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Lot 46: ÉCOLE FRANÇAISE VERS 1630, SUIVEUR DE Léonard de Vinci

Tajan

June 22, 2021
Paris, France

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Description

ÉCOLE FRANÇAISE VERS 1630, SUIVEUR DE Léonard de Vinci
La Vierge aux rochers
Sur sa toile d’origine
Restaurations anciennes
French school c. 1630, follower of Leonardo Da Vinci
The Virgin of the rocks, on its original canvas, old restorations
172 x 117 cm - 67,7 x 46,1 in.

Notes

Provenance
Château de la Pierreuse, à Marigny-les-Usages (Loiret vers 1840).
Puis, resté dans la famille des anciens propriétaires du château de la Pierreuse par descendance jusqu’à ce jour.

Notre reprise de la Vierge aux rochers est un témoignage précoce de l’engouement de la France pour Léonard de Vinci, puisque l’original, aujourd’hui au Louvre (ill. 1), y est arrivé très tôt, autour de 1508, soit plusieurs années avant la venue du maître à Amboise en 1516.

La Vierge aux rochers (ill. 1) a été commandée par une confrérie laïque pour la chapelle de l’Immaculée Conception de l’église San Francesco Grande, Saint-François Majeur à Milan, détruite en 1806. Il était prévu qu’elle soit placée au centre d’un retable complexe construit par le sculpteur sur bois Giacomo del Maino. Un contrat liait Léonard et ses élèves Ambrogio et Evangelista de Prédis, à remettre leur œuvre pour la fête de l’Immaculée Conception au mois de mai 1484 (on attribue aux deux derniers les anges sur les panneaux latéraux). Les artistes estimant qu’ils avaient déboursé trop d’argent pour la dorure du retable, que ce qu’ils avaient touché était trop faible par rapport aux frais qu’ils avaient engagés, ils s’en plaignirent à Ludovic le More. Ils déclarèrent avoir reçu, par ailleurs, une offre bien plus élevée pour la Vierge aux rochers.

Il s’en suivra vingt-cinq ans de procès entre les trois compagnons et la confrérie. Léonard a probablement cédé son tableau, dont on ne sait pas exactement s’il a été offert à Louis XII ou à François Ier, et a réalisé, avec la participation des frères Predis, une réplique avec quelques variantes aujourd’hui conservée à la National Gallery de Londres (ill.2). Parmi les principales différences entre ces deux tableaux, la plus évidente est le geste de l’ange qui désigne le petit saint Jean au Louvre, détail absent à Londres. Sur la version anglaise les figures sont auréolées et saint Jean tient une croix. Le sfumato est légèrement plus ombré, plus bronzé, et le choix des espèces végétales à connotation mariales repensé.

Cette sainte conversation nous fascine par son orchestration de la gestuelle, par le rapport psychologique entre les quatre figures. Leur présence est étrange, à la fois reclus dans une grotte, et insérée dans un paysage de montagnes. Leur interaction avec la nature qui les environne, tient de la métaphysique. La composition est très simple au premier coup d’œil, une pyramide, symbole d’élévation, mais qui se décompose en une triangulation très savante, redoublée par les stalagmites au second plan.

La grande spiritualité qui se dégage de l’image est contrebalancée par le naturalisme du modelé. Le réalisme topographique alpin et la description scientifique de chaque plante révèlent l’harmonie de la Nature et de la Création. Cet équilibre de forces contradictoires, entre le microcosme et le macrocosme (c’est-à-dire un modèle réduit qui imite toute la complexité de l’univers) rendait ce tableau incroyablement novateur à l’époque et reste encore fascinant de nos jours. L’espace est suggéré par de délicats dégradés de couleurs créant une lumière diffuse. Pour placer son groupe dans l’espace, Léonard ne s’appuie pas sur un bâtiment ou une perspective architecturale, comme l’avaient inventé les peintres de la Renaissance florentine, mais sur une structure subtile, en mouvement, où l’air tourne autour des personnages et où le paysage reflète leur état d’âme.

