Nantes 1606 — 1689 Rome
black chalk underdrawing, pen & grey ink, brush & wash. 91/2 x 95/8" (240 x 245mm). inscribed illegibly on the verso in pencil.
Acquired with an attribution to Giovanni Paolo Schor, this confidently executed drawing is stylistically very much influenced by the Roman Baroque. The technique, however, is refined in a French 17th c. manner. Indeed, the morphology of the face and figure are comparable to some of the prints1 and drawings of Charles Errard, and so we propose an attribution to that artist. Dr. Sylvain Kerspern who has previously written on Errard's drawings2 confirms this idea and believes the date of the drawing is likely from the 1670's or 1680's when the artist worked in Rome. He thinks it may have been made in connection with a printed image such as a title page for a book though it is also the case that it may have been intended as part of a wall decoration.
Charles Errard, under his patron Louis XVI's minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, founded the French Academy in Rome in 1666 and was its first director, heading the institution until 1675 (with the exception of a 2-year hiatus). He served as the Principal of the Accademia di San Luca for 2 years as well. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, and engraver. After studying with his father, he won a royal scholarship to go to Rome which would be the first of a number of long term stays there during his extensive career in Paris. He worked for a number of French collectors including Chantelou, was made decorator of the royal palace, decorating parts of the Louvre, the palace at Fontainbleau, St.-Germaine-en-Laye, and Versailles. He painted scenery for the Paris Opera and made engravings for one of the first anatomical books for art students. He served as art adviser to the King on a trip to Flanders in 1664-5. Upon the death of Colbert, he resigned his offices. Six years later, he himself was buried in Santa Trinita del Monti in Rome.
The ideas in the following text are largely those of Sylvain Kerspern for which I am very grateful:
Seated on what appears to be the top of a parapet, a rather hefty angel with powerful wings holds an ornamental floral (lily?) wreathe which encircles an emblem that includes fronds and ribbons. Though in repose, her drapery flows with the wind, as well as clings to her body, inspired by antique sculpture. The ornament on her right also exemplifies the French classicizing style of the mid seventeenth century of which Errard was certainly a proponent. The artist's first sojourn in Rome lasted for 15 years, from 1628 to 1643. When he returned to Paris in 1643, he was already well-known for his designs for book illustration, an occupation that he also pursued in Rome when he resumed work there for a second lengthy period from 1666 -1673. However, few of his drawings for such works have survived; in fact, little is presently known of Errard's drawn oeuvre whether preparatory for paintings or engravings. An understanding of his drawings is further complicated by the fact that when Errard worked as a decorator, which he did primarily, he employed pupils and collaborators. Gilbert de Seve, Louis Testelin and Noel Coypel were three of those collaborators. Recently, Sylvain Kerspern has been able to distinguish the drawings of Coypel that had been executed in preparations for the decoration of the Parliament in Rennes, from those of his master, Errard. Kerspern's research revealed greater participation by the latter in this project than had been previously believed. These preparatory drawings and the final paintings reveal Errard's love for flying drapery which blows inside out, seemingly sculpted by the air. This idiomatic stylistic oddity is also illustrated in a drawing of "Cupid and Psyche" in the Louvre (Inv.30841),3 though the drawing is still wrongly classified as a work of Le Sueur. Errard's concern for a relief-like effect, as exhibited in the present drawing, is also visible in the rounded and regular handling of the flesh in the Louvre sheet.
For a book of engravings of the Trajan Column engraved by Pietro Santo Bartoli, Errard designed the dedication page (to Louis XIV). The drawing for that plate is conserved at the Albertina in Vienna. It also displays a sober ornamental style and a similar female type with comparable drapery. The Albertina drawing also alludes to the artist's more flexible late style in which his figures become more attenuated. The book was published in 1673.
Errard went to Paris again in 1673 for a few years and was back in Rome in 1676 where he resided til his death in 1689. While his activity as an inventor of book plates later in his career is certain, he still continued to work on interior palace decorations
in Rome. This can be deduced from the survival of a drawing for that purpose at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, which is related to a painting at the Spencer Museum, University of Kansas in Lawrence, showing Rome and France embracing. Given the subject and Errard's position as director of the French Academy in Rome, the Kansas painting may well have been intended as decoration for the Academy.
The lack of any background in this otherwise very finished study could indicate that this figure was intended for an upper part of a wall or ceiling, reminiscent of the apartment Errard decorated at Fontainebleau.4 There and elsewhere in his decorative schemes Errard disregards the laws of perspective and instead places strong figures in front of neutral backgrounds, sometimes painted sometimes sculpted. The present female form and her assumed counterpart may well have been intended as three dimensional figures. The treatment of the drapery, as in the drawing at the Albertina, suggests a knowledge of the art of Bernini and Errard's integration of the Roman baroque.
See the article by Jacques Thuiller, Propositions pour I. Charles Errard Peintre , and especially pl. 35, Natura, of the facing page for the Life of Lanfranco in the Lives of Bellori, 1672.
Sylvain Kerspern "À propos de l'Enée transportant Anchise du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon : jalons pour l'oeuvre de Charles Errard",latribunedelart.com, juin 2005; http://www.latribunedelart.com/Etudes_2005/Errard.htm
See Louvre web site: http://arts-graphiques.louvre.fr/fo/visite?srv=mipe¶mAction=actionGetImage&idImgPrinc=1&idFicheOeuvre=208676&provenance=mlo&searchInit=