V. THE LIFE OF ART

1. Sculpture

The King had a fine taste in art; so did the lords and ladies of his court, and the millionaires who were now itching to control the state. It was an event in French history when the Sèvres factories, which Mme. de Pompadour had established, began in 1769 to produce hard-paste porcelain; and though the Germans at Dresden and Meissen had done this sixty years earlier, the Sèvres products soon gained a European market. Great artists like Boucher, Caffieri, Pajou, Pigalle, Falconet, and Clodion were not above making designs for Sèvres porcelain. Meanwhile faïence and soft-paste porcelain of exquisite design continued to come from the potters of Sèvres, St.-Cloud, Chantilly, Vincennes . . .

Potters, metalworkers, cabinetmakers, and tapestry weavers combined their resources to adorn the rooms of royalty, nobility, and financiers. Clocks, like that which Boizot designed and Gouthière cast in bronze,40 were a characteristic ornament of this age. Pierre Gouthière and Jacques Caffieri excelled in “ormolu”—literally, “ground gold,” actually an alloy composed chiefly of copper and zinc, carved and chased and inlaid into furniture. The master cabinetmakers formed a proud and powerful guild, whose members were required to stamp their work with their names as an emblem of responsibility. The best of them in France came from Germany: Jean-François Oeben and his pupil Jean-Henri Riesener; these two joined their skills in making for Louis XV (1769) a magnificent “Bureau du Roi,” a rococo orgy of design, carving, inlay, and gilt, for which the King paid 63,000 livres. It was enjoyed by Napoleons I and III, and was surrendered to the Louvre in 1870. It is now valued at £ 50,00ο.41

In this age, which set such store by tactile values, sculpture was esteemed at almost its classic estimate, for its essence was form, and France was learning that form, not color, is the soul of art. Here again women outshone the gods; not in the natural imperfections of reality, but in the ideal shapes and drapery that sensitive sculptors could assemble and conceive. Sculpture embellished not only palaces and churches but gardens and public parks; so the statues in the Jardins des Tuileries were among the most popular figures in Paris; and Bordeaux, Nancy, Rennes, and Reims emulated Paris in terra cotta, marble, and bronze.

Guillaume Coustou II (only one year younger than the reign) now produced his finest work. In 1764 Frederick the Great commissioned him to make statues of Venus and Mars; in 1769 Coustou sent them to Potsdam for the Palace of Sanssouci. Also in 1769 he began the stately tomb of the Dauphin and the Dauphine (parents of Louis XVI) for the cathedral of Sens; on this he labored till his death (1777). In his last decades he saw the rise of as brilliant a quartet of sculptors as France has ever known: Pigalle, Falconet, Caffieri, and Pajou.

Failing to win the grand prix that paid for an art education in Rome, Pigalle went there at his own expense, helped by Coustou. Returning to Paris, he won admission to the Académie des Beaux-Arts with his first chef-d’oeuvre, Mercure Attachânt Ses Talonnières {Mercury Attaching His Heelpieces). Seeing it, the old sculptor Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne cried out, “Je voudrais l’avoir fait!” (I wish I had done that!) Louis XV liked it, too, and sent it to his ally, Frederick II, in 1749. Somehow it found its way back to the Louvre, where we may contemplate the remarkable skill with which the young artist suggested the impatience of the Olympian herald to be up and off. Mme. de Pompadour found Pigalle’s work congenial, and gave him many commissions. He made a bust of her, which is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and when her amour with the King subsided into friendship he carved her likeness as Déesse de l’Amitié (1753).42 He made a statue of Louis as plain Citoyen for the Place Royale at Reims, and finished Bouchardon’s Louis XV for what is now the Place de la Concorde. He portrayed Diderot in bronze, as a man torn by conflicting philosophies. But he let himself go histrionic in the tomb that he carved for the remains of the Maréchal de Saxe in the Church of St. Thomas at Strasbourg—the amorous warrior striding to death as to a victory.

The most talked-of statue of this period was that which the intelligentsia of Europe chose Pigalle to make of Voltaire. Mme. Necker suggested it at one of her soirees on April 17, 1770. All of her seventeen guests (who included d’Alembert, Morellet, Ray nal, Grimm, and Marmontel) welcomed the proposal, and the public was invited to subscribe to the cost. Some objections were raised, for it was unusual to raise statues to any living persons except royalty, and none had been made of Corneille or Racine before their death. Nevertheless subscriptions poured in, even from half the sovereigns of Europe; Frederick sent in two hundred louis d’or to commemorate his old friend and foe. Rousseau asked permission to contribute; Voltaire objected; d’Alembert persuaded him to consent. Fréron, Palissot, and other anti-philosophes offered their tribute, but were refused; the philosophes proved slower than their opponents to forgive. As for Voltaire himself, he warned Mme. Necker that he was no fit subject for statuary:

