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Jacques de Bellange (circa 1570-1716) or Georges Lallemant (Nancy 1575-1636 Paris)
Jacques de Bellange (circa 1570-1716) or Georges Lallemant (Nancy 1575-1636 Paris)

An amorous couple

Jacques de Bellange (circa 1570-1716) or Georges Lallemant (Nancy 1575-1636 Paris)
An amorous couple
with number '38'
black chalk, pen and brown ink, brown wash, indistinct watermark encircled cross with letter P, brown ink framing lines
14 x 8 5/8 in. (35.5 x 22 cm.)
E. Rodrigues (L. 897); Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 28 November 1928, lot 10 (as Bellange).
Pierre Lièvre, Paris, in 1937.
Madame Schnerb, Paris.
F.-G. Pariset, 'Dessins de Jacques de Bellange', La critica d'arte, 3rd series, VIII, no. 5, fasc. XXI, January 1950, p. 352, fig. 292 (as Bellange).
D. Ternois, L'art de Jacques Callot, Paris, 1962, pl. 25a (as Bellange).
A. Blunt, 'Review: The art of Jacques Callot', Burlington Magazine, CV, no. 726, September 1963, p. 414.
F.-G. Pariset, 'De Bellange à Deruet', Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art français, 1965 (1966), p. 65 (as Bellange).
C. Comer, Studies in Lorraine Art, ca. 1580-ca. 1625, PhD thesis, Princeton, 1979, p. 280, no. X14 (as attributed to Lallemant).
H. Goldfarb, From Fontainebleau to the Louvre: French Drawings from the Seventeenth Century, exhib. cat., Cleveland, Museum of Art and other locations, 1989, p. 31, under no. 7 (as Lallemant).
J. Thuillier, Jacques de Bellange, exhib. cat. Rennes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 2001, p. 334 (as by a student of Bellange).
P. Rosenberg, 'Did Jacques de Bellange go to Italy?', Burlington Magazine, CXLIII, no. 1183, October 2001, p. 632 (as Bellange ?).
Paris, Palais national des Arts, Chefs-d'Oeuvre de l'art français, 1937, no. 465 (as 'Bellange: Femme et Cavalier'; catalogue by L Blum).

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Lot Essay

Hailed by Francois-Georges Pariset, in his seminal 1950 article on Jacques Bellange, as 'son plus grand chef d'oeuvre profane', this drawing has since been much discussed in the literature devoted to the great Lorraine artist. Daniel Ternois reproduced it in his 1962 monograph on Jacques Callot as a comparison to Callot's own Amorous couple (Ternois, op. cit., pl. 25b). It was in his review of Ternois's book that Anthony Blunt first questioned the attribution, writing that 'it is permissible to put in a plea for the view that [the amorous couple] is by Georges Lallemant and not by Bellange.' This new attribution to Lallemant, although never really substantiated, was later endorsed by Christopher Comer and Hilliard Goldfarb. In his 2001 exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonné Jacques Thuillier, while admitting that he knew the drawing only from a reproduction, included it in his rejected section, in a group he called 'des Calligraphies', which he attributed to a student of Bellange.

The drawings in this group are characterised by precisely-delineated outlines, which suggest volume and shadows through refined parallel hatching. Thuillier compared the technique to that of an engraver or a calligrapher, noting that the artist revels in a continuous play of arabesques. These drawings show some of Bellange's characteristic features pushed to their extremes, such as bulbous, slanting eyes, long noses, and curling hair dressed in fluttering braids. However, Thuillier acknowledged that the execution of the present drawing is suppler than the others from the group, which are drawn in pen alone and lack the wash used here. He even hinted that this could be seen as a work by Bellange, which may have served as the point of departure for one of the master's most faithful and gifted disciples; although in the end he preferred to interpret it as the pinnacle of such a disciple's artistic achievement. In his review of Thuillier's catalogue, Pierre Rosenberg returned to the original attribution, writing that he 'would hesitate to deprive Bellange of the Amorous couple'.

The prominent and carefully executed outlines and the controlled use of wash find parallels in some drawings generally attributed to Georges Lallemant: for example, the Warrior, the Procuress and the Saint Matthew and Saint John, all in the Louvre (F.-G. Pariset, 'Georges Lallemant émule de Jacques de Bellange', Gazette des Beaux-Arts, XLIII, 1954, p. 303, fig. 5, p. 304, fig. 6 and p. 305, fig. 7). However, Lallemant's development as a draughtsman is still not thoroughly understood, especially in the period he spent in Nancy before coming to Paris in 1601. And the fact remains that the subject, and the elongated figures, oval faces and spidery fingers seen here strongly echo Bellange’s works. The same calligraphic quality of the outlines and firmly delimitated use of the wash which Thuillier used as an argument against the attribution to Bellange can actually be observed in some of the master's undisputed drawings such as, for example, the Musician with a tambourine in the Edmond de Rothschild collection in the Louvre (Thuillier, op. cit., no. 37), the Saint Roch in the Uffizi (op. cit., no. 32), or the Woman seen from behind holding a basket of flowers on her head in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg (op. cit., no. 48).

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