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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM THE SWEDISH ACADEMY, STOCKHOLM

Landscape with a rural dance

Landscape with a rural dance
signed 'CLAVD ... / LORR... / ROMAE...' (lower left)
oil on canvas
38 5⁄8 x 51 5⁄8 in. (98.1 x 131.1 cm.)
(Probably) Anonymous sale [Marquis de Chamgrand, Monsieur Proley et al.]; Paillet, Paris, 20 May 1787 (=1st day), lot 192, as part of a pair (10,000 francs to Paillet).
(Probably) Hugh A.J. Munro of Novar (1797-1864), Park Street, London; Alexander Rainey, London, 9 June 1836, lot 87, 286 gns. to,
George Townley.
Vilhelm Assarsson (1889-1974), Stockholm, by whom donated in the 1960s, along with his villa in Stockholm and collection of Old Masters and Swedish paintings, to the following,
The Swedish Academy, Stockholm.
(Probably) J. Smith, A catalogue raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French painters, London, 1837, VIII, pp. 360-361 no. 353, with an incorrect date.
M. Roethlisberger, 'Claude Lorrain: dances, pastorals and the early chronology', The Burlington Magazine, CLX, May 2018, pp. 376-379, fig. 2.
Special Notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

This recently re-discovered painting stands out in Claude’s oeuvre as the earliest in a series of works featuring dancers, a motif of Claude’s own invention that became almost an early trademark. Marcel Roethlisberger highlighted the significance of the painting’s re-emergence in an article in The Burlington Magazine in 2018 (op. cit.), in which he dated the painting to circa 1633, at the very beginning of Claude’s personal style. Roethlisberger remarked on the painting’s scale, which is larger than other pictures from this date, as well as the liveliness of the brushwork, declared it ‘an outstanding enrichment to our knowledge of Claude’s first maturity’ (private communication, December 2014) that adds to our understanding of his chronology and practice.
Having first left his native Duchy of Lorraine as early as 1617 to travel to Rome, Claude spent the next two years studying under the Cologne-born landscape artist Goffredo Wals in Naples before returning to the Eternal City where he was employed first as a servant and subsequently as pupil and assistant to the illusionistic architectural painter Agostino Tassi. After a short hiatus, when the young artist returned to his homeland to work at the ducal court with Claude Deruet, he returned to Rome either in late autumn 1626 or early in 1627 and, apart from short excursions to other parts of Italy, never left his adoptive city again.
Dating to circa 1633, the present painting is an important addition to the corpus of Claude’s known paintings that precede the Liber Veritatis, the book in which he recorded all his paintings from 1635 onwards. Here the cool light of the painting emanates from an unseen sun at upper left, signifying morning. The asymmetrical composition is dominated to the left with the slender temple surrounded by a grove of frothy trees, and the distant horizon of low hills is hazy in the early light. Against this the bright costumes of the three principal dancing figures and their seated companions stand in sharp relief. These foreground figures and the accompanying animals are a particularly well preserved element of the composition, which is characterised by a liveliness of execution befitting of the dancers’ nimble steps. Though the influence of Tassi can still be felt in the component parts of Claude’s composition, the energy of the execution is an indication of the swift evolution of his art. This technique can also be found in other early works, such as the Seaport with Chryseis of 1633-34 (private collection), but was soon replaced by the meticulous handling that characterised his mature paintings.
Though Claude did execute certain mythological subjects in the 1630s, it was the pastoral theme of the dance that characterises his work during this decade, with no fewer than eight ‘dancing’ paintings dating to this period, all of which are related in some degree by their staffage. Landscape with rural dance is the earliest in this group; Claude evidently felt that it was an especially successful composition, as he reproduced the figural groupings almost exactly in a painting of 1634 (fig. 1; Christie’s, London, 7 December 2010, lot 51, £ 2,057,250). Previously in the collection of the Duke of Westminster, it is of the same size as the present painting; a smaller version of the composition, likely dating to 1637, that once belonged to Cardinal Leopold de' Medici, is now in the Uffizi, Florence. Finally, an etching, also of circa 1637, further utilises the central dancing trio and their piping companion against a landscape that is more wooded than the paintings that preceded it (Washington, National Gallery of Art).
The pastoral dance in this form can be seen as an invention of Claude, and may possibly have its roots in the traditional dances of Lorraine, as it is almost completely absent from similar pastoral works of his teachers. Beginning with the Landscape with rural dance, the culmination of Claude’s experimentation with the genre can be seen to be The Mill, of 1648. Now in the National Gallery, London, this scene of Arcadian delights has at its centre a pair of dancers, here both with their arms aloft, the woman again holding a tambourine, the man a garland of flowers. To both this masterful example of Claude’s maturity and the elegant, silvery canvas of his earliest representation of the rural dance, the words of J.M.W. Turner, as spoken during his Royal Academy lecture of 12 February 1811 apply, these landscapes are ‘pure as Italian air, calm, beautiful and serene’.
Claude's influence on contemporary and later artists has been far-reaching. Just as, in the later 1630s and 1640s, important patrons and collectors started to acquire his work, so artists began imitating it. Dutch artists living in Rome, such as Herman van Swanevelt and Jan Both, took elements of Claude's style back to Northern Europe, while Italians like Salvator Rosa and Angeluccio, and, slightly later, the Frenchman Pierre Pater the Elder, were all influenced by his work. Neoclassical artists in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, such as Carlo Labruzzi, Jacob More, Jakob Philipp Hackert and Franz Kobell, picked up in their painting his emphasis on light as a unifying and harmonizing element. It was perhaps on British artists and indeed on British culture of this period that Claude had his most varied and far-reaching impact. It affected landscape garden design, eighteenth century nature poetry and the literature of the Picturesque movement, as well as paintings in oil and watercolour. Artistic giants such as Constable, Samuel Palmer and, of course, Turner, owed a huge debt to the Frenchman. Turner responded strongly to Claude's naturalistic depiction of sunlight in his painting as well as to the notion of the ideal landscape as a vehicle for the expression of poetic ideas, and used these as a platform for the development of his own radical experimentation with colour and light. The fact that by 1830 some two-thirds of Claude's pictures and drawings were in British collections was both a cause and a symptom of this impact. Sir Joshua Reynolds used to say that: ‘there would be another Rafaelle before there would be another Claude. His landscapes have all that is exquisite and refined in art and nature. Everything is moulded into grace and harmony; temples and groves, and winding glades and scattered hamlets, rise up in never-ending succession, under the azure sky and the resplendent sun...' (B.R. Haydon and W. Hazlitt, Painting and the Fine Arts, Edinburgh, 1838, pp. 35-6).
The early provenance of this painting is not known. It belonged to the Swedish diplomat Vilhelm Assarsson (1889-1974), as well-known art collector who in the late 1960s donated his villa in Stockholm and collection of Old Masters and Swedish paintings, including this work, to the Swedish Academy.

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