I am seventy-six years old, and I have scarcely recovered from a severe malady which treated my body and soul very badly for six weeks. M. Pigalle, it is said, is to come and model my countenance. But, madame, it would be necessary that I should have a countenance, and the place where it was can hardly be divined. My eyes are sunk three inches; my cheeks are of old parchment, badly stuck upon bones that hold to nothing; the few teeth I had are all gone. What I say to you is not coquetry; it is pure truth. A poor man has never been sculptured in that condition; M. Pigalle would believe that he was being played with; and for my part I should have so much self-love that I should never dare to appear in his presence. I would advise him, if he wished to put an end to this strange affair, to take his model, with slight alterations, from the little figure in Sèvres porcelain.43

Pigalle doubled the problem by proposing to make a nude statue of the famous imp, but he was dissuaded. He went to Ferney in June, and for eight days the bashful philosopher sat for him, on and off, but so restlessly—dictating to a secretary, making grimaces, blowing peas at various objects in the room—that the sculptor came close to a nervous breakdown.44 Returning to Paris with a mold, he labored on the task for two months, and revealed the result on September 4; half the elite came to marvel and smile. It is now in the vestibule of the library of the Institute.

Pigalle’s only rival for sculptural primacy in this period was Étienne-Maurice Falconet, and Diderot tells us a pretty story of their enmity. Two years younger, Falconet avoided direct competition at first by making figures in porcelain. Especially delightful was the Pygmalion which Duru modeled after Falconet’s design, showing the Greek sculptor’s astonishment as his marble Galatea bends to speak to him. That figure could symbolize a half-forgotten truth: unless a work of art speaks to us it is not art. When Pigalle was shown this bit of clay transformed into enduring significance, he uttered the traditional compliment of one great artist to another: “I wish I had done that!” But Falconet, seeing Pigalle’s Louis XV Citoyen, did not entirely return the compliment. “Monsieur Pigalle,” he said, “I do not like you, and I believe you return my feeling. I have seen your Citoyen. It was possible to create such a work, since you have done it; but I do not believe that art can go one line beyond it. This does not prevent us from remaining as we were.”45

Falconet was soured by forty years of trials before full recognition came to him. He retired into himself, lived in Diogenic simplicity, quarreled readily, belittled his own work, and expressed contempt for fame, living or posthumous. Fame came at last with hisBaigneuse (1757)—a pretty bather trying the water’s temperature with her toes.46 Now Mme. de Pompadour warmed to him; for her he carved Amour Menaçant— Cupid threatening to loose an arrow infected with love. For a time Falconet became the Boucher and Fragonard of sculpture, turning out such charming titillations as Venus and Cupid, Venus Disrobing before Paris … He excelled in designing candelabra, small fountains, and figurines; he carved in marble the Clock of the Three Graces now in the Louvre; and he pleased Pompadour by representing her as Music.47 In 1766 he accepted Catherine II’s invitation to Russia; in St. Petersburg he carved his masterpiece, Peter the Great on a prancing horse. He shared with Diderot and Grimm the favor of the Empress; labored for her through twelve years; quarreled with her and her ministers; left in a huff and returned to Paris. In 1783 he suffered a paralytic stroke; during the eight years that remained to him he kept to his room, confirmed in his gloomy view of life.

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FIG. 1—MAURICE-QUENTIN DE LA TOUR: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, pastel portrait (1752). Musée de Saint-Quentin, France.

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FIG. 2—CARMONTELLE (1717-1806): Melchior von Grimm. Musée Condé, Chantilly, France. (Photo Giraudon.)

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FIG. 3—CARMONTELLE: Mme. d’Épinay. Musée Condé, Chantilly. (Photo Giraudon.)

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FIG. 4—LOUIS TOCQUÉ (1696-1772): Count Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz.National Library, Vienna.

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FIG. 5—ENGRAVING AFTER A PAINTING BY F. BOCK: Frederick the Great in Old Age.(Bettmann Archive.)

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FIG. 6-AUGUSTIN PAJOU: Mme. du Barry, marble bust. Louvre, Paris.

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F1G. 7—J.-F. OEBEN AND J.-H. RIESENER: Bureau du Roi (1769). Louvre, Paris.

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FIG. 8-LOUIS-MICHEL VANLOO: Louis XV in Later Life.The Mansell Collection, London.

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FIG. 9—Sèvres soft-paste porcelain, 1784. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, gift of R. Thornton Wilson, 1950, in memory of Florence Ellsworth Wilson.

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FIG. 10—JACQUES-ANGE GABRIEL: The Petit Trianon (1762-68). French Embassy Press and Information Division.

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FIG. 11—JEAN-JACQUES CAFFIERI: Jean de Jean de Rotrou. Comédie Française, Paris. Reproduced from Max Osborn, Die Kunst des Rokoko (Berlin: Propyläen Verlag, 1929).