L’œuvre peint de Léonard de Vinci est très réduit ; seulement quinze compositions religieuses et cinq portraits, mais révolutionnaires et longuement muris et réfléchis, qui ont tous marqué l’histoire de la peinture. Son atelier et ses élèves à Milan réalisaient des répliques de ses tableaux à divers stades de leur exécution1. On connaît des dizaines de reprises de la Sainte Anne, du Rédempteur ou de la Vierge aux rochers 2.

On ignore à quelle date exacte cette dernière est arrivée en France, soit elle a été cédée à Louis XII, soit elle a été confisquée par Charles II d’Amboise, soit elle a été offerte par Charles II d’Amboise, vice-roi de Lombardie, à François Ier.

QUI EST L’AUTEUR DE NOTRE VERSION

Notre toile est à situer au début du XVIIe siècle, donc hors de la sphère des élèves milanais de Léonard. Il y a tout lieu de penser que seuls les artistes de la cour avaient accès aux tableaux de la collection royale au château de Fontainebleau. À partir des années 1540, celle-ci est exposée dans l’appartement des bains, une suite de salles construite sur le modèle de thermes antiques, au rez-de-chaussée de la galerie François Ier. Il s’agit de trois salles des bains et de quatre petits salons se terminant sur un vestibule, qui furent détruits en 1697 pour y créer de nouveaux logements 3.

Fréquenté par les derniers Valois, mais laissé en l’état, Fontainebleau est l’une des demeures préférées d’Henri IV, qui tient à se poser en successeur de François Ier. Dès 1593/1594, il y entreprend de grands travaux qui doublent la surface du palais. On connaît mal la disposition de la collection royale à cette époque, les sources étant lacunaires et contradictoires. Il faut attendre l’inventaire du père Dan en 1642 pour avoir des données précises.

Entre avril 1594 et mai 1600, date de la Conférence de Fontainebleau, les aménagements sont terminés, les peintures de chevalet sont transférées des étuves chaudes et humides dans le cabinet des peintures, au second étage du pavillon central de l’aile des Poêles, reconstruite sous Henri II. Dans les bains, les originaux sont remplacés par des copies de mêmes dimensions, insérées dans les encadrements en stuc existants. En toute logique, Henri IV confie cette tâche aux artistes actifs sur le chantier du château. Ambroise Dubois reproduit la Madeleine du Titien, son fils Jean Dubois, la Belle Jardinière de Raphaël, Jean Voltigeant la Sainte Marguerite terrassant le dragon de Raphaël et peut-être aussi la Visitation de Sebastiano del Piombo, et Jean Michelin, la Vierge aux rochers4. Cette copie a été transférée sous Louis-Philippe à la chapelle du Trianon à Versailles5 (pour des raisons de dates, ce Jean Michelin ne semble pas être le peintre né à Langres en 1623, suiveur des Le Nain).

Nous proposons de rendre notre version à ce milieu bellifontain du premier tiers du XVIIe siècle. Les ombres profondes et douces à la fois, le bleu (lapis lazuli) 6 et le vert des drapés évoquent la palette des créations originales d’Ambroise Dubois. La copie de la Joconde, conservée au Clos-Lucé depuis une dizaine d’années, par exemple, lui est attribuée (la sous-couche de couleur terre de ce tableau est assez proche de celle du nôtre, ill. 3). Une copie directe et tardive de notre toile et pas du tableau du Louvre est connue dans l’église de Boigny-sur-Bionne 7 (ill.4), c’est-à-dire à quelques dizaines de kilomètres au sud du château. C’est un autre élément en faveur d’une origine bellifontaine de notre œuvre.

Le peintre se met ici au service d’une transcription la plus fidèle possible du maître italien : le modelé, le fameux «sfumato», y est retranscrit de façon virtuose, notamment dans les visages, les corps des enfants, soient les parties les plus difficiles à reproduire. Le fait qu’il ait simplifié la description des plantes, par exemple les feuilles sur la voûte de la grotte, montre un peintre d’histoire plus attaché et habitué aux figures, à la narration qu’à une profusion de détails.

