Trois maîtres du dessin. Philippe de Champaigne, Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne, Nicolas de Plattemontagne

Three master draughtsmen. Philippe de Champaigne, Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne, Nicolas de Plattemontagne

Magny-les-Hameaux, Musée national de Port-Royal-des-Champs, from 25 March to 29 June 2009

1. Georges Lallemant (1580-1636)
Sainte Geneviève
Black chalk, brown wash, pen
and brown ink - 28 x 21.2 cm
Paris, musée du Louvre
Photo : D. R.

After the exhibition in Evreux devoted to Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne and Nicolas de Plattemontagne (see article), after the retrospective on Philippe de Champaigne in Lille (see article in French), the Musée de Port-Royal is now highlighting these three artists by presenting their graphic works. More remarkably : rather than just publishing a work offering only the sheets on display, the RMN has chosen to release for the occasion a complete catalogue of their drawings. This volume, by a young art historian, Frédérique Lanoë, under the scholarly guidance of Pierre Rosenberg, is perfect in every way. The entries are thoroughly documented, the numerous comparative illustrations and appendices correspond to expectations for such a publication (notably a list of rejected works), thus making it a valuable reference tool.

The exhibition is divided simply into three sections, one per draughtsman. Although this choice of presentation makes each artist’s production more coherent, it is unfortunate that there was no attempt at juxtaposing at times certain sheets, particularly those by Philippe de Champaigne and his nephew. This would have allowed for a better comprehension of some of the new suggestions presented at this time.
A remarkable discovery is revealed with the very first item. This is a drawing by Georges Lallemant (ill. 1) which Frédérique Lanoë found at the Louvre among 17th century anonymous Flemish works, representing Saint Genevieve. The indisputable attribution is all the more interesting as this sheet is preparatory for one of the first paintings related to Philippe de Champaigne, the product of a collaboration with Lallemant when he was in this painter’s workshop. It thus confirms the fact already revealed by Guillet de Saint-Georges previously that Champaigne worked based on his master’s drawings.

2. Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Study for the Charity
Red chalk - 12.6 x 96 cm
Paris, Institut néerlandais
Photo : All rights reserved

3. Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Study for a Female Figure Turning to the Right
Black chalk heightened with white chalk,
red chalk - 26.3 x 17.3 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

The exhibition adds much knowledge to Philippe de Champaigne’s style as a draughtsman. An example is the preparatory red chalk (ill. 2 ; cat. 19) for Charity at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lille which is fascinating to study. The final work has been hotly debated ever since Bernard Dorival had refused to attribute it to Champaigne, ascribing it rather to Lucas Franchoys, rejected by the specialist for this artist. Exhibited at the retrospective in Lille, this allegory now seems to be acknowledged unanimously, despite a decorative aspect which is still bothersome. The drawing identified at the Dutch Institute is undoubtedly a study for this painting. And the similarities found by Frédérique Lanoë with a Study for a Female Figure Turning to the Right (ill. 3 ; cat. 14), also shown, appears to make it safe to conclude that this is indeed by the same hand (particularly when comparing the manner in which the feet of both figures are drawn). The assimilation to Champaigne is definitely proven by the recent discovery of a painted Virgin of the Annunciation (Paris, private collection), for which the sheet from the Louvre is a preparation.

4. Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
Saint Gervase and Saint Protase
Appearing to Saint Ambrose

Pen and black ink,
grey wash - 14.7 x 28.2 cm
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum
Photo : Nationalmuseum

5. Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne (1631-1681)
The Invention of Relics of Saint
Gervase and Saint Protase

Black chalk, grey ink wash, pen and
brown ink,
red chalk - 15 x 27.2 cm
Paris, musée du Louvre
Photo : Musée du Louvre

These comparisons, enabling an almost certain attribution, is not always possible and at times the identification is based on an act of faith. This is the case, for instance, for another daring suggestion proposed here, which is the restitution to Jean-Baptiste Champaigne of the last two cartoons for the tapestry illustrating the story of Saint Gervase and Saint Protase, already offered in the catalogue of the double retrospective held in Evreux. It would have been helpful to hang the two drawings attributed here to Jean-Baptiste Champaigne side by side (The Invention of Relicsill. 4 – and The Translation of Relics – cat. 70 and 71) with the one from Stockholm (ill. 5 ; cat. 52), Saint Gervase and Saint Protase Appearing to Saint Ambrose indisputably by Philippe de Champaigne. We must admit that we are not entirely convinced by this hypothesis but, at the same, are unable to refute it.

6. Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
View of the Abbey of Port-Royal
des Champs

Grey wash - 21.7 x 37.3 cm
Paris, Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts
Photo : ENSBA