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FIG. 12—JACQUES-GERMAIN SOUFFLOT: The Panthéon, Paris (1757-90). French Embassy Press and Information Division.

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FIG. 13—AFTER A PAINTING BY JEAN MARC NATTIER: Mme. Geoffrin.

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FIG. 14—JEAN-HONORÉ FRAGONARD: Self-Portrait.Louvre, Paris.

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FIG. 15—CARMONTELLE: Mme. du Deffand Visited by Mme. de Choiseul.From a drawing by G. P. Harding.

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FIG. 16—JEAN-BAPTISTE GREUZE: Sophie Arnould. Reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London.

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FIG. 17—GREUZE: The Broken Pitcher (La Cruche Cassée).Louvre, Paris.

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FIG. 18—FRAGONARD: The Swing. Reproduced by permission of the Trustees of the Wallace Collection, London.

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FIG. 19—ANTONIO CANALETTO: View of St. Mark’s, Venice. Collection of Baron von Thyssen, Castagnola-Lugano. (Foto Brunel, Lugano.)

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FIG. 20—GIAMBATTISTA TIEPOLO: The Banquet of Cleopatra. Palazzo Labia, Venice. (Fotografo Rossi, Venice.)

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FIG. 21—TIEPOLO: Apollo Bringing the Bride to Barbarossa. The Residenz, Würzburg. (Photo-Verlag Gundermann.)

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FIG. 22—ROSALBA CARRIERA: Self-Portrait. Windsor Castle. Copyright reserved.

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FIG. 23—GIOVANNI BATTISTA PIAZZETTA: Rebecca at the Well.Brera, Milan.

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FIG. 24—A. LONGHI: Carlo Goldoni.Museo Correr, Venice.

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FIG. 25—The Royal Palace, Madrid.Spanish National Tourist Office.

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FIG. 26—Façade of the Church of Santiago de Compostela, Spain (1738). Spanish National Tourist Office.

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FIG. 27—FRANCISCO JOSÉ DE GOYA Y LUCIENTES: Charles IV and His Family. Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 28—GOYA: Charles III. Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 29—GOYA: The Duchess of Alba.Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 30—GOYA: Self-Portrait. Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 31—GOYA: The Tribunal of the lnquisition.Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 32—GOYA: La Maja Desnuda.Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 33—GOYA: La Maja Vestida.Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 34—GOYA: Saturn Devouring His Offspring.Prado, Madrid.

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FIG. 35—FRANCESCO GUARDI: Concert in the Sala dei Filarmonici.Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

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FIG. 36—ANTON RAPHAEL MENGS: Parnassus.Villa Albani, Rome.

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FIG. 37—JEAN-ANTOINE HOUDON: Gluck.Louvre, Paris.

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FIG 38—XAVIER-PASCAL FABRE (1766-1837): Vittorio Alfieri.Uffizi, Florence.

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FIG. 39—FRANZ VON ZAUNER (1746-1822): Emperor Joseph II.Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

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FIG. 40—FABRE: The Countess of Albany.Uffizi, Florence.

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FIG. 41—JOHN HOPPNER (1758-1810): Joseph Haydn.Windsor Castle. Copyright reserved.

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FIG. 42—Esterházy Castle at Eisenstadt. Austrian Information Service.

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FIG. 43—JOHANN NEPOMUK DELLA CROCE: The Mozart Family. Original in Mozart’s dwelling house in Salzburg, Austria.

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FIG. 44—ÉTIENNE-MAURICE FALCONET: Statue of Peter the Great, Leningrad (1782).

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FIG. 45—ARTIST UNKNOWN: Czar Peter III.

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FIG. 46—ENGRAVING BY G. SKORODUMOV AFTER A PAINTING BY F. S. ROKOTOV: Catherine the Great. State Historical Museum, MOSCOW. (Sovfoto.)

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FIG. 47—F. S. ROKOTOV: Grigori Orlov.

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FIG. 48—IVAN STAROV: Potemkin’s Taurida Palace (1783), Leningrad. (Sovfoto.)

Jean-Jacques Caffieri could be more cheerful, having been nursed into success by his father, Jacques, one of the leading bronze workers of the preceding age. He gained early entry into the Academy of Fine Arts with his figure of an old man, clad only in whiskers, and entitled Le Fleuve (The River). The Comédie-Française engaged him to adorn its halls with busts of the French dramatists; he delighted everyone with his idealized representations of Corneille, Molière, and Voltaire. His masterpiece is a bust of the playwright Jean de Rotrou, which he made from an engraving preserved in the family; it is d’Artagnan in middle age—flowing hair, flashing eyes, pugnacious nose, bristling mustache; this is one of the finest busts in sculpture’s history. Jealous of the Comédie, the Company of the Opéra persuaded Caffieri to portray their heroes, too; he made busts of Lully and Rameau, but these have disappeared. A lovely Portrait of a Young Girl remains,48 perhaps a member of the Opéra ballet, a charming reconciliation of modest eyes and proud breasts.

