A Drawing by Baron Gérard for the Metropolitan

1. François Gérard (1770-1837)
Daphnis Running after Chloé, 1798
Black Chalk, Brown Ink and Chinese Ink Wash
and White Gouache Heightenings - 22.5 x 18 cm
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Photo : Galerie Terrades

20/9/12 - Acquisition - New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art - The Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently acquired a drawing by Baron Gérard, Daphnis Running after Chloé, an illustration project which was never used for The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloé (ill. 1), from the Terrades Gallery in Paris. This narrative by Longus from the 2nd or 3rd century, was translated from Greek by Jacques Amyot and published in France in 1559. It tells the story of a goatherd and a shepherdess, both abandoned at birth who know nothing of love and are blind to their deep affection for each other ; after a series of adventures and thanks to Pan’s protection, they discover their illustrious ancestors and finally marry. The work was very popular notably in the 18th century, known particularly due to the edition called "du Régent" published in 1718 which enjoyed many later editions, illustrated with vignettes by Antoine Coypel and engraved by Audran.

The printer, Pierre Didot the elder, asked Pierre-Paul Prud’hon then François Gérard to design illustrations for a new edition. Prud’hon produced only three, around 1794-95 which focused on the first chapters and the early stirrings of love - Lamon, the goatherd discovering Daphnis nursed by a goat, Daphnis withdrawing a cicada from Chloé’s breast, finally Daphnis and Chloé’s bath - and were engraved by Barthélemy Roger ; Baron Gérard completed the ensemble with six other images, engraved by Massard, Marais and Godefroy, evoking rather the obstacles faced by the two lovebirds ; Chloé’s Abduction by the Methymnaeans, then Her Liberation by Pan, Daphnis Visited by the Nymphs while Sleeping, The Offering to Pan Thanking Him for His Protection and Daphnis Leading Chloé to the Wedding Chamber ; they lived happily ever after and had many children. The work was published by Didot in 1800 [1] while the original drawings by both artists were bound in a luxury edition in 1802 and presented as a gift to Junot, Duke of Abrantès, Governor of Paris. It now resides at the BnF.

2. Marais after François Gérard
Chloé Released from the Methymnaeans Meet Daphnis
Illustration for The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloé, 1800
Photo : DR

3. Benoît Audran after Antoine Coypel
Daphnis Running after Chloé
Illustration for The Pastoral Loves of Daphnis and Chloé, 1718
Photo : DR

The drawing acquired by the Metropolitan is a study for Daphnis and Chloé’s reencounter after her abduction by the soldiers from Methymna : "It was around the time when the animals are led back to the fields in the afternoon. Daphnis, catching sight in the distance from an elevated viewpoint, of Chloé with the two herds : "Oh, Nymphs ! Oh, Pan !" he cried ; and coming down to the plain, ran to her, threw himself in her arms so overwrought with joy that he swooned. Even Chloé’s kisses, holding him close to her breast, could barely bring him back.". The sheet is an initial project, differing significantly from the final composition chosen by the artist (ill. 2) and was probably inspired by one of the vignettes engraved by Audran after Coypel (ill. 3). No doubt Didot would have preferred more sober illustrations, less narrative than the other Longus editions, though also refined. Gérard finally abandoned the idea of Daphnis running madly towards the shepherdess, bringing the bodies of the two pastoral figures closer and concentrating his attention on the young man’s swooning. The final composition is in fact rather close to Psyche and Cupid. Several other preparatory drawings for this series of illustrations came up for auction at Christie’s on 11 September 2008, one of which is also a study for the encounter scene.
Gérard uses these two figures much later in a painted work from 1824-1825 now held at the Louvre. The theme also inspired Gérôme for a painting from 1852 while Guérin and Girodet illustrated the scene of Daphnis and Chloé listening to Philitas, the shepherd.
This craze for the Pastoral Loves continued down through the centuries, as seen in the Metropolitan collections where visitors can discover, besides several copies of the work, interpretations by Bonnard (1902), Charles-Emile Carlègle (wood engravings from 1919) as well as André-Edouard Marty in 1934 and Maillol in 1937.

Readers may be surprised to find us dwelling for so long on a single drawing purchased by the Metropolitan Museum when we have not so much as mentioned the dozens, even hundreds of other drawings which have joined the collections over the past few years. The Metropolitan’s acquisitions of graphic art are indeed plentiful and devoting an article to each one of them would take up our entire news item space. However, we will soon return for a full, though necessarily shorter, summary on the subject.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, jeudi 20 septembre 2012


[1] See Monique Moulin’s article, "Daphnis et Chloé dans l’oeuvre de François Gérard", in Revue du Louvre, 1983, n° 33, pp. 100-109, which reproduces the engravings after Gérard as well as the preparatory drawings.

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