Lot 77
  • 77

Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld

150,000 - 200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld
  • The Augustus bridge over the river Nera, near the city of Narni, Italy
  • signed, inscribed and dated lower left: Bidauld Roma 1790
  • oil on canvas 
  • 39 1/2 by 54 1/4 in.
  • 100.5 x 138.1 cm


With Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 1947 (according to a label on the reverse);
Anonymous sale, ("Property of a European Lady"), New York, Christie's, 26 January 2005, lot 80.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This large canvas has an old glue lining, which is still very effective in keeping the cracking even and in plane. The painting is probably clean and could easily be hung in its current condition. Although there are a few retouches that have been added around the edges and a few spots of thinness in the animals on the lower left, the work is conspicuously under-restored. The most obvious and noticeable element of the condition is the very deep cracking in the sky, particularly in the upper right. The choice not to attempt restoration here is the correct one. Restoration can only be successful here if the deep cracks are filled with gesso and then retouched. The likelihood of any real cosmetic success here is extremely slim. Despite the fact that this cracking is noticeable, we would not suggest any retouching. From a healthy distance, which is the way to view a picture of this scale, the cracking does not impair the appreciation of this fine work. The cracking does not become a visual interference in the remainder of the piece. Although there are cracks, as one would expect, throughout the landscape and foreground, they are no more than is acceptable. The thinness in the animals and figures on the lower left is something that should be addressed more accurately. There is definitely weakness to the horses and figures in the far left and in the herd of farm animals on the lower left. Although the work could easily be hung as is, given the scale and importance of the work, a great deal more sharpness and depth would be acquired if restorations were reexamined, particularly on the lower left.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Dated 1790, Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld’s beautiful view of the Augustan bridge near Narni is a rare example of a major finished work from the artist’s first sojourn in Italy. Encouraged by the marine painter and landscapist, Claude-Joseph Vernet, in the early 1780s Bidauld began painting en plein air, completing multiple sketches outdoors that could later be worked up into finished paintings. The purpose of these swift studies was to capture the essence of a chosen landscape from nature, allowing the artist to recreate not just the immediate view but to capture the light, climate and overall atmosphere.

Bidauld first left for Italy in 1785 and the present painting represents the culmination of five years’ careful study of his surroundings. The setting for this large-scale landscape is situated just outside the ancient Umbrian hilltown of Narni. The area was popular with contemporary en plein air painters due to its subtle marriage of dramatic natural terrain and manmade structures, both ancient and modern, all bathed in cool, Mediterranean light. The bridge was built under Augustus around 27 BC to carry the Flaminian Way across the river Nera and was a much visited destination by travelers on the Grand Tour.

The painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist by Stéphane Rouvet.