Mme. du Barry’s favorite sculptor was Augustin Pajou. After the customary novitiate in Rome, he achieved early prosperity with royal commissions and orders from abroad. He made a dozen portraits of the new mistress; the one in the Louvre has a classic costume wondrously carved. At the King’s request he portrayed Buffon for the Jardin du Roi;49 then he commemorated Descartes, Turenne, Pascal, and Bossuet. His finest work survives in the reliefs with which he adorned the lower tier of boxes at the opera house in Versailles. He lived long enough to work for Louis XVI, to mourn that King’s execution, and to watch Napoleon bestride the Continent.

2. Architecture

Was there any memorable building in the France of these eighteen years? Not much. The churches were already too spacious for the remaining faithful, and the palaces were arousing the jealousy of the famine-stricken multitude. The renewal of interest in Roman architecture by the excavations at Herculaneum (1738) and Pompeii (1748-63) was nourishing a revival of classical styles—lines of simplicity and dignity, façade of columns and pediment, and sometimes a spacious dome. Jacques-François Blondel, professor at the Académie Royale de l’Architecture, was all for such classic forms, and his successor, Julien-David Le Roy, issued in 1754 a treatise, Les plus Beaux Monuments de la Grèce, which accelerated the intoxication. Anne-Claude de Tubières, Comte de Caylus, after much traveling in Italy, Greece, and the Near East, published (1752-67) seven epochal volumes, Recueil d’antiquités égyptiennes, étrusques, grècques, romaines, et gauloises, carefully illustrated from some of his own drawings; the whole world of French art, even of French manners, was powerfully influenced by this book toward rejecting the irregularities of baroque and the frivolities of rococo to seek again the purer lines of classic styles. So in 1763 Grimm told his clientele:

For some years past we have been making keen inquiry for antique monuments and forms. The predilection for them has become so universal that now everything is to be done à la grècque, from architecture to millinery; our ladies have their hair dressed à la grècque, our fine gentlemen would think themselves dishonored if they did not hold in their hands a little box à la grècque.50

And Diderot, the apostle of bourgeois romanticism, suddenly surrendered to the new wave (1765) on reading a translation of Winckelmann’s History of Ancient Art. “It seems to me,” he wrote, “that we must study the antique in order that we may learn to see nature.”51 That sentence itself was a revolution.

In 1757 Jacques-Germain Soufflot began to build the Church of Ste.-Geneviève, which Louis XV, when ill at Metz, had vowed to raise to the patron saint of Paris as soon as he should recover. The King himself laid the first stone, and the erection of this edifice “became the great architectural event of the second half of the eighteenth century” in France.52 Soufflot designed it in the form of a Roman temple, with a portico of sculptured pediment and Corinthian columns, and four wings meeting in a Greek cross in a central choir under a triple dome. Controversy marked almost every stage of the construction. Harassed and disheartened by attacks upon his design, Soufflot died in 1780, leaving the structure incomplete. The four piers designed by him to support the dome proved too weak, and Charles-Étienne Cuvillier replaced them by a much more beautiful circle of columns. This chef-d’oeuvre of the classical revival was secularized by the Revolution; it was renamed the Panthéon in memory of Marcus Agrippa’s masterpiece at Rome, as the burial place “of all the gods” of the new order, even of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Marat; it ceased to be a Christian church, and became a pagan tomb; it symbolized, in its architecture and its fate, the progressive triumph of paganism over Christianity.

The classic style won another victory in the first Church of the Madeleine (Magdalen), begun in 1764; colonnades and flat-ceiled aisles took the place of arches and vaults, and a dome covered the choir. Napoleon swept it away unfinished, to make way for the still more classical Madeleine that occupies the site today.

This reversion to grave classic modes, after the rebellious exuberance of baroque under Louis XIV and the playful elegance of rococo under Louis XV, was part of the transition, under Louis XV himself, to le style Louis Seize— the style of building, furniture, and ornament that was to take the name of the guillotined King. Art disciplined itself from incalculable curves and superfluous decoration to the sober simplicity of straight lines and structural form. It was as if the decline of Christianity had taken the heart out of the Gothic exaltation, and had left art no recourse but to a Stoic reserve shorn of gods and clinging to the earth.

