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Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875)

Mornex (Haute-Savoie)--Au fond, le mle

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875)
Corot, J.-B.-C.
Mornex (Haute-Savoie)--Au fond, le mle
signed 'Corot' (lower left)
oil on canvas
15 x 24.1/8 in. (40 x 60 cm.)
Painted circa 1840-1843
Mulhouse Hartmann; sale, Htel Drouot, Paris, 11 May 1876, lot 8.
Jean Dollfus, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Adrien Dollfus, Paris (by descent from the above).
Charles Dollfus, Paris (by descent from the above).
Alfred E. Daber, Paris (1960).
Arthur Tooth & Sons, Ltd., London.
Paul Mellon, New York and Virginia; sale, Christie's, New York, 15 November 1983, lot 8.
Acquavella Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale).
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London (acquired from the above, 1986).
E. Moreau-Nlaton, Corot racont par lui-mme, Paris, 1924, vol. I, p. 52, fig. 83 (illustrated, p. 53).
E. Faure, Corot, Paris, 1931, pl. 45 (illustrated).
G. Bazin, Corot, Paris, 1942, pl. 56 (illustrated).
G. Bazin, Corot, Paris, 1951, pl. 64 (illustrated).
Collection de Monographies d'Art Astra-Arengaricun, Corot, Milan and Florence, 1952, pl. 60 (illustrated).
F. Fosca, Corot, sa vie et son oeuvre, Brussels, 1958, p. 105,
no. 51 (illustrated).
A. Robaut, L'Oeuvre de Corot, Catalogue raisonn et illustr, Paris, 1965, vol. II, p. 186, no. 508 (illustrated, p. 187).
J. Leymarie, Corot, Lausanne, 1977, p. 77 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie Durand-Ruel, Exposition Rtrospective de Tableaux & Dessins des Matres Modernes, 1878, p. 16, no. 91 (as Vue prise auprs du Lac de Genve).
Paris, Salle des Etats au Louvre, Exposition de Tableaux, Statues, et Objets d'Art au Profit de l'Oeuvre des Orphelins d'Alsace-Lorraine, June 1885, no. 68 (as Vue de Suisse Mornex, prs de Genve).
Paris, Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Exposition d'Oeuvres de Corot, Paysages de France et Figures au profit de l'oeuvre de l'Allaitement Maternal, June-July 1930, no. 16.
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Camille Corot 1796-1875, August-October 1934, p. 40, no. 58 (illustrated; as Mornex, au fond le Mle).
Paris, Muse de l'Orangerie, Corot, 1936, p. 27, no. 52 (as Mornex. Au fond le Mle).
Lyon, Muse de Lyon, Exposition Corot, May-June 1936, p. 21, no. 41 (as Mornex. Au fond le Mle).
Paris, Galerie Alfred E. Daber, Le Divin Corot, Exposition du 155ime Anniversaire de la Naissance 1796-1951, June 1951, no. 10 (illustrated; as Mornex (Haute-Savoie)).
Bern, Kunstmuseum, Corot, January-March 1960, no. 37 (illustrated).
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, French Paintings from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon and Mrs. Mellon Bruce, 25th Anniversary Exhibition, March-May 1966, no. 2 (illustrated; as Landscape at Morex (Haute-Savoie)-Morning).
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), Important Works of Art, 1984, no. 3.

Lot Essay

Martin Dieterle has examined and confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

Painted during Corot's trip to Switzerland in 1842, Mornex (Haute-Savoie)--Au fond, le mle is one of Corot's most beautiful landscapes from his middle period. There is little documentation on Corot's work from the 1840s; however, it is known that he travelled extensively, going as far away as Italy and Switzerland, while also exploring the French countryside from the Morvan to Barbizon. While most of his later, mature landscapes are souvenirs or recalled memories (see lot 6), Mornex most likely represents a specific location and setting that Corot observed first-hand. This theory is supported by the existence of a drawing of a similar setting in the Haute-Savoie dated 1842 (Robaut, no. 2737).

In the present painting, Corot depicts a panoramic landscape that begins with the gentle, rolling hills and plowed fields of the Salve at Mornex. In the middle ground, he includes a band of trees, a valley with a glimpse of a river, and more hills which gradually turn into mountains in the far off distance. Within this extensive vista, Corot has placed three children. The two young girls appear almost to sink into the grass that surrounds their feet.

Corot was an artist who revered the tradition of Poussin and Claude, an artist who wanted to emulate the long established classical approach to landscape painting. However, Mornex, with its bold diagonal composition, and interesting juxtaposition of the two female figures -- one looking directly at the viewer, while the other turns away -- can only be considered modern in its sensibility. In addition, light plays an important role in creating the overall effect of the atmosphere in this painting. It casts a gentle glow over the green fields, furrowed earth and trees and slopes that recede into the distance. In contrast to this soft, toned down luminosity, is the strong sunlight that reflects off the three children, casting its shadow on their straw hats and the white fabric of their clothing. Corot would later explore the same ideas of composition, color and light in a painting that may be dated from one of his last trips to Switzerland, Une Ferme de Dardagny (Robaut, no. ).

Mornex once belonged to the great American collector, the late Paul Mellon.

(fig. 1) J.-B.-C. Corot, Une Ferme de Dardagny, circa 1855-1857.
Private Collection.

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