MICHEL CORNEILLE II

1642 — Paris — 1708

Socrates Debating with Students? with figure and head studies on the perimeter, a landscape in the background

red chalk. 101/2 x 163/4" (26.9 x 42.2cm). inscribed at the bottom: N Pousin. laid down to an old ruled mount which bears an inventory number on the verso, upper left: No 9 150. red sealing wax is also on the verso.

Michel Corneille was an incredibly varied and prolific draftsman. This drawing, an excellent example of his study sheets, contains a centrally placed subject, surrounded by a number of other studies, seemingly unrelated, but in total creating a splendid mis-en-page. As Michel Corneille was greatly influenced by the classicicizing restraint of Poussin and Le Brun earlier in his career, this drawing may date to an early period. The artist's later drawings reflect his brother's breezier manner. Another large drawing of classical subject, Aspasia Debating with Greek Philosophers, is presently in the Horvitz collection.

Corneille was the son of an artist, Michel Corneille the Elder of Orléans, the first and the most indefatigable of his teachers;1 his later masters were Pierre Mignard and the Charles Lebrun. Devoting himself wholly to historical painting, Michel won the Academy Prize and went to Rome on the king's pension; but feeling his genius hampered by the restrictions of the prize, he gave up the money so that he might study the antique and the Italian masters in his own way. He studied the Carracci and modelled his style on theirs. In 1663 he returned to Paris and was elected a member of the Royal Academy. In 1673 he became an adjunct, and in 1690,2 a full professor in the Academy.

Corneille painted for the king at Versailles, Meudon, and Fontainebleau, and decorated in fresco many of the great Paris churches, notably Notre-Dame, the church of the Capuchins, and the chapel of Saint-Grégoire in the Invalides. His style is reminiscent of the older masters; his drawing is remarkably careful and exact, the expression on the faces of his religious subjects is dignified and noble, the management of chiaroscuro excellent, and the composition harmonious. Indeed, his was the finest reputation of the three painters in his family during his lifetime. He etched and engraved over a hundred plates in a bold and free style, for he was a master of the line. For many years Corneille resided at the Gobelins manufactory, and was sometimes called "Corneille des Gobelins". He died in the manufactory in 1708.
1

This biography is taken directly from Wikipedia.

2

Alvin L.Clark, Jr., Mastery & Elegance, Two Centuries of French Drawings from the Collection of Jeffrey E. Horvitz, Harvard U, 1999, p. 414, cat. # A.85, illustrated.