The greatest of French builders in this generation was Jacques-Ange Gabriel, whose ancestry had put architecture in his blood. Commissioned by Louis XV (1752) to rebuild an old castle at Compiègne, he graced the entrance with a Greek portico of Doric columns, dentil cornice, and unem-bellished balustrade. He followed similar designs in rebuilding the right wing of the palace at Versailles (1770). To the same palace he added (1753-70) an exquisite opera house. The flushed columns, the delicately carved cornices and handsome balustrade, make this one of the loveliest interiors in France. Tired of court publicity and formality, Louis appealed to Gabriel to build him a petite maison hidden in the woods; Gabriel chose a site a mile from the palace, and raised there in French Renaissance style the Petit Trianon (1762-68). Here Pompadour had hoped to enjoy privacy and ease; Du Barry romped there for a while; then Marie Antoinette made it her favorite retreat as the royal shepherdess in those happy, careless days when the sun still shone upon Versailles.

3. Greuze

In the intimacy of aristocratic homes paintings were a favored decoration. Statues were cold and colorless; they pleased the eye and mind rather than heart and soul; paintings could reflect the flux of moods and tastes, and they could transport the spirit to open spaces, shady trees, or distant scenes while the body remained immured. So Claude-Joseph Vernet pictured so many ships riding in French waters that Louis XV, in a famous quip, thought it unnecessary to build more. The French government hired Vernet to visit the ports and make paintings of the vessels anchored there; he did, and made France proud of her fleets. Diderot secured one of Vernet’s seascapes and landscapes, and prized it so highly that he prayed to an extemporized God: “I abandon all to thee, take all back; yes, all, except Vernet!”53—And there was Hubert Robert, who was called “Robert des Ruines” because he equipped nearly all his landscapes with Roman ruins, like The Pont du Gard at Nîmes. Nevertheless, Mme. Vigée-Lebrun assures us, he was “very much in demand” in Paris salons, though he was ruinously fond of eating.54—And there was François-Hubert Drouais, who preserved for us, with sensitive portraiture, the loveliness of the Marquise de Sorau and the innocent childhood of the future Charles X and his sister Marie-Adélaïde.55 But let us look more intimately at Greuze and Fragonard.

Jean-Baptiste Greuze was the Rousseau and Diderot of the brush, who rosied his colors with sentiment, and made himself the Apelles of the bourgeoisie. Sentiment is happier than sophistication, and not as shallow; we must forgive Greuze for seeing and painting the pleasant sides of life, for loving the gay gambol of children, the fragile innocence of pretty girls, and the modest contentment of middle-class homes. Without Greuze and Chardin we might have supposed that all France was decadent and corrupt, that Du Barry was its model, that Venus and Mars were its only gods. But it was the nobles who were decadent, it was Louis XV who was corrupt; and it was the aristocracy and the monarchy that fell in the Revolution. The masses of the people—excepting the rural and city mobs—retained the virtues that save a nation, and Greuze portrayed them. Diderot hailed Chardin and Greuze, not Boucher and Fragonard, as the voice and health of France.

We have the usual stories about the artist’s youth: he wanted to draw; his father forbade it as a cover for idleness; the boy crept from his bed at night to draw pictures; the father, coming upon one, relented, and sent him to study with an artist in Lyons. Jean-Baptiste was not long satisfied with what he could learn there; he made his way to Paris. He worked for some time in the poverty that tests young talent. He had good reason later to show the better side of men, for, like most of us, he found much kindness mingled with the busy inattentiveness of the world. About 1754 an art collector, La Live de Jully, bought Greuze’s Père de Famille (Diderot used the same title for his second play, 1758), and encouraged him to persevere. The art instructor of the royal family, seeing a picture by Greuze, recommended him as a candidate for the Academy. But every candidate was expected to present, within six months, a painting of some scene in history. Such “histories” were not in Greuze’s line; he let his candidacy drop, and accepted the offer of Abbé Gougenot to finance his trip to Rome (1755).

He was now thirty, and must long since have felt the magnetism of woman; is not half of art a by-product of that irresistible force? He experienced it in Rome to the point of agony. He was engaged to teach drawing to Laetitia, daughter of a duke; she was in the full bloom of youth; what could he do but fall in love? And he was handsome, with curly hair and cheerful, ruddy face; Fragonard, his fellow student, called him an “amorous cherub”; see in the Louvre his self-portrait in old age, and imagine him at thirty; inevitably Laetitia, with blood that could not count ducats, played Héloïse to his Abélard, surgery omitted. He took no advantage of her. She proposed marriage; he longed for her, but realized that the marriage of a poor artist with the heiress of a duke would soon be a tragedy for the girl; and, uncertain of his self-control, he resolved not to see her again. She fell ill; he visited and comforted her, but returned to his resolution. We are assured that for three months he lay in bed with fever and frequent delirium.56 In 1756 he returned to Paris, quite untouched by classic art or the neoclassical revival.

