A. Garneray. View of the Gardens and Facade of the Chateau de Malmaison, near Paris, with Napoleon and Josephine strolling in the foreground Gouache over black chalk, after 1799 18 7/8 x 26 1/2 inches

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A. Garneray. View of the Gardens and Facade of the Chateau de Malmaison,
near Paris, with Napoleon and Josephine strolling in the foreground
Gouache over black chalk, after 1799
18 7/8 x 26 1/2 inches

Exhibition history: “Public Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence”, Metropolitan Museum of  Art, NY, March 12 - July 19, 2018 (exhibition label attached on the back of the frame)  _____________________________________________________________________________________   A. Garneray. the present View of the Gardens and Facade  of the Chateau de Malmaison is remarkable not only for its accomplished use of gouache paint  - in itself a hard-to-master medium - but also for its subtle transcending the boundaries of  landscape scenes. It was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 2018 show “Public  Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence” where it occupied a central position in its dual  characteristics of being a private or essentially intimate view of a public setting. Herein lies  much of its effectiveness.  Indeed, by introducing the strolling figures of Napoleon and his wife Josephine, Garneray elevates their status from mere staffage to the hidden protagonists of the painting. Indeed, he  inverts the hierarchy governing the compositional setup of the landscape tradition as inherited  from the Baroque tradition of Poussin, Claude, and others.  The staffage figures are not meant to serve the general aesthetics of the scene, but rather the  other way around: the idyllic setting of Malmaison and its gardens gain their significance from  the presence of Napoleon and Josephine. This makes the present view with its reduced  dimensions of only 18 7/9 x 26 1/2 inches an intimate piece that was executed for the Empress  herself.  An old label on the verso suggests this connection by stressing Josephine’s ownership of  Malmaison: “Le Chateau de Malmaison appartenant a l’Imperatrice.” Josephine Bonaparte had  purchased the palace which is located only eight miles west of Paris in 1799. Having spent  225,000 francs on the premises, a far greater sum would be needed for the decoration and  furnishing of the house, including the beautification of the gardens.  The gardens allowed the Empress to indulge her love for botany and her role as a patron to  master painter Joseph Pierre Redoute immediately comes to mind. Indeed, she began a  collection of flowers and plants which included examples from her family’s estate in the West  Indies, Kew Gardens in England and the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. Along with the almost two  hundred new species grown on the estate, the garden was famed for containing over two  hundred and fifty varieties of roses. Garneray thus gives a rare glimpse into both the private life  of Josephine and the appearance of Malmaison and its gardens before they fell into disrepair at  the Empress’ death. The pavilion in the painting’s background can still be seen today.  Antoine-Pierre Garneray thus created a “paysage historié” - analogous to the established hybrid  of the “portrait historié”. It gains its significance through its connection with historical figures;  on a formal plan, this connection is realized through the interplay of colors and Josephine’s  ownership of Malmaison, for example, is demonstrated by according the pale blue of her robe  to the general tone of the house and its awning.  Garneray, who studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris and exhibited at the Salon  between 1791 and 1824, is represented in the collections of major European and American  institutions. Rarely though is his touch more painterly and subtle than in the present view of  Malmaison which remains an intimate masterpiece of the French Empire.