Il a cependant gardé celles qui sont essentielles à la symbolique et à l’ambiance poétique du tableau : l’iris des marais, l’aconit, le millepertuis… Les feuilles du palmier rhapis à gauche, sont moins détaillées et un peu plus grandes qu’au Louvre.

Notre version permet aussi de retrouver la gamme colorée lumineuse qu’aurait le tableau du Louvre, assombri par les anciens vernis, si on le nettoyait.

Pour toutes ces raisons, elle est un exemple exceptionnel du «léonardisme» en France, du succès et de la diffusion d’un des chefs-d’œuvre de la peinture occidentale.

Nous remercions Monsieur René Sobrero pour son aide apportée à la rédaction de cette notice, concernant la version de Boigny-sur-Bionne.

PROVENANCE
Château de la Pierreuse in Marigny-les-Usages (Loiret), c.1840
Remained in the family of the former owners to the present day

Our version of the Virgin of the Rocks is an early testimony of France’s fondness for Leonardo da Vinci because the original, now in the Louvre (ill. 1), arrived there very early, around 1508, several years before the master’s arrival in Amboise in 1516.

The Virgin of the rocks (ill. 1) was commissioned by a lay brotherhood for the chapel of the Immaculate Conception in the church of San Francesco Grande in Milan, which was destroyed in 1806. It was to be placed in the centre of a complex altarpiece built by the woodcarver Giacomo del Maino. A contract bound Leonardo and his pupils Ambrogio and Evangelista de Prédis to deliver their artwork for the feast of the Immaculate Conception in May 1484 (we attribute to the last two the angels on the side panels). The artists deemed that they had spent too much money on the altarpiece’s gilding and that what they had received was too little, after which they complained to Ludovico Le More (Ludovic Sforza, Duke de Milan). They stated that they had received a much higher offer for the Virgin of the rocks.

Twenty-five years of litigation ensued between the three companions and the brotherhood. Leonardo probably yielded his painting, although it is unknown whether it was offered to Louis XII or François Ist. Furthermore, with the participation of the Predis brothers, he produced a replica with some variations that is now in the National Gallery in London (ill.2). Amongst the principal differences between the two paintings most noticeable is the gesture of the angel pointing to the little Saint John at the Louvre, a detail that is absent in the London version. In the English version the figures are haloed and Saint John holds a cross. The sfumato is slightly more shaded, more tanned, and the choice of plant species, with Marian connotations, has been rethought.

This holy conversation fascinates us due to the psychological relationship between the four figures. Their presence is strange, both recluse in a cave and inserted in a mountain landscape. Their interaction with the nature that surrounds them is metaphysical. The composition is very simple at first glance, a pyramid as a symbol of elevation, but which breaks down into a very skilful triangulation, reinforced by the stalagmites in the background.

The great spirituality that emerges from the image is counterbalanced by the naturalism of the volumes. The alpine topographic realism and the scientific description of each plant species reveal the harmony of Nature and Creation. This balance of contradictory forces, between the microcosm and the macrocosm - a reduced model imitating the entire complexity of the universe - made this painting incredibly innovative at the time and still remains fascinating today. The space is suggested by delicate gradations of colors creating a diffused light. To position his group in space, Leonardo did not rely on a building or an architectural perspective, as had been invented by the painters of the Florentine Renaissance, but on a subtle structure in motion, where the air revolves around the figures and the landscape reflects their state of mind.

Leonardo da Vinci’s body of painted works is very small, only fifteen religious compositions and five portraits, though revolutionary, matured and reflected, all of which have marked the history of painting. His studio and his pupils in Milan produced replicas of his paintings at various stages of execution1. Dozens of replicas of the Saint Anne, the Redeemer and the Virgin of the Rocks are known 2.

We do not know the exact date when the latter arrived in France; it was either given to Louis XII, confiscated by Charles II d’Amboise, or offered by the ambassador to François Ist.

WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF OUR VERSION

Our painting can be dated in the early 17th century, so outside the sphere of Leonardo’s Milanese pupils. There is every reason to believe that only court artists had access to the paintings in the royal collection at the Château de Fontainebleau. From the 1540s onwards, the collection was exhibited in the Appartement des bains, a suite of rooms built on the model of ancient baths, on the ground floor of the François Ist’s gallery. It consists of three bathrooms and four small salons ending in a vestibule, which were demolished in 1697 to create new accommodations 3. Fontainebleau, which was visited by the last Valois but left untouched, was one of the favourite residences of Henry IV, who wanted to establish himself as the successor to François Ist. From 1593/1594, he undertook major works that doubled the surface area of the palace. Little is known about the layout of the royal collection at this time, as sources are incomplete and contradictory. We have to wait for the inventory of Father Dan in 1642 for precise data.

Between April 1594 and May 1600, the date of the Fontainebleau Conference, the arrangements were completed, and the easel paintings were transferred from the hot and humid ovens, to the painting room on the second floor of the central pavilion of the Stoves wing, rebuilt under Henri II. In the baths, the originals were replaced by copies of the same dimensions, inserted into the existing stucco frames. Logically, Henri IV entrusted this task to the artists working on the castle site. Ambroise Dubois reproduced Titian’s Magdalene, his son Jean Dubois reproduced Raphael’s Belle Jardinière, Jean Voltigeant reproduced Raphael’s Saint Margaret Slaying the Dragon and perhaps also Sebastiano del Piombo’s Visitation, and Jean Michelin reproduced the Virgin of the Rocks 4. This copy was transferred under Louis-Philippe to the Trianon chapel in Versailles 5 (for reasons of dates, this Jean Michelin does not seem to be the painter born in Langres in 1623, follower of Le Nain).

We propose to attribute our version to the bellifontain milieu of the first third of the 17th century. The deep and soft shadows, the blue (lapis-lazuli) 6 and green of the draperies evoke the palette of Ambroise Dubois’ original creations. The copy of the Mona Lisa, kept at the Clos-Lucé for the last ten years, for example, is attributed to him (the earth tone undercoat of this painting is quite close to that of ours, ill. 3). A direct and late copy of our painting and not of the painting in the Louvre- is known in the church of Boigny-sur-Bionne 7 (ill.4), that is to say a few dozen kilometres south of the castle. This is another element in favour of a bellifontain origin of our work.

Here, the painter is committed to transcribing as faithfully as possible the Italian master: the modelling of the volumes, the famous «sfumato», is transcribed in a virtuoso manner, particularly in the faces and bodies of the children, the most difficult parts to reproduce. The fact that he simplified the description of the plants, for example the leaves on the vault of the cave, shows a history painter more attached to and accustomed to figures and narration than to a profusion of details. However he has kept those that are essential to the symbolic and poetic atmosphere of the painting: the swamp iris, the aconite, the St John’s wort... The leaves of the rhapis palm on the left are less detailed and a little larger than at the Louvre.

Our version also makes it possible to recover the luminous colour range that the Louvre painting, darkened by the old varnishes, would have once cleaned. For all these reasons, it is an exceptional example of «Leonardoism» in France, of the success and of the diffusion of one of the masterpieces of Western painting.

We would like to thank Mr. René Sobrero for his help for this notice, concerning the Boigny-sur-Bionne version.