“A few days after my arrival in Paris,” he tells us, “I happened to be passing, I know not by what fatality, down the Rue Saint-Jacques, when I noticed Mlle. Babuti at her counter.”57 Gabrielle Babuti worked in a bookshop; Diderot had bought her books and “loved her well” (his words) some years before. Now (1756-57) she was “over thirty years old” (Greuze’s account), and feared spinsterhood; she found Jean-Baptiste not affluent but delectable; after he had paid her a few visits she asked him, “Monsieur Greuze, would you marry me if I were willing?” Like any decent Frenchman he replied, “Mademoiselle, would not any man be too happy to spend his life with such a charming woman as you are?” He thought no more of it, but she let the neighborhood understand that he was her betrothed. He had not the heart to contradict her; he married her, and for seven years they were reasonably happy. She had a luscious beauty, and willingly served as his model in many poses that revealed nothing but suggested all. She gave him in those years three children; two survived and inspired his art.

The world knows him for his pictures of children. We must not expect here the supreme excellence of Velázquez’ Don Balthasar Carlos58 or Vandyck’s James II as a Boy;59 and we are sometimes repelled, in Greuze’s girls, by an exaggerated and weepy sentiment, as in the Berlin Portrait of a Maiden; but why should we reject the curls and rosy cheeks and wistful-trustful eyes of Innocence,60 or the unrouged simplicity of A Young Peasant Girl?61 There is no pose in the Boy with a Lesson Book;62 it is any lad weary of a task seemingly irrelevant to life. Of 133 extant pictures by Greuze, thirty-six are of girls. Johann Georg Wille, a German engraver living in Paris, bought as many as he could of these childhood idealizations, and “held them more precious than the finest paintings of the period.”63 Greuze repaid the compliment by portraying the unprepossessing Saxon as an exemplar of virility. As these girls grow up in Greuze’s art they become more artificial; La Laitière (The Milkmaid)64 is all dressed up as if for a ball, and the lass of La Cruche Cassée (The Broken Pitcher)65 has no excuse (except beauty) for exposing a nipple on her way from the well. But in a portrait of Sophie Arnould66 the feathered hat, saucy pose, and carmine lips seem all in character.

Greuze was a minor Chardin touched with Boucher; a man honestly admiring virtue and middle-class life, but dressing it up, now and then, with a sensuous lure that Chardin would have shunned. When Greuze forgot the flesh of his women he could achieve an idyl of bourgeois domesticity, as in The Village Bride (L’Accordée de Village) 67 Exhibited in the final week of the 1761 Salon, it won the highest honors, and became the talk of Paris. Diderot extolled it for its émotion douce; and the Théâtre des Italians paid it the unprecedented compliment of representing it in a “living picture” on the stage. Connoisseurs found flaws in it—ill-managed light, discordant colors, imperfect drawing and execution; aristocrats laughed at its sentiment; but the Paris public, which had swilled adultery to the dregs, and was in this very year weeping over Rousseau’s Julie, was in a mood to respect the moral admonitions that were almost audibly coming from the father of the bride to the promised spouse. Every middle-class matron knew the feelings of the mother as she surrendered her daughter to the trials and hazards of marriage; and any peasant would have felt at home in that cottage where a hen and her chicks pecked for corn on the floor, or drank in safety from the bowl at the father’s feet. The Marquis de Marigny bought the picture at once, and the King later paid 16,650 livres for it to prevent its being sold abroad. It is now in one of the less-frequented rooms of the Louvre, spoiled by the deterioration of its too superficial colors, and passed by in the reaction of realism and cynicism against optimistic sentiment.

Nearly all the artists of Paris felt that Greuze had lowered art by making it preach through romances instead of revealing truth and character with penetration and impartiality. Diderot defended him as “the first of our artists who gave morals to art, and arranged his pictures to tell a story.”68 He mounted to exclamation points over the tender tragedies that Greuze depicted; “Délicieux! Délicieux! ” he cried over The Young Girl Weeping for Her Dead Bird. He himself was campaigning for middle-class subjects and feelings in drama; he saw in Greuze a precious ally, and praised him even above Chardin. Greuze took him too seriously; he stereotyped himself as the apostle of virtue and sentiment; he sent to Paris journals long expositions of the moral lessons in the pictures that he was producing. Finally he wore out his welcome with the art public, even while sentiment was the rising mood of the age.

During all the twelve years since the acceptance of his candidacy for the Academy, he had neglected to submit to it the historical picture required for full membership. In the judgment of the Academy a genre picture, describing domestic or everyday life, called for a less mature talent than the imaginative reconstruction and competent representation of some historical scene; hence it accepted genre painters only as agréés (literally, agreeable), but not yet eligible to academic honors or professorships. In 1767 the Academy announced that Greuze’s pictures would no longer be exhibited in the biennial Salon until he had submitted an historical picture.

