Medium: Oil On Canvas
Size: 85 x 100 cm
Signed: and dated: L J Lagren(ée) 1776
The Marquis de Véry, acquired by him from the artist; Noble German collection (to 2006).
Les Lagrenée, Marc Sandoz, Paris, Editart, 1983, p. 249
Throughout his career Lagrenée kept a livre de raison in which he recorded his work. Published in 1877 by E. de Goncourt, it forms a valuable resource for the study of Lagrenée’s paintings, listing an impressive oeuvre of four hundred and fifty-seven works. His prolific output is a measure of Lagrenée’s patrons and his success at the Salon, where he exhibited from 1755 to 1798. Of one hundred and fifty pictures Lagrenée exhibited at the Paris Salon, sixty-nine of them were mythological subjects – more than any other eighteenth century painter.
Born in Paris, Lagrenée began his career as a pupil of Carle van Loo and by 1749 had won the prestigious Prix de Rome with Joseph recounting his dreams to the Pharaoh (now lost). After four years at the French Academy in Rome, he returned to Paris and was received into the Académie de Peinture et Sculpture in 1755 with the Rape of Deianeira. His reputation grew quickly, and in 1760 he was called to St. Petersburg as First Painter to the Empress Elizabeth and Director of the painting academy. Three years later he returned to Paris, where, through the Salons, he won the admiration and patronage of Diderot who wrote favourably of him.
In France his work played an important role in the transition from Rococo to neo-classicism. Our Nymphs Bathing is neo-classical in its precise line, cool colours and refined, smooth brush strokes, typical of the artist in the 1770s. He rejected naturalism, and sought to produce compositions in which figures could enact the narrative through expressive gesture; the principal figure in this painting, sculptural and beautifully observed, is the archetypal Lagrenée female. The pendant, also acquired by the Marquis de Véry and lent by him to Salon, shows the still innocent shepherd boy on the right, passing the golden apple to the victor, Venus, with her jealous rivals on the extreme left. Our painting, while not exhibited, is described in the Véry sale catalogue.