberini families. He therefore had contacts in Rome but, as Poussin remarked in a letter to Jean Lemaire in 1639, only second-rate artists would go. In 1640 Mazarin sent Freart to Rome to fetch Poussin as well as 'the best painters, sculptors, architects and other famous workers'. Clearly, he wanted Pietro da Cortona and Guercino. Only Duquesnoy agreed to go, but he died before he could do so. With the death of Urban VIII in 1644, the Barberini power came to an end, presaging the exhaustion of Roman political power in the face of the rising power of France.
Mazarin's contacts with Italy, where he had agents, were not popular in France, because he was known to favour Italian artists, architects and musicians in preference to French.* During the Fronde, in 1649, Mazarin, by then the proud owner of the Roman palace of the
*Romanelli, a Barberini artist, and Grimaldi worked on the design and decoration of the Palais Mazarin from 1646.
Bentivoglio, including the Casino with Guido Reni's Aurora, was forced to flee the country until 1653. In spite of his difficulties, he did manage to buy important works from Charles I's collection through the banker Jabach. His successor Colbert, who greatly increased his own art collection by buying much of Mazarin's, also sought to attract Italian artists. Bernini's visit in 1665 must have seemed a farce even at that time, for there was a strong caucus of French artistic opinion against the commission for the completion of the Louvre being awarded to a foreigner (see pp. 185-6). Bernini's insulting remarks about the state of the arts in France must have placed the final seal on a chauvinism which was to serve them for generations.
The rise of France as an artistic power was connected not only with the decline of political power in Rome but also with the decline of patronage which went with it. By the 1670s, Italian books were dedicated to Colbert (Bellori's Vite, 1672) and to Louis XIV (Malvasia's Felsina Pittricef 1678). However, the great building projects of the reign of Louis XIV, unlike those of Francois I, were carried out almost exclusively by Frenchmen working within an unprecedented system of artistic control.
Lebrun and academic classicism in France
From 1661 until his death in 1683, Colbert directed the organization of the arts in France. He controlled building as Surintendant des Batiments (from 1664) and art as Vice-Protector (from 1661) and then Protector (from 1672) of the Academic de Peinture et de Sculpture. In any case, as he was Controller-General of Finance, all projects required his approval before funds could be made available. The 1660s might be called the decade of academies. Although the Academy of Painting and Sculpture had been founded in 1648, its final organization and the rise of its power date from 1664. The Academic des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres dated from 1663, the Academy of Sciences from 1666, and the Academy of Architecture from 1671. The first to be formed (in
1635) was the Academic Francaise, which dealt with literary matters, but subjects such as dance and music were considered equally teachable, and academies governing these activities were formed in 1661 and 1669.
The Academy was an Italian idea, intended to promote painting and sculpture as liberal arts, leaving the mechanical arts to the Guilds.618 The irony was, however, that academicians obtained freedom from the restrictive guild system only at the expense of a new enslavement to the type of art which the Academy judged suitable for the State. Inevitably, given the tenor of French culture at that time, with its strong sense of rationalism and order, that type of art was classicism. It was taught and supported in the Academy by the usual regime of drawing from masters' work, from plaster casts and antique statues, and then from the life. Lectures were given on perspective, anatomy and geometry. The pupils were therefore trained in a pre-ordained style which could fulfil Colbert's desire for uniformity whether in marble, paint, tapestry, the minor arts or architecture. The maintenance of academic priorities was assured by the assignation of two academicians to advise and correct any pupil making his presentation piece. The inevitable goal for students was to work for the Crown, which offered the largest and most lucrative commissions.
Charles Lebrun was the man who effectively controlled the arts in the reign of Louis XIV. He became a pupil of Vouet in 1634, went to Rome late in 1642 with Poussin, and studied with him there.613 His hero in Italian art was Raphael,615 and it was thanks to the help of Seguier (his patron from c. 1630) that scaffolding was erected so that he might study the master's frescoes. He sent back to Seguier copies of Raphael's Madonna of Divine Love and Guido Reni's Aurora in 1643.612 In 1646 he returned to Paris, and was the main founder of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1648, together with Bourdon, La Hyre and Le Sueur. He rose to a position of great power in public life, becoming First Painter to the King in 1664 and Director of the newly-founded Gobelins Factory (which made much more than tapestries) in 1662.
