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The Harari Estate Collection

Le grand pin parasol (Souvenir d'Italie)

Le grand pin parasol (Souvenir d'Italie)
signed 'COROT' (lower right)
oil on canvas
12 ¾ x 18 in. (32.4 x 45.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1860-1865.
Berthe Goldschmidt (b. circa 1847), by 1875.
with Robert Noortman, Maastricht.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, circa 1980.
A. Robaut, L'Œuvre de Corot: catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1905, vol. III, pp. 202-203, no. 1820, illustrated and vol. IV, p. 276, no. 161.
G. Tinterow, M. Pantazzi and V. Pomarède, Corot, exh. cat., New York, 1996, p. 242, under no. 107.
Paris, Exposition de l'œuvre de Corot a l'École nationale des Beaux-Arts, May 1875, p. 65, no. 162, as Souvenir d'italie.

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Lot Essay

The present work was once the property of Berthe Goldschmidt, the subject of Corot’s most famed and misnamed painting, La femme à la perle (Musée du Louvre, Paris) which was executed around the same time as the present work. The masterful depiction followed Corot’s third and final trip to Italy in 1843. The similarities between the much copied La femme à la perle and a certain earlier famed three-quarter portrait by Leonardo also in the Musée du Louvre have not escaped notice (G. Tinterow, M. Pantazzi and V. Pomarède, pp. 240, 242). While little is known about Mlle. Goldschmidt apart from her address at 99, Vieille-du-Temple, she was the named lender of the present canvas to the exhibition of Corot’s work in the year of his death in 1875. If the present work was made as a gift for Corot’s acquaintance or acquired in another way is unknown.
Le grand pin parasol (Souvenir d'italie) is an exquisite example by the master at the height of his powers. Though the work is described as a ‘souvenir of Italy’, it is not meant to depict an actually location that Corot saw or visited. Rather, it is a sensual evocation of a memory from years before. The fact that Corot chose to entitle the work ‘souvenir’ rather than ‘paysage’ clearly denotes Corot’s emphasis on the creation of an image remembered – not the tangible form but the idea, or impression of landscape, light and form. In a few quick, deft strokes of bright red, brown, blue and cream, Corot brings to life the figures of the three women on the path at center and places them firmly in the surrounding landscape. The distant villa is created out of daubs of grey-blue and ochre rapidly applied, but with a surety that lends substance and presence to the building. At the same time, and with the same handling of paint, Corot captures the ephemeral quality of the rising sun first touching the green leaves of the great tree at the center of the composition. Also with consummate subtlety, the artist defines space through the pond in the foreground and the track receding through space at a diagonal. The hazy trees and distant houses further back run up against the light pinks and yellows softly coloring he edges of the sky and create a far distance defined only by infinity.
Corot’s unique ability was summed up by Edmond About, writing about the exposition of 1855, ‘No artist has more style or can better communicate his ideas in a landscape…As they pass through his imagination, objects take on a vague and delightful form. Colours soften and melt, everything becomes fresh, young, harmonious: he is the poet of the landscape…His water has an intoxicating limpidity; but even if we camped out in his studio, we would never learn in ten years how he succeeds in rendering lithe beauty of water. His trees are drawn without contour and painted without colour; how is it done?’ (E. About, Voyage à travers l’Exposition des beaux-arts (peinture et sculpture), Paris, 1855, pp. 217-218).

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