1. Cette approche est particulièrement bien développée dans les deux catalogues d’expositions du musée du Louvre, sous la direction de Vincent Delieuvin : La Sainte Anne, l’ultime chef-d’œuvre de Léonard de Vinci, en 2012, et Léonard de Vinci, 2019-2020. Dans ce dernier, la synthèse sur la Vierge aux rochers se trouve aux pages 126 à 139, et 406, n°53.
2. Parmi les copies les plus souvent mentionnées, citons celle de Marco d’Oggiono, vers 1510, Milan, Pinacoteca del Castello Sforzesco), celle du musée des Beaux-Arts de Caen.
3. Nous nous sommes basés sur la synthèse et l’essai de Laure Fagnart, L’appartement des bains et le cabinet des peintures du château de Fontainebleau sous le règne d’Henri IV in : Henri IV : Art et pouvoir, Tours, Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2016 . Disponible sur Internet : http://books.openedition.org/pufr/8425. ISBN : 9782869065420. DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000books.pufr.8425.
4. Louis Dimier, Tableaux de Nicolas Dhoey et de Josse de Voltigeant, dans Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’Art français, 1924, p. 23-26.
5. Inventaire MV 7815. Claire Constant, Musée National du Chateau de Versailles. Les Peintures, Paris, Édition de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1995, vol II, p.642.
6. Il semble que l’essentiel du vêtement a été construit au lapis lazuli et que les plis par-dessus ont été modelés avec un bleu de smalt.
7. René Sobréro, Il était une fois … La Vierge aux rochers Une histoire vraie artistique, religieuse et culturelle, Collection Les Cahiers du patrimoine de Boigny-sur-Bionne, association Boigny Patrimoine et Histoire, n°6, septembre 2020.

ill. 1 Léonard de Vinci (1452-1519). La Vierge aux rochers, 1483-1499. Panneau transposé sur toile, 199,5 x 122 cm. Paris, musée du Louvre (MR 320)
ill. 2 Léonard de Vinci (et collaborateurs) (1452-1519). La Vierge aux rochers, vers 1491/2 et 1506-1508. Panneau, 189,5 x 120 cm. Londres, The National Gallery (NG1093)
ill. 3 Attribué à Ambroise Dubois d’après Léonard de Vinci (1452-1519). La Joconde, début du 17e siècle. Toile, 80 x 54 cm. Collection du château du Clos Lucé
ill.4 École française du XIXe siècle ou du début du XXe siècle. La Vierge au rochers, toile 178 x 120 cm, Boigny-sur-Bionne (Loiret), église Saint-Pierre ès-liens

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- payment of the difference between the initial hammer price and the resale price if the later is lower, as well as the costs incurred by the re-auction. ¬
TAJAN also reserves the right to offset any amounts Tajan may owe the defaulting buyer with the amounts due by the defaulting buyer. Tajan reserves the right to exclude any bidder who fails to comply with its general terms and conditions of sale from attending any future auction.
TAJAN adhere to the "Registre central de prévention des impayés des Commissaires priseurs" to which payment incidents may be reported. Debtors may exercise their rights of access, rectification and opposition.

FRENCH STATE'S RIGHT OF PRE¬EMPTION
The French State has a right of pre-emption over certain works of art sold at public auction. The use of this right comes immediately after the hammer stroke and must be confirmed by the French State within fifteen days following the sale. The French State will then be substituted for the last bidder.

IMPORT AND EXPORT
The export of any lot from France or the import into another country may be subject to authorisation (export certificates, customs authorisations). It is the buyer's responsibility to check which authorisations are required. Obtaining export or import certificate is at the sole expense of the buyer. Local laws may prevent you from importing lots made of or including protected material such as ivory, rhinoceros horn, tortoiseshell, Brazilian rosewood, etc. The denial of any export or import authorisation cannot justify any delay in making payment of the amount due nor cancellation of the sale. For more information, please contact our shipping department on +33 1 53 30 30 42.

COLLECTION OF PURCHASES
Purchases can only be collected after the buyer has paid all amounts due in full. In the event of a payment by cheque or bank transfer, delivery of the goods may be deferred until such time as the payment has cleared. In this case, storage costs shall be borne by the buyer and Tajan shall incur no liability whatsoever in this respect.
Lots sold must be collected within 14 days following the auction. After that period, storage costs will be charged 4 EUR per day per lot for small items, 8 EUR per day per lot for large items and furniture. Handling fee of 60 EUR per lot will also be charged. All large items and furniture will be stored at a storage facility designated by Tajan at the buyer's risk and expense.