On July 29, 1769, Greuze sent in a painting of Septimius Severus reproaching his son Caracalla for attempting to assassinate him.69 The picture was shown to the members of the Academy. After an hour the director informed him that he had been accepted, but added, “Monsieur, you have been received into the Academy, but it is as a painter of genre. The Academy took into consideration the excellence of your previous productions; it has closed its eyes to the present work, which is unworthy both of it and of you.”70Shocked, Greuze defended his picture, but one of the members demonstrated the faults in the drawing. Greuze appealed to the public in a letter to the Avant-Courier (September 25, 1769); his explanation failed to impress connoisseurs, and even Diderot admitted the justice of the criticism.

Diderot suggested that the inadequacy of the painting was due to the disturbance of the artist’s mind by the collapse of his marriage. He charged that Gabrielle Babuti had degenerated into an arrogant vixen, exhausting her husband’s funds by her extravagance, wearing him down with vexations, and destroying his pride by her repeated infidelities.71 Greuze himself submitted to the commissioner of police (December 11, 1785) a deposition charging his wife with persistently receiving her lovers into his home and over his protests. In a later letter he accused her of stealing large sums from him, and of attempting to “batter in my head with a chamber pot.”72 He secured a legal separation, took their two daughters with him, and left her half his fortune and an annuity of 1,350 livres.

His character deteriorated under these blows. He became resentful of any criticism, and lost all modesty in the exaltation of his pictures. The public, however, agreed with his self-estimate; it flocked to his studio, and made him rich with purchases of his paintings, and of the prints derived from them. He invested his earnings in government bonds—assignats; the Revolution left these bonds worthless, and Greuze found himself a poor man, while the absorption of France in class violence, political ecstasy, and the neoclassical reaction destroyed the market for his pictures of domestic felicity and peace. The new government rescued him moderately (1792) with a pension of 1,537 livres, but he soon outran this, and appealed for an advance. A woman of the streets, named Antigone, came to live with him and care for his failing health. When he died (1805) nearly all the world had forgotten him, and only two artists attended his corpse to the grave.

4. Fragonard

Jean-Honoré Fragonard survived better than Greuze the trials of success, for he surpassed Greuze in both sensuality and technique. His elegant art is the final exaltation of the woman of eighteenth-century France.

Born at Grasse in Provence (1732), he carried the perfumes and flowers of his birthplace into his art, along with the romantic love of the troubadours; to which he added Parisian gaiety and philosophic doubt. Brought to Paris at fifteen, he asked Boucher to take him as a pupil; Boucher told him, as kindly as possible, that he took only advanced students. Fragonard went to work for Chardin. In his off hours he copied masterpieces wherever he could find them. Some of these copies he showed to Boucher, who, much impressed, now accepted him as a pupil, and enlisted his youthful imagination in making designs for tapestry. The lad improved so rapidly that Boucher urged him to compete for the Prix de Rome, Fragonard submitted an historical painting—JeroboamSacrificing to the Idols.73 It was a remarkable product for a boy of twenty—magnificent Roman columns, flowing robes, old heads bearded, turbaned, or bald; Fragonard had learned so soon that there is more character in an old face than in one that has not yet been carved by sensation and response. The Academy awarded him the prize; he studied three years in the studio of Carle Vanloo, and then (1765) went off in ecstasy to Rome.

At first he was discouraged by the masterpieces abounding there.

The energy of Michelangelo terrified me—I experienced an emotion which I could not express; and on seeing the beauties of Raphael I was moved to tears, and the pencil fell from my hands. In the end I remained in a state of indolence which I lacked the strength to overcome. Then I concentrated upon the study of such painters as permitted me to hope that I might some day rival them. It was thus that Baroccio, Pietro da Cortona, Solimena, and Tiepolo attracted and held my attention.74

Instead of copying Old Masters he drew plans or sketches of palaces, arches, churches, landscapes, vineyards, anything; for already he had acquired that skill with the pencil which was to make him one of the most facile and finished draftsmen of an age rich in that basic art.* Few drawings catch more of nature’s life than the green trees of the Villa d’Este as seen by Fragonard at Tivoli.75

On his return to Paris he set himself to satisfy the Academy with a “history” as the indispensable morceau de réception. Like Greuze he found historical subjects uncongenial; present Paris with its entrancing women drew him more powerfully than the past; the influence of Boucher was still warm in his mood. After much delay he submitted Le Grand Prêtre Corésus Se Sacrifie pour Sauver Callirhoé; let us not stop to inquire who this priest and maiden were; the Academy found them vivid and well drawn, and granted Fragonard associate membership. Diderot raved—“I do not believe that any other artist in Europe could have conceived t as painting”;76 Louis XV bought it as a design for tapestry. But Fragonard was finished with historical subjects; indeed, after 1767 he refused to exhibit in the Salon; he worked almost wholly on private commissions, where he could indulge his own taste, freed from academic restraints. Long before the French romantics he rebelled against the “brown sauce” of the Renaissance, and moved out gaily into less charted seas.

