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François Lemoyne (1688 - 1737)

Lot 87: FRANÇOIS LE MOYNE PARIS 1688 - 1737


January 25, 2007
New York, NY, US

More About this Item




measurements note
each: 22 5/8 by 29 1/4 in.; 57.3 by 74.5 cm.

a pair, both oval

both oil on canvas


Duc des Deux-Ponts sale, Paris, Pierre Rémy, April 6, 1778, no. 69 (signed on La Bergère endormie) and sold for 1980 livres;
Comte de Vaudreuil sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, November 26, 1787, no. 70 (signed on La Bergère endormie) where purchased for 1100 livres by Mr. Saubert (or Sobert);
Mr. Saubert (or Sobert);
Comte André de Ganay sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, June 4, 1903, nos. 30-31 (signed on La Bergère endormie ) and where purchased by A.M. Vorgon de Voormezeel;
With A. Tardif & Cie, Paris;
Estate of J.E. Parson, Rye, NY;
Anonymous sale, New York, Plaza Art Galleries, November 17, 1977, no. 70-71;


L.-V. Thiéry, Guides des amateurs et des étrangers voyageurs à Paris, vol. 2, Paris 1787, p. 54;
Letter to the Editor La Renaissance de l'Art français, vol. 4, 1921, pp. 395-396;
Saunier in L. Dimier, Les Peintres Français du XVIIIème siècle, vol.1, Paris 1928, cat. no. 58-59;
J.-L. Bordeaux, François Le Moyne and his Generation 1688-1737, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1984, p. 86 cat. 32, reproduced fig. 27-28.


Painted vigorously, with loose brushwork and a fresh tonality, this recently rediscovered pair of pictures by Le Moyne clearly reveal the lightness and elegance of the style the artist developed in the early 1720s. It is during this early period that Le Moyne made his most significant contributions to French painting. With the elegance and charming fantasy of works such as these, Le Moyne successfully rivals the more celebrated fêtes galantes of his contemporaries Watteau and Lancret.

Trained by Louis Galloche and awarded the Prix de Rome in 1711, Le Moyne was not able to take up his prize and visit Italy until 1723 because of the poor state of financial affairs in France. His Parisian instructor, however, introduced him to the painting, of Raphael, Correggio, and Peter Paul Rubens hanging in the collections of the Louvre. Like his Baroque predecessors, Le Moyne was quickly given commission for large decorative schemes, and his elegant figures and precious colors make him one of the first proponents of the Rococo style. Painted in the grand tradition of Charles de La Fosse, his early more monumental history canvases featured the warm tones inherited from Jouvenet and Galloche.

Le Moyne was more than a simple imitator, he was a highly cultivated artist who was capable of drawing upon the grand monumental French decorative style and adapting it to the tastes of Louis XV's court. Le Moyne's style of painting was lighter, more pleasant, and easier, and would become a precursor of the elegant, graceful works of Boucher and Natoire, his students. Gersaint wrote of Le Moyne in 1744, "Le Moyne has the glory of having created a new school in France which must consider him the father of good taste currently prevailing in the works of our painters. He has been the master of nearly all our important artists. His draftsmanship is accurate and subtle; les graces brillent in all his compositions; his colors are cheerful and expressive; in one work he exhibits all the talents of painting.." υ1.

Le Moyne developed an individual style with a taste for open air compositions and a clear, strong palette. From 1718 onwards, and even before his trip to Italy in 1723, his easel paintings already show a natural inclination toward Correggio's reserved and subtle sensuality. These early works also reveal an interest in cinquecento Venetian art, namely Veronese, who influenced not only his compositions but also his handling of the paint.

This new style was partly driven by his rivalry with the slightly older but more fashionable painter Jean-François de Troy. Both artists felt a desire to take on the new popular style of Coypel, Watteau and de la Fosse. Bordeaux notes, "There is indeed a great possibility that after the initial popularity of the fête galante genre and Watteau's official recognition in 1717, Le Moyne, anxious to make money in a period lean with commissions, tried to compete with both Watteau and Lancret" υ2. De Troy quickly became successful with the wealthy bourgeois classes, producing light Ovidian fantasies and his more gallant tableaux de mode. Le Moyne responded with a few lighthearted and gallant subjects such as the present pair. Inspired by the Ovidian story of Daphnis and Chloe, this pair was initially titled La Bergère Endormie and Le Retour de la Bergère, clearly intended to be scenes depicting country outings. This would appear to support Bordeaux's theory, as would Le Moyne's paintings from this same period, Gallant Fishing Party and the Hunting Breakfast, signed and dated 1723, in the Museu de Arte de Sao Paoloυ3. Despite being inspired by Watteau's new genre, what separates these works from being overly in the manner of Watteau is Le Moyne's compositional freedom, more varied gestures, broader execution and more literal interpretation of a leisurely pastime and thus, the reason for the association to the Ovidian myth of Chloe and Daphnis. At the time of the Duc des Deux-Ponts sale and the Vaudreuil sale, the pictures were described as being signed. But at the time of the 1977 sale there was no reference to a signature and one is not visible today. J.-L. Bordeaux in his catalogue notes that the pictures are signed based again on the early provenance but had never seen the pictures firsthand to verify. Two preparatory drawings for both compositions are in the collection of the J. Pierpont Morgan Library, New York (see Fig. 1).

1 See, E.F. Gersaint, Catalogue Raisonné du Cabinet de Feu M. Quentin de Lorangere, Paris, March 1744, p. 50.

2 For further discussion of this subject see J.-L. Bordeaux, François Le Moyne and his Generation 1688-1737, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1984.

3 Bordeaux, op. cit., p. 86

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