Salon du Dessin 2015

Dawn and Night, two pencil drawings on paper produced by Charles Le Brun (1619/1690) before he had even reached the age of twenty, offer a rare glimpse of the interest in mythological and allegorical subjects at an early age by this artist who was to become First Painter to Luis XIV and the undisputed mastermind behind the decoration of Versailles.

These two drawings provide a worthy introduction to the fascinating journey through art devised by Francesca Antonacci and Damiano Lapiccirella for the Salon du Dessin 2015, the spectacular exhibition that every years brings together to the Palais Brongniart in Paris a refined entourage of drawings enthusiasts: dealers, collectors, scholars from all over the world. Stand 18 hosts a careful selection of works on paper from prestigious private collections, starting from Le Brun’s years of youth, to explore the most cosmopolitan aspects of European figurative art from the late 17th century to the early 19th century.

The superlative finesse of Venetian 18th century painting is testified by a small selection of the celebrated drawings by Giandomenico Tiepolo (1727/1804), who over the years developed an increasing interest in graphic work. These drawings mostly represent scenes of centaurs, nymphs, satyrs and fauns, a theme that inspired the artist to produce some of the most original and delicate work on paper of his entire career – there is also a charming caricature of a woman seen from behind.

The stand's most fascinating and bizarre works include a collection of 12 anatomical drawings by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771–1844), one of the greatest exponents of the Neo-Classical style in Rome. The drawings are part of an album, which never left the family's possession, in which Camuccini himself collected and arranged all of his "studies of anatomy from life drawn in my early youth, in other words when I was aged 15, 16, 17". Less well-known than those produced by Canova and Giuseppe Bossi, these studies of flayed bodies drawn by an adolescent artist nevertheless occupy a place of some distinction in the history of anatomical drawing, with their strong plastic approach inspired by the work of Michelangelo and their clear intent to serve for the study of movement.

Also by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771–1844) a splendid Horse Head on paper and a preparatory drawing for his painting of Horatius Cocles commissioned by Manuel Godoy, adviser to King Charles IV of Spain. Unfortunately all traces of this work have been lost, a circumstance that adds significant historical and documentary value to the study's already exquisite aesthetic appeal.

In contrast with the ideals of aesthetic perfection attainted by Neoclassic painting, a verso-recto paper drawn by Théodore Géricault, impetuous protagonist of the romantic movement capable of revolutionizing the strict academic standards of the grand genre. Nonconformist in art as much as in life, Géricault explored the theme of sexuality with just as much ardent curiosity. The recto of the drawing displayed by Antonacci Lapiccirella belongs to the erotic vein of his production, yet to be entirely rediscovered and studied due to the pruderie climate that, for several decades, induced the owners of these oeuvres to keep them hidden. The naked woman languidly lying on the bed is the first known study for the so-called Three Lovers, a painting for a long time totally unknown until its reappearance on the art market in 1992, and now currently displayed at the Getty Museum of Los Angeles. On the verso, is represented a dynamic combat scene: Hercules, one of Géricault’s favourite subjects, meeting Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. The drawing, depicted on both sides between 1816 and 1817 during the Roman sojourn of the artist, will be published on the Catalogue raisonné des dessins inédits et retrouvés de Théodore Géricault, curated by M.Bruno Chenique.

Those not succumbing to the magic of those veritable time machines embodied by the veduta painting, will appreciate the charming Roman view gouache signed in 1847 by Ippolito Caffi (1809 – 1866). Caffi, bright refreshing eye of the 18th century veduta painting vocabulary, captures on paper a fleeting moment in the extraordinary days of the Carnival in Rome. The painter was unquestionably attracted to this carnival theme – at the time its fame outshone even that of its counterpart in Venice – which he did not repeat only due its popularity among its admirers, but most of all because it was fitting for his peculiar research on light and colour. 

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