Hugues Taraval (Paris 1729-1785)
Hugues Taraval (Paris 1729-1785)

The Feast of Tantalus; and Phineus interrupting the wedding banquet of Perseus and Andromeda

Hugues Taraval (Paris 1729-1785)
The Feast of Tantalus; and Phineus interrupting the wedding banquet of Perseus and Andromeda
the first signed and indistinctly dated 'Taraval/17**' (lower right), the second signed and indistinctly dated 'Taraval/17**' (lower right)
oil on unlined canvas, the corners cut
40¾ x 56¼in. (103.5 x 143cm.)
A Pair (2)
Commissionned by the King in 1766 for the dining-room at the Château de Bellevue.
Raphaël Garreta; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 13-7 March 1931.
with Marc Blondeau, Paris (from whom acquired by the present owner).
E. Bellier de la Chavignerie and L. Auvray, Dictionnaire Général des artistes de l'Ecole Française, Paris, 1882, reprinted 1997, II, p. 541.
M. Enguerand, Inventaire des Tableaux commandés et achetés par la Direction des Bâtiments du roi (1709-1792), Paris, 1901, p. 248.
J. Locquin, La Peinture d'Histoire en France de 1747 à 1785, Paris, 1912, reedited in 1978, pp. 26-7.
P. Biver, Histoire du Château de Bellevue, Paris, 1933, pp. 165-6.
Nouvelles Archives de l'Art Français XX, Correspondance de Marigny, p. 52.
M. Sandoz, 'Hugues Taraval' in Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'art Français 1972, Paris, 1973, pp. 202 and 220, illustrated p. 221, no. 8.
(The first) Paris, Salon, 1767, no. 144.
Musée de Rouen, Art du XVIIIème siècle, March-April 1929, nos. 50-1.

Lot Essay

The present paintings were commissioned in 1766 as a pair of overdoors for the salle-à-manger of the Château de Bellevue, which had been built in 1748 for Madame de Pompadour, Louis XV's mistress. Following her death in 1764, it became the residence for Mesdames, the daughters of the King, and was redecorated under the guidance of the Marquis de Marigny, Directeur des Bâtiments du Roi. Taraval was recommended for this project by Charles-Nicolas Cochin, Secrétaire Général de l'Académie, who was one of the supporters of the current movement to revive history painting and who wanted to promote promising young artists in that genre. It was Cochin who devised the decorative program for the château and, in a letter dated 15 July 1766, recommended, in addition to Taraval, Lagrenée l'aîné, Durameau, Fragonard, Restout fils or Jollain for the project (see Correspondance de Marigny in the Nouvelles Archives de l'Art Français, XX, p. 52).

For the salle-à-manger, Cochin proposed to replace the existing decorative panels by Jean-Baptiste Oudry with four works derived from Homer's Iliad and Ovid's Metamorphoses to be executed by Taraval and Durameau. Although the latter was commissioned to execute two works, described in the project as Le combat d'Hercule et des Lapithes contre les Centaures and Le Festin des Dieux écrit au premier livre de l'Iliade, he was ultimately not involved in the project. It is not known, however, whether Taraval himself actually executed these two additional works in Durameau's place.

The Feast of Tantalus is based on Ovid's account in the Metamorphoses (IV:458-9). Having murdered his son, Pelops, Tantalus presented him as a dish to the gods, whom he had invited to a feast. Taraval's work depicts the moment when Jupiter realizes the truth and restores Pelops to life, condemning Tantalus to eternal thirst and hunger in Hell. The companion piece is also taken from the same source (V:1-235) and captures the moment when Phineus, a disappointed suitor for Andromeda's hand, interrupts her wedding banquet with a mob. After a great battle Perseus finally vanquishes his enemies by waving the Gorgon's head in their faces and turning them to stone.

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