|Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), The Falls at Tivoli|
Petit Palais, Paris
Musée Cognac-Jay, Paris
18th November 2010 - 20th February 2011
Curator: José de Los Llanos, Director of the Cognac-Jay Museum
The exhibition Tivoli: Variations on a landscape in the eighteenth century offers an original reflection on the evolution of landscape painting from 1720 to 1830 through a particular subject: the site of Tivoli and its famous Temple of the Sibyl.
A location famous since antiquity, Tibur (the Latin name for Tivoli) was made fashionable by the Emperor Augustus and Maecenas, the lavish patron of the arts, and celebrated by the poets Catullus and Horace (first century BC). The Albunean Sibyl practised her divination here.
|attributed to Willem van Nieulandt (1584-1635)|
The Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli
Musée Benoît-de-Puydt, Bailleul
Introduction to the exhibition by José de Los Llanos, Director of the Cognac-Jay Museum (in French):
In the eighteenth century, Tivoli and its temple gradually became one of the most represented subjects in the history of painting, particularly in French painting. The architectural perfection of its monuments, its location in the heart of a sublime and terrifying landscape, the incomparable richness of its history and legends, made it a subject revered by artists and collectors. It was also at this time that the temple of Tivoli was surrounded by workshops built in the gardens.
|Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778)|
View of the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli
Capriccios, poetic variations, outdoor studies, composed or more spontaneous, the works presented pose in contradictory ways the question of the subject in landscape painting. Most intriguing is without doubt the question of why the same subject interested artists from traditional to modern over such a long period,.
The exhibition is accompanied by a colour catalogue published by Paris Musées. In addition to detailed entries on each work, there are essays by various authors on the site of Tivoli, its significance for art history, the stories of tourists, and the importance of artists particularly associated with Tivoli (Joseph Vernet, Hubert Robert).
Such as it can be seen today, the Villa Gregoriana, the name given (after Pope Gregory XVI) to the entire site from the 19th century onwards, is vastly different to what can be seen in these works. In 1826, when rockfalls from the escarpment were thought to be endangering the temple, the popes Leo XII then Gregory XVI diverted the river, the waterfalls no longer falling at the foot of the buildings but much further away. At the end of the century, the temple of Tiburnus, which had been converted into a church in the Middle Ages, was demolished.
|Claude-Joseph Vernet (1714-1789), View of Tivoli|
|Hubert Robert (1733-1808), A scene in the grounds of the Villa Farnese, Rome|
The Poetry of Ruins
Oh what beautiful and sublime ruins! How solid yet at the same time what lightness, sureness, ease of brushstroke! What effect! What grandeur! What noblesse! Someone should tell me to whom these ruins belong, so that I can steal them away; the only way one can acquire when one is poor. Alas!
They probably only provide for a small amount of happiness to the stupid rich who own them; and they would provide me with such happiness! Oh what an indolent owner and blind husband. What ills do I do to you when I covet charms that you either ignore or neglect! With what astonishment and surprise I see the broken vault, debris superimposed onto the vault. The persons who erected this monument, where are they? What has happened to them? Into which great dark silent pit will my eye wander? To what enormous distance does that part of the sky go that I can see through the opening! The astonishing graduations of light! One does not become weary from looking. Time stops for he who admires. How little I have
lived! What a short time my youth has lasted!
|Hubert Robert, View of Ripetta|
Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris
|Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806), The Gardens of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli|
Wallace Collection, London
|Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Great Waterfall at Tivoli|
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Mr. Juliart, you think that all it takes to be a landscape artist is to throw a few trees here and there, terrace the land, put up a mountain, show some streaming water which is blocked by some boulders, extend a field as far as the eye can see, light it up with the sun and the moon, draw a pasture and place some animals within the pasture? Do you not think that these trees should also be strongly felt; that there is a certain poetry in imagining them, according to the subject matter, lithesome and elegant, or broken and cracked, hanging, hideous; whereas here they are pressed together and dense, it is important that they be majestic and beautiful, as opposed to few and separate, air and light must circulate between their branches and trunks and that their layering should be warmly painted; that these waters, by imitating the limpidity of natural flowing, must show me as through a mirror, the almost image of the surrounding scene in which the light must tremble on their surface; and that they must foam and whiten when they encounter an obstacle; that one must know how to create this foam; provide the mountains an imposing view; to open them up by suspending the craggy summit above my head and dig caves, to strip them in one place and cover them with moss in another, prick its summit with bushes and practice poetic license, which through them reminds me of the ravages of time, the vagaries of things and the age of the world. The effect of your way of lighting must be striking, that the limited fields must, in their disintegration extend all the way to where the horizon melds with the sky and that the horizon plunges into a never ending distance?
|Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Shepherd in the Alps|
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours
See how Poussin is marvelous and touching, when next to a pastoral scene, he laughingly focuses my attention to a grave where I read: Et in Arcadia ego! Then see how serious he becomes when he shows me in another painting a woman coiled by a serpent who is pulling her down to the bottom of the water. If I were to ask you for a dawn, how would you go about it? As for myself, Monsieur Juliart, though it is not my business, I would show the gates of Thebes from a hillside view; in front of the gates there would be a statue of Memnon; surrounding the statue would be people from all walks of life attracted to the statue in order to satisfy their curiosity and feel its resonance with the first rays of the sun. Seated philosophers would be drawing astronomical figures in the sand; women and children would be laying and asleep, others would have their eyes fixed on the horizon at the sunrise; one might see in the distance those hastening their pace for fear of arriving too late.
|Claude-Joseph Vernet, The Bridge and Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome|
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Diderot: Essais sur la Peinture on Gallica
Springer 2010 ISBN: 940070061X
250 pages PDF (4,2 MB)