COLLECTION OF UNSOLD ITEMS
The seller must collect any unsold items as soon as possible and in any case within 14 days from the auction. After that period, storage costs will be charged 4 EUR per day per lot for small items, 8 EUR per day per lot for large items and furniture. Handling fee of 60 EUR per lot will also be charged. All large items and furniture will be stored at a storage facility designated by Tajan at the seller's expense.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Unless otherwise noted, Tajan owns the copyright in all images and any material and contents of its catalogues. Any use or reproduction of any part of the catalogue without prior written permission is forbidden. In addition, Tajan benefits from a legal right to reproduce lots in its catalogue, even though the copyright protection on these lots has not lapsed. Any full or partial reproduction may be liable to prosecution by the holder of the copyright. The sale of a work of art does not guaranty any gain of copyright or reproduction rights to the lot.

PERSONAL INFORMATION
The buyer agrees to be bound by all of the General Terms and Conditions of Sale herein. Buyer expressly authorises the collection of the personal information supplied to Tajan for the fulfilment of the sale and authorises Tajan to use the personal information to send communications accordingly to his/her fields of interest. Buyers are entitled, at any time, to access, rectify, update and delete their personal data in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, Regulation (EU) 2016/679).

Contract

Bidding ends when the auctionner strikes his hammer and pronounces the word "adjugé" (sold), at which time, the successful bidder enters into a legally binding contract with TAJAN.
The internet bid constitutes a bidding contract between the bidder and TAJAN.

Payment

Payment must be made immediately after the sale. If the successful bidder did not register before the sale, he/she must provide proof of identity and bank references.
Payments may be made by one of the following methods:
- Bank transfer in euros,
- Visa card or Master Card (subject to the presentation of valid proof of identity).
- In cash in euros: for Individual European Union resident, and for all professionals, to an equal or lower amount of €1 000.
- In cash in euros: for Individual only and non European Union resident, to an equal or lower amount of €15 000.
- Certified banker's draft in euros subject to the presentation of valid proof identity.
Cheques drawn on a foreign bank will not be accepted.
Cheques and bank transfers must be denominated in euros and made out to the order of TAJAN SA.

Shipping

The export of any lot from France or the import into another country may be subject to authorisation (export certificates, customs authorisations). It is the buyer's responsibility to check which authorisations are required. Obtaining export or import certificate is at the sole expense of the buyer.

Purchases can only be collected after the buyer has paid all amounts due in full. In the event of a payment by cheque or bank transfer, delivery of the goods may be deferred until such time as the payment has cleared. In this case, storage costs shall be borne by the buyer and Tajan shall incur no liability whatsoever in this respect.

Tajan's Shipping department is at your disposal to assist you with your shipping. You can contact [email protected] or +33 1 53 30 30 42.

Premium

In addition to the "hammer price," the buyer must pay Tajan a buyer's premium and any applicable taxes as follows:

-25% excl. tax up to and including €150,000
-20 % excl. tax from €60,001 and up to €2 000,000
-12 % excl. tax for the portion above €2 000,001

For Invaluable.com buyers, an additional premium of 4 % excl. tax shall be charged.

VAT shall be charged at the rate of 20% (5.5% for books).

Taxes and VAT

In addition, VAT shall be charged at the rate of 20% (24% inclusive of vat). Items originating from a country outside the European Union shall be marked with the symbol f and ff.
f: In addition to the regular buyer's premium, a commission of 5.5% (i.e., 6.6% inclusive of VAT) will be charged to the buyer.
ff: In addition to the regular buyer's premium, a commission of 20% (i.e.24% incl. VAT) will be charged to the buyer.
These additional costs may, in certain cases, be reimbursed to the buyer.
For more information, please contact our payment department on
+33 1 53 30 30 33.
Non- European Union buyers may have all VAT and import tax refunded upon presentation of customs documents confirming that their property has been exported outside the EU.
Trade buyers from other EU countries may have all VAT refunded if they provide TAJAN with their VAT registration number and proof that their property has been shipped to another EU country.
The full amount due must be paid immediately after the sale, even if the buyer wishes to apply for an export license.

Condition reports

Buyers may obtain a condition report on items included in the catalogue that are estimated at more than € 1 000 upon request. The information contained in such reports is provided free of charge and solely to serve as an indication. It shall by no means incur the liability of Tajan.