Not quite uncharted. Watteau had opened the way with his radiantly robed women starting out with easy conscience for Venus’ isle; Boucher had followed with romping senses; Greuze had mated sensuality and innocence. Fragonard combined them all: delicate raiment blowing in the breeze; dainty tarts offering unimpeded sweets; stately ladies hypnotizing men with the rustle of a dress or the fragility of a blouse, or with some rhythmic grace or melting smile; and children plump and rosy and tousle-haired, who had never yet discovered death. In his drawings and miniatures he pictured almost every aspect of child life—babes caressing their mothers, girls fondling their dolls, boys mounting a donkey or playing with a dog . . .

Fragonard’s Gallic amorousness responded congenially to the requests of aging courtiers and tired mistresses for pictures celebrating and stirring the flesh. He ranged through the pagan mythology for goddesses whose rosy bodies were immune to time; now it was Venus, not the Virgin, who was raised in triumphant assumption to the skies. He stole half the ritual of religion for the ceremonies of love: The Kiss77 is a prayer, The Vow of Love is a sacred pledge, The Sacrifice of the Rose is the ultimate offering. Among four pictures painted by Fragonard for Mme. du Barry’s château at Louve-ciennes one had a title that might have covered half the artist’s work: L’Amour Qui Embrasse l’Univers (Love That Sets the World on Fire). He fingered the Gerusalemme liberata to find the scene where nymphs flaunted their charms before the chaste Rinaldo. He became the Boucher of the bed, revealing women in half or all their nudity, as in La Dormeuse (The Sleeping Beauty), La Chemise Enlevée (The Blouse Removed), or La Bacchante Endormie.78Then, realizing that nudity can be disillusioning, he returned from revelation to suggestion, and painted his most famous picture, Les Hasards de l’Escarpolette (The Hazards of the Swing);79 the lover gazes in delight at the mysteries of lingerie revealed as his lady swings higher and higher, kicking one slipper with laughing abandon into the air.—Finally, Fragonard could be Greuze, and even Chardin: he pictured modest women, as in L’Étude, La Lecture,80 and Les Baisers Maternels; and inMademoiselle Colombe he discovered that women have souls.

In 1769, aged thirty-seven, he submitted to marriage. When Mlle. Gérard came up from Grasse to study art in Paris, she had only to name her birthplace to win admission to Fragonard’s studio. She was not beautiful, but she was a woman in full bloom; and “Frago” (as he called himself) decided, like Mme. Bovary, that there could not be much more boredom in monogamy than in adultery. He found a new pleasure in working together with her on such pictures as The Child’s First Steps, and joining his signature with hers. When she bore their first child she asked might she bring her fourteen-year-old sister up from Grasse to help her with the infant and the house; he agreed, and for years this ménage lived in precarious peace.

Now he rivaled Greuze in portraying domestic life, and Boucher in conveying the tranquillity of rural scenes. He painted some religious pictures, and made portraits of his friends. He was more constant as a friend than as a lover, remaining always fond of Greuze and Robert and David despite their success. When the Revolution came he dedicated a patriotic picture, La Bonne Mère, to the nation. His savings were mostly annulled by inflation and governmental defaults, but David, favorite artist of the new era, secured his appointment to some minor sinecure. It was about this time that he painted the remarkable self-portrait that hangs in the Louvre: strong and burly head, white hair cropped close, eyes still calm with confidence. The Terror frightened and disgusted him, and he fled to his native Grasse, where he received shelter in the home of his friend Maubert. He decorated the walls with panels collectively known as Roman d’Amour et de la Jeunesse (A Story of Love and Youth). These he had intended for Mme. du Barry, but she, no longer affluent, had refused them; now they are among the treasures of the Frick Gallery in New York.

One summer day, returning hot and perspiring from a walk in Paris, he stopped at a café and ate an ice. He was seized almost immediately by a cerebral congestion, and died with blessed suddenness (August 22, 1806). Grasse raised a pretty monument to him, with a naked urchin at his feet and, behind him, a young woman swirling her skirts in a joyous dance.

An artist must pay a price for symbolizing an age; his fame fades with its passions, and can return only when the pathos of distance ennobles him, or some turn in the tide brings a past mode into present taste. Fragonard prospered because his art, desnudaorvestida, pleased his time, soothing and gracing decay; but the stern code of a Revolution fighting for its life against all the rest of Europe needed other gods than Venus to inspire it, and found them in the stoic heroes of republican Rome. The reign of woman ended, the rule of the warrior returned. Greco-Roman models, redeified by Winc-kelmann, served a new generation of artists, and the neoclassical style swept away baroque and rococo in a tidal wave of ancient forms.

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