Pietro da Cortona, Ciro Ferri and Louis de Boullogne displayed at the Louvre

27/3/11 – Exhibitions – Paris, Musée du Louvre – In the last few years, the Département des Arts Graphiques at the Louvre has been organizing monograph exhibitions accompanied by small catalogues. This collection would benefit from developing this formula further and imposing fewer restrictions (the format is not really ideal as the number of plates – therefore drawings – is set at 50, no more, no less, and, above all, no notes) but, all in all, this series has enabled the display and publication of many works thus making it extremely useful. Having said this, we regret not having found the opportunity last year to discuss the exhibition featuring Toussaint Dubreuil which shed much new light on this artist.

1. Pierre de Cortone (1597-1669)
The Return of Hagar
Balck chalk - 27.4 x 34 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMN

2. Ciro Ferri (1633-1689)
The doration of the Shepherds
Black chalk - 23.3 x 37.8 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMN

Two hangs are currently being presented, the first highlights Pietro da Cortona (ill. 1) and his student Ciro Ferri (ill. 2), the other an artist who until now had not been featured in any retrospective and been studied in only one book [1], Louis II de Boullogne [2].
Although the two Italian artists are familiar as reflected by an extensive bibliography, the catalogue adds further knowledge. Thus, as the restoration involved separating some sheets from their support, two revealed drawings on the back (pl. 5 and 14) and, although not masterpieces, go toward enriching the holdings of the Louvre even more. Another interesting discovery : a study of an arm which is part of the ensemble known as Double numbering collector [3], marked as being by Ferri despite the fact that the style did not easily justify this attribution, demonstrates once again the pertinence of this anonymous indication. In fact, Bénédicte Gady, the catalogue author, was able to compare it to another section of a décor for a cupola at Saint Peter’s in Rome recently attributed to Ciro Ferri. Other examples show how difficult it is to determine whether the work is by Pietro da Cortona or his student. Some sheets change from one to the other as they cannot be compared to a completed work. And even in a case of this type, the very close collaboration of the two artists in some projects makes it impossible to differentiate them and one can only talk about the style of the piece.

3. Louis de Boulogne (1654-1733)
The Assumption of the Virgin
Black chalk, heightened with white chalk - 33 x 30.7 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMN

4. Louis de Boulogne (1654-1733)
Black chalk, heightened with white chalk - 46,7 x 31,7 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMN

Boullogne does not raise this type of problem. His graphic style is easy to identify and he is also one of the few artists to systematically sign – or rather place a monogram – on his drawings. A large number are black chalk with white chalk highlighting on blue paper, a support which unfortunately at times has faded, but which does not detract from the force of the strokes. Although he used red chalk, wash and even watercolours in his youth, the holdings at the Louvre – the largest one in any museum – has no examples. However, there are sheets representing all the different levels of drawing, from a swift preparatory study to a finished modello (ill. 3), including the in-between stages of studies of isolated figures (ill. 4). The exhibition at the Louvre illustrates how unfortunate it is that Louis de Boullogne, despite Antoine Schnapper’s articles as well as those by the specialist, Hélène Guicharnaud (the catalogue author), remains so unknown. We hope that the monograph she has been promising for some time will soon appear.

Curators : Bénédicte Gady (exhibition on Pietro da Cortona and Ciro Ferri) and Hélène Guicharnaud (exhibition on Louis de Boullogne).

Bénédicte Gady , Pietro da Cortona, Editions 5 Continents, 2011, 84 p., 20€. ISBN 9788874395996.

Hélène Guicharnaud , Louis de Boullogne, Editons 5 Continents, 2011, 84 p., 20€. ISBN : 9788875395989.

The exhibitions are at the Musée du Louvre from 10 March to 6 June 2011. Free entrance with a museum ticket.

Didier Rykner, dimanche 27 mars 2011


[1] Antoine Schnapper and Hélène Guicarnaud, Louis de Boullogne (1654-1733), Paris, 1986. Published by the de Bayser Gallery in its collection, Cahiers du dessin français, this volume only featured the drawings and had no entries.

[2] Louis II de Boullogne was the son of Louis de Boullogne, the Elder, who is even less well known, although the Musée de Beaux-Arts de Caen has purchased two small paintings by the latter (see news item of 15/1/11).

[3] The drawings in this collection all have two numbers, with digits and letters (in Italian), as well as the name of the artist ; this was probably an inventory drawn up by a notary.

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