Another suggestion also deserves mentioning : it concerns a group of landscape drawings several of which had never been attributed to Philippe de Champaigne until now. The basis is an ensemble of sheets which have been authenticated, that is six drawings in lead of similar size and probably from the same sketchbook, held at the Bibliothèque Nationale (cat. 33 to 38) and a beautiful View of the Abbey of Port-Royal des Champs (ill. 6). Frédérique Lanoë adds several sheets to these seven landscapes, works which had long been attributed to Champaigne (notably by Bernard Dorival) before being disputed recently in the catalogue for the exhibition Le dessin en France dans les collections de l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts (cat. 42, 45 and 47) ; she also adds various drawings until now listed under another name. Among these, there are two large views of the garden and courtyard of the château at Pont-sur-Seine (cat. 39 and 40 ; Paris, BnF), which Claude Mignot had already restituted to the immediate circle of Philippe de Champaigne suggesting the name of Nicolas de Plattemontagne, based on the parallels with the drawings at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts recently attributed to this artist. Finally, three other landscapes are also published for the first time under Champaigne’s name, The Church of Saint Gudula in Brussels and a View on a Plain, both belonging to the Ecole nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts where they were held under the name of Van der Meulen (cat. 3 and cat. 44), as well as a Wooded Landscape near a Body of Water (cat. 46) from the Stadtmuseum in Linz, the only one not present in the exhibition.
The juxtaposition of these works reveals the unity of the production and thus tends to draw approval. However, it would be wise to remain cautious as landscape attribution is particularly difficult. In any case, the hypothesis which suggests withdrawing Champaigne’s name from the red chalk at the Metropolitan Museum, View of Jerusalem with Solomon’s Temple, exhibited here but listed in the catalogue with the rejected works (cat. R11) seems acceptable, as the manner is so different.

Many of Philippe de Champaigne’s works are unpublished or newly attributed but not exhibited : among the most beautiful ones there is a study for Louis XIII Crowned by Victory, held in Mexico City at the Museo Nacional de San Carlos (cat. 7) and a red chalk at the Musée de Grenoble, Cardinal Richelieu Presented by Saint Bernard Dedicates an Abbey to the Virgin and the Child Jesus (cat. 10).

7. Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne (1631-1681)
The Blessed Isabelle of France
Dedicates a Church to the Virgin

Black chalk, grey ink wash - 23.4 x 16.3 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : RMN/Thierry Le Mage

8. Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne (1631-1681)
Study for an
Angel Turning to the Right

Black chalk heightened with white
chalk - 28.5 x 22 cm
Paris, BnF
Photo : Paris, BnF

The exhibition in Evreux had already demonstrated that the style of Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne could be placed somewhere between Philippe de Champaigne and Charles Le Brun, easily verified also in the drawings. We have already raised the problems of attribution for the cartoons of the story of Saint John and Saint Protase. The dividing line between the uncle and the nephew continues to fluctuate. Thus, a Study of Two Hands from the Musée Atger (cat. 72) attributed to Philippe by Dominique Brême at the exhibition in Evreux now shifts to Jean-Baptiste here and, notably, a drawing from the Louvre often reproduced (ill. 7 ; cat. 80) for Philippe de Champaigne, preparatory for a painting in the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonne-Nouvelle, is also ascribed to Jean-Baptiste. All of these proposals are worth considering. As for the two Studies for Angels already exhibited in Evreux (ill. 8 ; cat. 86 and 87), first published by Nicolas Sainte-Fare-Garnot, these constitute without a doubt masterpieces drawn by Philippe’s nephew.

9. Nicolas de Plattemontagne (1631-1706)
Portrait of a Woman
Red chalk heightened with white- 24 x 18 cm
Private collection
Photo : RMN

The exhibition ends with the section devoted to Nicolas de Plattemontagne, whose manner appears quite different from those of the two Champaignes. Thanks to several articles on the artist, his style is now well known. Several sheets were discovered by Anna Reuter at the Museo Cerralbo in Madrid and have been published by her in the latest issue of Revue de l’Art. Unfortunately, none of these are displayed in the exhibition. The choice of separating the works according to the artist, once again, has its drawbacks : we would have enjoyed comparing the respective self-portraits of Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne and Plattemontagne. Let us point out that although there is no direct relation to the famous double portrait from Rotterdam, it is not very likely, contrary to what is stated in the catalogue, that the one by Jean-Baptiste (cat. 66) served as a model for Nicolas de Plattemontagne in this painting. The position, the direction of the eyes, the clothes even, do not correspond. Among the drawings missing at Port-Royal and recently rediscovered, there is a Portrait of a Woman (ill. 9), found by Guillaume Kazerouni in a private collection.

In concluding, this exhibition thus constitutes a milestone in further establishing a better knowledge of Philippe de Champaigne and his workshop. There is still much to do, however, notably in identifying the works of other artists in Champaigne’s atelier, such as Claude Daquin who remains unknown. The task is not a simple one. For instance, the only drawing attributed to Jean Morin based on an old inscription (and a credible one) is rejected in favor of Plattemontagne. It is true that except for Plattemontagne and Champaigne’s nephew (as a matter of fact, Jean Morin was mainly an engraver), and unlike Vouet’s students, Philipppe de Champaigne’s disciples left no significant trace in the history of painting.

local/cache-vignettes/L115xH147/Couverture_Dessins_Champaigne-446e6.jpgFrédérique Lanoë, Pierre Rosenberg, Philippe Luez, Trois maîtres du dessin, Philippe de Champaigne, Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne, Nicolas de Plattemontagne, Editions de la RMN, 208 p., 49 €. ISBN : 978-2-7118-5569-8.

Visitor Information : Musée national du domaine de Port-Royal des Champs, Route des Granges, 78114, Magny-les-Hameaux. Phone : + 33 (0)1 39 30 72 72. Open daily except Tuesday, from 10.00 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 17.00, week end from 10.30 to 18.30. Rates : 6,50 € and 5 € (reducted)

Website of the musée national du domaine de Port-Royal des Champs

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 18 mai 2009

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in Exhibitions : Réalités d’un monde. Peintures flamandes et hollandaises du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg

Next article in Exhibitions : Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923)