ALEXANDRE CABANEL (French, 1824-1889)

ALEXANDRE CABANEL (French, 1824-1889)

Expulsion from Paradise

signed Alex.Cabanel lower right--oil on canvas
23¾ x 17¾in. (60.3 x 45.1cm.)
Newhouse Galleries, New York
M. Feneyrou and J. Nougaret, Dessins d'Alexandre Cabanel, 1823-1889, Mus/aee Fabre, Montpellier, France, (exh. cat.), no. 32 (for an illustration of the preliminary drawing)

Lot Essay

By the 1860s Alexandre Cabanel had firmly established himself as an archtypical academic painter and a leading "pompier" artist of his time. Both his 1860 Nymph being Carried Away by a Fawn and his 1863 Birth of Venus had been bought by Napoleon III, and in 1867 he unveiled Paradis Perdu to immediate applause in the Exposition Universelle. Exhibited at the fair alongside his two earlier triumphs, Paradis Perdu was awarded the Médaille d'Honneur. King Louis II of Bavaria had commissioned Cabanel to paint it as part of a larger decorative grouping of three or four canvases depicting Adam and Eve for the Maximilianeum in Munich. It was intended as a dramatic tragedy embued with both mysterious poetry and divine presence, and was fifteen meters high and thirteen meters wide. King Louis was so pleased by this final work that he awarded Cabanel "la Croix de chevalier de première classe de l'Ordre de Mérite de Saint Michel de Bevière."

A preliminary pencil sketch for this important composition, entitled Satan chassé du Paradis was exhibited at the Musée Fabre in Montpellier, France, December 19, 1989-March 11, 1990, and shows a detail of the figure seen in the lower left corner of our painting. Our preliminary oil study for the larger, finished painting shows Cabanel expanding upon this drawing to include the figures of God, Angels, Adam and Eve. Though the oil study is very similar to the final composition, there are subtle differences; in the study Adam and Eve are both lying prone at the base of the Tree of Life but in the final work Adam is seen standing while Eve clasps her head with one hand and holds onto the arm of Adam with the other, moreover the Angel to the right of God is larger and more forward in the final painting.

In his review of Cabanel's entries to the 1867 Exposition Universelle, Olivier Merson called the final painting "la piéce capitale de l'artiste" and rhapsodized: "Finesse d'execution, modele soutenu jusque dans les moindres passages, nettete, precision du travail, voilá, qui saute aux yeux, frappe les plus difficiles; les tons ont été passés les uns dans les autres avec une vigilance et une égalité d'humeur inaltérables; des renflements et des dépressions musculaires rien qui ne soit écrit trés-lisiblement; pour tout dire obéssante a fidéle, le main a rempli sa tâche jusqu'au bout avec la dernière exactitude, la ponctualité la plus louable. C'est le triomphe de l'outil."