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Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain (Chamagne ?1604/5-1682 Rome)
THE PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN 
Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain (Champagne 1600-1682 Rome)

La Tempête: A Mediterranean costal landscape with rowing boats and a galley in rough seas, a seaside temple and a tower, other vessels beyond

Details
Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain (Champagne 1600-1682 Rome)
La Tempête: A Mediterranean costal landscape with rowing boats and a galley in rough seas, a seaside temple and a tower, other vessels beyond
oil on copper, octagonal
11 x 13¾ in. (28 x 35 cm.)
Provenance
Lord George Cavendish (according to the inscription on the reverse).
The grandfather of the present owner, and by descent.

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Alexis Ashot
Alexis Ashot

Lot Essay

This previously unpublished work would appear to be a new discovery in the oeuvre of Claude Lorrain, and possibly one of his earliest painted works. The combination of an octagonal format with a copper support was particularly favoured by the artist, and recurs in these dimensions in a number of examples, including the Pastoral landscape in Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales (28 x 34.5 cm.; see M. Röthlisberger, Claude Lorrain: The Paintings, New Haven and London, 1961, I, no. LV11, II, fig. 44), the Pastoral landscape with Castel Gandolfo (30.5 x 37.5 cm.; Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum; op. cit., I, no. LV35, II, fig. 90), the Landscape with the port of Santa Marinella (30 x 37 cm.; Paris, Petit Palais, Collection Dutuit; op. cit., I, no. LV46, II, fig. 111); the early Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt (28 x 33.7 cm.; the Duke of Westminster; op. cit., I, no. 241, II, fig. 14), and others. Claude seems to have enjoyed the octagonal framing of his compositions particularly on this small scale, and the octagonal coppers generally belong to the first decade of his independent career. Chronologically, the Rest on the Flight is signed and dated 1631; LV11 has been placed by Röthlisberger in 1636-1637; LV35 in 1639, and LV46 in 1639-1640. After a period in the studios of Goffredo Wals in Naples, Agostino Tassi in Rome and Claude Deruet in Lorraine, Claude established himself as an independent artist in 1627-8. A few years later he began to keep what he called his Liber Veritatis, a drawn record of his painted works. Most of Claude's painted compositions correspond to a drawing in the Liber (hence the LV numbers in the catalogue raisonné), but some early works, such as the Westminster Rest on the Flight - as well as the present copper - are not included. Nevertheless, the present composition can be closely linked to Claude's earliest dated etching, La Tempête, the first state of which is inscribed 'CLAUD. IELLE.I.V.F.ROMAE.1630' (L. Mannocci, The Etchings of Claude Lorrain, New Haven and London, 1988, no. 6, pp. 50-9), the preparatory drawing for which also survives, itself inscribed 'CLAV IV' and dated 'CLAVDIO W 1630 ROM' (London, British Museum; M. Röthlisberger, Claude Lorrain: The Drawings, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968, no. 46).

We are grateful to Dr. Jon Whiteley for confirming the attribution on the basis of first-hand inspection, noting that it has always seemed likely that a painting such as the present one lay behind the early etching. While neither the preparatory drawing nor the etching precisely correspond to the composition of the painting, all of the key elements recur - the floundering galley, with its distinctive stern; the vaguely-defined landmass in the foreground; the densely wooded coastline to one side of the composition; the crenellated tower in the distance; the sail ships struggling against the wind in the background. The motif of the rowing boat with three figures struggling to keep it upright appears in modified but recognisable form in the foreground; this element has been crudely and selectively overpainted and would benefit from a sensitive cleaning. Of great interest is the pentiment at the right of the painted work, barely visible under the painted sky, which must belong to a very early stage of the creative process, and which seems to indicate some indecision as to whether the mass of buildings should be at left or right - here too, one can almost make out what is apparently a crenelated tower, larger in scale (in keeping with that in the drawing and etching). Although no other painted treatment of a stormy sea by Claude is extant, it is clear that Claude returned to the theme more than once: Sandrart, his early biographer, records a lost or untraced fresco painted in circa 1630 for the house of the Muti, in Rome, depicting a seastorm; while a number of drawings in the Liber Veritatis, the painted prototypes for which are untraced, also depict tempests (LV 33, 72 and 74). This would have been a natural subject for Claude early in his career, when the example of Tassi's windswept marine paintings will have been fresh in his mind; another possible source of inspiration, as noted by Marco Chiarini in 1984, are those of Filippo Napoletano (see Mannocci, op. cit., p. 57). In 1627, one his way back to Rome from Lorraine, Claude lived through a storm at sea; in his biography, Baldinucci tells us that 'finally, after having suffered many terrible storms at sea, and inconvenience on that long journey, he was once again in Rome' (Mannocci, loc. cit.). The strong stylistic resemblance to early painted works by Claude is clear - for example, in the foliage at left, which can be closely compared to that in the Westminster Rest on the Flight, arguably of about the same date as the present work, and especially in the beautiful treatment of the sky, its delicately applied, staccato highlights along a horizontal axis in the clouds, is a characteristic touch, recurring for example in the Landscape with a herdsman and shepherdess signed and dated '163[4?]' (oil on canvas, 49.5 x 38.5 cm.; private collection). Like the copper Tempest, this work is not included in the Liber, but corresponds in reverse to an etching of circa 1630.

The inscription on the verso implies that the picture was owned either by Lord George Cavendish (d. 1794), second son of William, 3rd Duke of Devonshire, who inherited Holker Hall in Lancashire in 1753 from his mother's nephew, Sir William Lowther, 3rd Bt., or his own nephew and heir Lord George Cavendish (1754-1834), who was in 1831 created Earl of Burlington. Shortly before his death Sir William Lowther obtained the celebrated Parnassus by Claude (Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland); he owned a further picture by this artist and his Cavendish successors acquired two more. Perhaps because of its small size, there is no record that this picture was at Holker, but it is possible that it was kept either in a London house or at Compton Place, which was inherited by the younger Lord George's wife, Lady Elizabeth Compton.

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