- Claude Gillot
- the arrival of christ at golgotha
- Pen and black ink, within partial black ink framing lines, with pen and brown ink added to the lower right, possibly erasing an old attribution
- 171 by 222 mm; 6 3/4 by 8 3/4 in
This previously unknown study relates to the painting, now in the parish church of Noailles, that Gillot produced as his reception piece to the Academy in Paris: a brooding image depicting the moment on the hill of Golgotha just before Christ is nailed to the cross (fig. 1). In July 1710, aged almost forty and late in his career, Gillot began the process of becoming an Academician. He was asked to produce a painting on a given subject, to be presented to the Academy for inspection: his Christ was the result. The painting, however, was the product of an arduous process for Gillot: it was not until April 1715 that the artist deemed it to be complete, despite his receiving many impatient communications from the Academy.1
The present sheet is the only drawing to have been connected with the painting, although there are two related gouaches, both in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Langres.2 Each of these works shows Gillot approaching the difficulties of his composition in a slightly different manner. The first gouache, like the drawing, depicts Christ bearing the cross, just at the moment when He arrives at Golgotha. The Roman soldiers form a menacing semi-circle behind Him, and one of the thieves' crosses is positioned at an angle to the right of the scene, just as we see it here. In the second gouache the central action is virtually identical to the painting: Christ stands at the centre of the composition, draped only with a loin cloth, and contemplates the cross. As in the drawing, a second cross stands erect at the left of the scene, mirroring that on the right, and a mounted soldier stands behind it. Another element reflected in the drawing is that Christ is lower down in the composition, allowing the uprights in the composition to rear above Him, making Christ appear all the more vulnerable.
It seems plausible that this drawing served as an intermediary between the two gouaches, before Gillot had decided upon the composition's central motif, but depicting his first thoughts for the final solution of framing Christ between the uprights of the crosses, ladders and soldiers' spears. As such, it represents a key stage in one of Gillot's most important projects, the result of which was the artist's final acceptance into the artistic establishment.
We are grateful to Jennifer Tonkovich for confirming the attribution to Gillot.
1. P. de Leyzour et al., Les Peintres du Roi, 1648-1793, exhib. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours et al., 2000, pp. 131-2
2. See B. Populus, Claude Gillot (1673-1722), Catalogue de l'oeuvre gravé, Paris 1930, p. 45, figs. 15-6