Théodore GÉRICAULT (Rouen, 1791 - 1824, Paris)

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Théodore GÉRICAULT (Rouen, 1791 - 1824, Paris)
Narcissus Reflecting in the Water or Chloe's Bath Oil on paper mounted on canvas About 1811 - 1812 20 x 16, 1 cm PROVENANCE Bearing on the back, on the stretcher, the red wax stamp of the collection Pierre Dubaut and an old annotation in ink, on the edging paper: "Géricault/"Narcissus Mirroring" (sketch of play[ness])"; Collection Pierre-Olivier Dubaut (1886 - 1968); then by descent collection Maxime Dubaut (1920 - 1991). SCIENTIFIC EXAMINATIONS Painting examined by Lumière Technology in June 2009. Multispectral photographic examination with 240 million pixels: D65 colors, Grazing light; Ultraviolet reflectography; False color reflectography; Inverted false color reflectography; Infrared reflectography 900nm & 1000nm, Infrared Emissio, X-Ray radiography; cleaned by Mrs. Anne-Elizabeth Rouault in 2009. This wonderful small unpublished painting by Théodore Géricault dates most probably from the years of his training with Pierre Guérin, his second master, between 1810 and 18121. Several of Géricault's drawings from 1810 to 1817 attest to the young artist's interest in these bodies from fables, such as Venus and Adonis (private collection)2 and Study of a Woman Dressed in the Antique Style, Sitting on a Rock and Leaning against a Tree (Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts)3. Géricault continued to cherish this motif of the naked woman in a landscape, camped under a tree, in an extraordinary series of drawings made during his stay in Italy (1816-1817)4. Let us quote at least four of these masterpieces: Nude Woman in Profile, in Brown and Indigo Wash (Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts), Nude Woman in the Bath (private collection), Leda and the Swan (Musée du Louvre), and Satyr and Nymph (Princeton, The Art Museum).5 While the softness and somewhat hermaphroditic canons of this Narcissus Reflecting in Water evoke subjects treated by Guérin at the same time, the treatment of the subject matter is very much Géricault's own. The way in which he renders the leaves with small touches of thick matter is characteristic of his style, as is the harmony of browns and grays in the rocks and the trunk of the tree, where not a centimeter of matter escapes the use of highlights to express the impact of light on the luxuriant vegetation of an undergrowth. The extraordinary play of chiaroscuro in this tableautin is also intended to magnify the whiteness of the flesh and the blondness of the bather's hair. If the softness that envelops this figure, its perfect integration into the setting, and the rendering of this graceful body with elongated limbs (Mannerist), recall the productions of Guérin, Girodet and Prud'hon, the barely sketched treatment of the face and hands belongs, once again, only to Géricault. If the subject seems classical, its treatment, on the other hand, is eminently romantic, as is its very tight framing. The scene has something fragmentary about it that creates the illusion of monumentality. The process, as we know, fascinated Géricault who, in Rome, in front of Granet's small paintings, could exclaim: "There is here a valiant man who on canvases as big as his hand paints six-foot men! He loves nature as much as I can love it and he renders it with a restrained eloquence that I envy him "6. But is the represented model really Narcissus? Is it not rather a very young woman? Doubt, we believe, is allowed and the ambiguity 1. Bruno Chenique, "Géricault : une vie", catalog of the exhibition Géricault, t. I, Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, October 10, 1991 - January 6, 1992, pp. 265 - 267. 2. Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault. Étude critique, documents et catalog raisonné, t. VII, Regard social et politique: le séjour anglais et les heures de souffrance, documentation É. Raffy, Paris, Wildenstein Institute & Bibliothèque des arts, 1997, " Suppléments au tome II ", p. 277, n° 2697, repr. 3. Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault. Étude critique, documents et catalog raisonné, t. II, L'oeuvre, période de formation, Paris, Bibliothèque des arts, 1987, p. 486, n° 473, repr. 4. Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault. Étude critique, documents et catalog raisonné, t. IV, Le voyage en Italie, Paris, Bibliothèque des arts, 1990, p. 87, no. 1038, repr; p. 90, no. 1047, repr. 5. Bazin, t. IV, 1990, ibid, pp. 95-96, no. 1065, repr; p. 97, no. 1071, repr; pp. 150 - 151, no. 1232; p. 175, no. 1301, repr. 6. Fragment of a letter from Théodore Géricault to Joseph Robert-Fleury, [Rome], [1816 - 1817], quoted by Henry Jouin, Jean Gigoux. Artistes et gens de l'époque romantique, Paris, aux bureaux de l'artiste, 1895, p. 42; B. Chenique, 1991, op. cit. p. 278. most likely voluntary. Could this white body and blond hair not be those of Chloé? It is known that Géricault had in his library a copy of the
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