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Etienne Aubry (Versailles 1745-1781)
This lot is offered without reserve.
Etienne Aubry (Versailles 1745-1781)

Le Mariage Rompu

Etienne Aubry (Versailles 1745-1781)
Le Mariage Rompu
oil on canvas
35¼ x 46 in. (89.5 x 116.8 cm.)
Pillot collection, Chatou, by 1925.
Anonymous sale; Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 10 June 1963.
Review of the Salon of 1777, Mercure de France, Deloynes, pp. 1096-1097.
Lettres pittoresques sur le Salon de 1777, IV Deloynes 190, p. 1049.
Conversations between Aglantine, a fourteen year old Creole girl and M. de Sauvigny, Deloynes 178, pp. 874-875.
M. de Sauvigny, Les tableaux du Louvre ou il n'y a pas le sens commun, histoire véritable, Deloynes, 1777, 186, p. 935.
F. Ingersoll-Smouse, 'Quelques tableaux de genre inédits,' La Gazette des Beaux Arts, Paris, 1925, pp. 80-86.
M. Florisoone, Le dix-huitième siècle, Paris, 1948, p. 71.
J. Thuillier and A. Chatelet, La peinture française de le Nain à Fragonard, Paris, 1964, p. 229.
A. Brookner, Greuze, The Rise and Fall of an Eighteenth Century Phenomenon, London, 1972, pp. 142-143.
P. Rosenberg and M. Stewart, French Paintings 1500-1825, San Francisco, 1987, p. 105.
Salons de Bachaumont, introduction and analysis by Fabrice Faré, reprinted Jacques Laget, 1995, pp. 70-71.
Paris, Salon, 1777, no. 124.
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Lot Essay

In a grand Baroque chapel, sixteen people have gathered for a young gentleman's marriage, which has been interrupted at the last moment by his former lover and children. In the words of the 1777 Salon livret, 'the young man's father, touched by the sight of the unfortunate offspring, turns his son's gaze towards them. The son, feeling his heart break at the sight, gives in, and paternal love triumphs.' Le Mariage Rompu, exhibited at the Salon of 1777, was one of three paintings shown by Aubry that year, just four years before his untimely death. In terms of scale, sentiment and compositional complexity, this picture was by far the most ambitious, and won him the protection of France's most influential arbiter of taste, the surintendant des bâtiments, the Comte d'Angiviller.

Étienne Aubry studied with Silvestre in his hometown of Versailles, and later with Vien. His first successes were in the field of portraiture, in which genre he was agréé at the Académie Royale in 1771. He was greatly admired for his portraits of Vassé and Hallé and in 1775 was reçu into the Academy. However, following the influence of such artists as Jean-Baptiste Greuze and Jean-Siméon Chardin, Aubry became entirely absorbed in genre painting. Diderot, the philosophe who championed Greuze's drames bourgeois, wished to transform the Salons into schools of virtue; a place where artists would perpetuate noble deeds, where virtue would be vindicated and vice stigmatized.

Le Mariage Rompu gives us a crucial insight into a movement which took on great importance in the 18th century: sensibilité. The origins of the movement are to be found in literary sources; in the writings of such philosophes as Rousseau, who believed that the Sciences, Letters and Arts could 'spread garlands of flowers over the iron chains with which men are burdened'. Aubry, like Rousseau, preached reform by idealizing the simpler and more natural ways of modest, old-fashioned households. The drame bourgeois aimed to replace the old forms of French drama, which bore a more classicizing vocabulary. The subject was always of domestic misfortunes, dealing with the everyday happenings of the middle class. Both Diderot and Rousseau believed in the need for, and possibility of, a sympathetic transport that would allow readers and beholders of works of art to exchange places with the characters of others. In a painting such as Le Mariage Rompu, sensibilité prevails. The conventions of the established order are overturned and in its place a new morality installed; the natural bond of father, mother and child triumphs, despite their evident disparity of class.

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