Lebrun's own style is a mixture of references to great Italian masters and to Poussin, whose manner was by now much esteemed.614 'Eclectic' is a term which fits him better than it does the Carracci, and we might say that French art under his guidance became predictably grand and classical even if it lacked the passion of Poussin's austerity. Lebrun's Martyrdom of St John the Evangelist of 1642 in St Nicolas, Paris, is a more painterly version of Poussin's Martyrdom of St Erasmus, while The Brass Serpent (c. 1649, Bristol), like The Family of Darius at the Tent of Alexander (Versailles 1660/1), might be called explications of Poussin's style.617 The ideas of Poussin, most clearly expressed in his description of The Gathering of the Manna of 1638, were converted into doctrine by Lebrun, and taught at the Academy in a series of lectures, later published as Conferences sur VExpression des Passions (1698). As was later the case with Sir Joshua Reynolds, there was a distinct difference in Lebrun between theory and practice, cruelly insisted upon by his enemy Mig-nard. Given the decorative nature of most of Lebrun's work, including painting the vast spaces of Versailles, it is not surprising that Poussin's principles, so suitable to small-scale work, had to be tempered by a certain infusion of the Baroque spirit.619 The result, like Vouet's work earlier in the century, can be called a chastened Baroque.616
The consequences of French artistic hegemony and of the academic system were fundamental for the development of French art in the next two centuries and for the European academic tradition. Even the Academy of St Luke in Rome bowed to the French: Poussin and Vouet had been President, and Lebrun was elected to that post in 1675, three decades after he had returned to France from Italy! The academic system was to remain basically unchanged for two hundred years. The competitive nature of the organization, which awarded prizes and medals, encouraged a conformist attitude on the part of those who aimed for the best prize of all, the Prix de Rome. This four-year scholarship was for further training at the French Academy in Rome, founded in 1666 to provide contact for French
Rapture, early nineteenth century English stipple engraving. The tradition of such engravings goes back to Lebrun.
artists at the very centre of antique and Renaissance art. A successful student could expect State commissions. What is more, the Academy began in 1667 (although irregularly at first) to hold exhibitions of work by Academicians. These developed into regular Salons, the monopolistic nature of which again assured a certain conformity to the judges' conception of good art, as well as a degree of financial success for those artists willing to obey.
The Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns
The organization of the Academy was not as tightly exclusive throughout its whole career as it had been under Lebrun. The period of the Rococo, which coincided with a weakening of financial aid to the academic institutions and also with a decline in the number of commissions in painting, sculpture and architecture, saw a relative neglect of the stringent classicism of the later seventeenth century. More important for the complexion of the arts at the end of the seventeenth century and during the first four decades of the eighteenth was the new scepticism of some critics and
scholars toward the relative achievements of Antiquity and modern times. Close study in several disciplines, such as architecture, poetry, sculpture and the sciences, convinced some commentators that the Ancients had long since been overtaken by the Moderns. Henceforth, they declared, there was no longer any need to refer continually to that established standard of excellence. Instead, the modern age should forge ahead with new and different criteria which better suited modern life. This, the so-called Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns, was no short-lived squabble between narrow-minded and unimaginative men, but a debate which, after its first official airing in the Academy in 1671, continued for more than a century.
Viewed in a broader perspective, the Quarrel provided the first crack in the structure of classicism, because the proclaimed self-sufficiency of the Moderns undermined classical supremacy and sapped its foundations in academic instruction. A series of non-classical influences were introduced into French art from the Flemings to the painterly Venetians. Significantly, it was at the end of the century that Rubens's Medici Cycle in the Luxembourg began to be looked at with more than the indifference that it had previously engendered. Indeed, the two sides in the Quarrel over painting were called Poussinistes and Rubenistes; and in 1699 the principal Rub-eniste, or Modern, Roger de Piles,624'625 was elected to honorary membership of the Academy. Wider sources meant, for the Academicians, a fogging of the traditional hierarchy of the genres. Landscape, still life, domestic scenes and fetes galantes became more popular.622 History painting declined, and with it the enthusiasm for training in the classical tradition in Rome.621
It was this state of affairs, with colore triumphant over disegno,620'623 that the reforms of Lenormant de Tournehem in 1745/51 were to correct. The principles which he applied represented little more than a re-application of the academic standards of the time of Lebrun and, equally, a rallying cry to the great traditions of French art as seen in the achievement of the Grand Siecle (pp. 204-5, below).