• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 9154

    Important Old Master Paintings

    25 May 1999, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 28

    Jean Restout (1692-1768)

    Venus Ordering Arms from Vulcan for Aeneas

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Jean Restout (1692-1768)
    Restout, J.
    Venus Ordering Arms from Vulcan for Aeneas
    signed 'Rtout'
    oil on canvas
    39 x 53in. (102 x 137cm.)


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    Born in Rouen and orphaned at an early age, Restout was taken to Paris before 1707 to apprentice in the studio of his maternal uncle, the famous history painter and Director of the Acadmie Royale, Jean Jouvenet. Restout quickly became the elder painter's most able and trusted assistant and, ultimately, collaborator. Jouvenet sponsored Restout's reception into the Acadmie Royale, but died less than two months before the young painter was admitted, on May 29, 1717, as an associate member with the submission of the present Venus Ordering Arms from Vulcan for Aeneas. This splendid painting was made as a conscious homage to his recently deceased uncle, and was admired as such by the members of the Acadmie, as an anonymous article in the Galerie franoise (1771) makes clear:

    'As reserved as he was meek, [Restout] practiced in secret for the grand prize; when he felt skilled enough to enter the lists, he painted Venus Ordering Arms from Vulcan for Aeneas, and this painting gained him an associate membership in the Acadmie. The members saw in the painting the reincarnation of Jouvenet: it had the same style of drawing, the same large, draped forms, the same arrangement of groups, and the same harmony between perspective and all the magic of chiaroscuro'.

    Indeed, Jouvenet's influence is strongly felt in the painting: the pose of Vulcan resting on his elbow at his workbench comes straight from Jouvenet's own version of the theme (lost; known from the engraving by L. Desplaces) which he had exhibited in the Salon of 1704; likewise, the dog in the lower right of Restout's picture is taken from Jouvenet's Christ Resting in the House of Simon the Pharisian (Muse des Beaux-Arts, Lyons); Restout's imperious Venus, however, was inspired by a figure in Louis de Boullogne's Juno Requesting Aeolus to Release the Winds (engraved by Dupuis), as Colin Bailey has observed. The painting's classical, pyramidal composition -- which Restout worked out precisely in a black and white chalk drawing, squared for transfer (formerly with Paul Prout S.A., Paris) -- is also indebted to Jouvenet's example. But the sobriety and warmth of the colors employed in the present painting, and the artist's subtle rendering of light, create a soft atmosphere and beautiful luminosity that was peculiar to Restout's art.

    The familiar story comes from the eighth book of the Aeneid (8:370-385), in which Virgil recounts Venus's seduction of Vulcan, her husband and blacksmith to the gods of Olympus: appearing in Vulcan's forge, the goddess persuades him to make arms for her son Aeneas, the founder of Rome, who was about to go to war in Latium. Restout conveys Vulcan's ambivalence at the request of his unfaithful wife, but also his inability to resist the overwhelming power of her beauty: 'the familiar warmth passed into his marrow and ran through his melting frame...'.

    Restout rose to the highest rank of the Acadmie, becoming its Director in 1760 and Chancellor in 1768. He specialized in painting austere altarpieces such as The Death of Saint Scholastica (1730; Muse des Beaux-Arts, Tours) for churches, convents, and religious confraternities, employing the sober, French version of the Counter-reformatory style developed by his uncle. He rarely painted profane subjects, but when he did they often depicted one or another episode from the life of Aeneas: in addition to the present painting, the subject of which he painted only this once, there is The Deification of Aeneas (1749; Muse des Arts Decoratifs, Strasbourg), Dido Showing Aeneas the Buildings of Carthage (1751; Hotel de la Prefecture, Lyons), and Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas (1717; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa). The latter depicts the episode in the hero's story that follows immediately upon the Ordering of Arms, was painted in the same year as the present painting, and is of identical dimensions: one would be tempted to think them pendants but for the fact that the Ottawa painting is vertical, while the present canvas is horizontal in format. It is tempting to suggest that Restout might have painted both as alternative choices in preparation for his admission to the Acadmie Royale (as Rosenberg and Schnapper first suggested in 1982), before he finally settled on Venus Ordering Arms from Vulcan for Aeneas as his official submission.

    Provenance

    Nikolaus Reber-Passavant (1735-1821), Basel; sale, Basel, Dec. 1810, lot 1.
    Private collection, Switzerland.
    with Maurice Segoura, Paris and New York.


    Literature

    Eloge de Restout, 1769, p. 44.
    Papillon de La Fert, Extracts des Diffrents Ouvrages Publes sur la Vie des Peintres, 1776, p. 632.
    C. Blanc, Histoire des Peintres de Toutes les Ecoles...Ecole Franaise, 1868, 'Jean Restout', p. 2.
    R. Foranigny de la Londe, Essai sur les Principes de la Peinture par Jean Restout, 1863, p. 21.
    A. Jal, Dictionnaire Critique de Biographie et d'histoire, 1872, p. 1054.
    E. Bellier de La Chavignerie and L. Auvray, Dictionnaire Gneral des Artistes de L'Ecole Franaise, 1882, II, p. 363.
    Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, 1919, IV, p. 214.
    R. Gobillot, Jean Restout in L'Art et les Artistes, May 1929, p. 254.
    J. Messelet, Jean Restout, 1692-1768, in Archives de L'Art Franaise, nouvelle priode, XIX, 1939, p. 108.
    E. Bnzit, Dictionnaire Critique..., 1954, VII, p. 190.
    P. Rosenberg and A. Schnapper in the catalogue of the exhibition, Restout, Muse des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, 1970, pp. 19, and 186, fig. 5.
    R. Maillard, Dictionnaire Universelle de le Peinture, V, 1975, p. 435.
    P. Rosenberg and A. Schnapper, Paintings by Restout on Mythological and Historical Themes: Acquisition by the National Gallery of Canada of Venus Presenting Arms to Aeneas, National Gallery of Canada Bulletin, 6, 1982-3, pp. 44-8, note 12, fig. 2.


    Exhibited

    New York, Maurice Segoura/Finarco, Eighteenth Century French Academic Art, Selected Works, Summer 1979, no. 5 (entry by Christophe Janet)
    New York, Maurice Segoura Gallery, Christophe Janet, From Watteau to David: A Century of French Art, 1982, no. 4 (entry by Christophe Janet).