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Jean-Baptiste Pillement (Lyon 1728-1808)
Jean-Baptiste Pillement (Lyon 1728-1808)

A mountainous landscape with goatherds crossing a bridge

Jean-Baptiste Pillement (Lyon 1728-1808)
A mountainous landscape with goatherds crossing a bridge
signed and dated 'J·Pillement 1785' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21½ x 31¼ in. (54.6 x 79.3 cm.)
P. Mitchell, 'Jean Pillement Revalued', Apollo, January 1983, pp. 46-49.
N. Saldanha et al., Jean Pillement and landscape painting in 18th century Portugal, Lisbon, 1991, p. 93, no. 12.
R M. Gordon-Smith, Pillement, Cracow, 2006, p. 313, plate 321.

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Lot Essay

After beginning his career as draughtsman of decorative motifs, Pillement turned to landscape painting while in England in the 1750s. Later in Portugal in the 1780s, often cited as the highpoint of his career, he extended his range to include estuary and harbor views. Pillement's style has often been compared with that of Vernet, while the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch painting is also evident. In the present work, the naturalistic vignettes of idyllic country life in the foreground, depicted in earth tones punctuated by the brightly colored garments of the peasants, evoke the paintings of Dutch master Nicolaes Berchem. In the distance, however, the nearly monochromatic pastel backdrop of mountains and sky possess the exoticism and stylization of Pillement's fantastical chinoiserie panels.

Born in Lyon, Pillement traveled throughout Europe over the course of his long career. He left France for Madrid in 1745 at the age of seventeen and visited Lisbon before spending the 1750s in London. Passing through Paris in 1761, he went on to visit Turin, Rome and Milan, before turning north again, spending the years 1763-1764 in Vienna and 1765-1767 in Warsaw as a court painter to King Stanislas Augustus Poniatowski. He returned to London, selling seventy of his landscapes at Christie's on 13 April 1774, and revisited Paris in 1778, before going through Avignon to the Iberian peninsula. He was in Portugal in 1780-1786, during which period he founded a school of drawing at Oporto, and may have been in Spain in 1786-9. His last years were spent at Pezenas and Lyon. Maria Gordon-Smith dates this picture to this time in Lyon from 1800-1808 (op. cit., p. 93).

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