Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)

Campagne de Naples

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (French, 1796-1875)
Campagne de Naples
signed 'COROT' (lower left)
oil on canvas
16½ x 25 in. (42 x 63.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1840-45.
with Bernheim Jeune, Paris, 1863.
Charles Paravey, Paris, circa 1865.
His sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 14 April 1878, lot 3.
with Hector Brame, Paris, acquired at the above sale.
with Arnold & Tripp, Paris, circa 1888.
Ernest Cognacq, Paris.
By descent to Gabriel Cognacq, Paris, circa 1912.
His sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 14 May 1952, lot 34.
Joseph Gruss, New York.
His sale; Christie's, New York, 25 May 1994, lot 154.
with Richard Green, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
A. Robaut, L'oeuvre de Corot, catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1905, vol. II, pp. 218-219, no. 616 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Paysages d'Italie, 1947, no. 32.

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Lot Essay

Although the location in the present work is not identifiable, it combines elements of a topographically accurate ricordo, such as the background landscape and carefully constructed throw of light and shadow, with motifs, such as the goatherd in the foreground, which herald a more poetic approach by Corot to painting, typified in his later Souvenirs, the nostalgic landscapes that have come to define the artist in the public imagination.

Other aspects of this picture also presage Corot's future direction. For example, he has here used various compositional devices to focus the eye on the hilltop village in the background. These include the
vertical thin tree on the left, the more sinuous tree leaning into the composition on the right, and the path which curves towards it. The tree device in particular would become a signature compositional ingredient of virtually all Corot's later imagined landscapes.

Although the painting might well have been influenced by Corot's third and final trip to Italy in 1843, when he spent over six months in Rome and the campagna to the south of the city, it is very similar to another work, Site des environs de Naples (Springfield Museum of Arts) exhibited by Corot at the Salon of 1841 (fig. 1). These two paintings share the same division between a shaded, largely imagined foreground, and a sunlit background reminiscent of the artist's earliest Italian landscapes. Of the Salon picture, Robaut wrote that it was 'the first painting to inaugurate the new era of 'the joyful Corot,'' when he began to develop a personal pictorial language which synthesized the more formal constraints of his plein-air studies and classical convention into a modern, but equally poetic reinterpretation of Claudian antecedants.

The mid-1840s marked the beginning of Corot's fame and recognition, in the eyes of the public and of the establishment, culminating in his award of the Légion d'Honneur in 1846. More importantly, perhaps, his influence on a younger generation of artists was beginning to be equally profoundly felt. Commenting on both this and the artist's ability to combine an approach that was both emotional and deeply sensitive to his subject matter, Baudelaire wrote of the artist in his review of the 1845 Salon: 'Corot is at the vanguard of the modern landscape school...Clearly this artist sincerely loves nature, and knows how to look at it with both intelligence and love [our italics]. The qualities with which he shines are so strong, that the influence of M. Corot is nowadays visible in nearly all the works of our young landscape artists.'

Martin Dieterle examined and confirmed the authenticity of this painting in 1994.

(fig. 1) Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Site des environs de Naples, 1841, oil on canvas, Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts, The James Philip Gray Collection.

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