We would like to thank Martin Dieterle and Claire Lebeau for kindly confirming the authenticity of this lot.
Bardon de Beurnonville (and sold, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, April 29, 1880, lot 2)
Paris, Galerie Schmit, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot dans les collections privées, April 24-June 9, 1996, no. 36
Alfred Robaut, L'oeuvre de Corot, catalogue raisonné et illustré, Paris, 1965, vol III, p. 174, no. 1714, illustrated p. 175
Views of Ville d'Avray appeared frequently in Corot's paintings throughout his long career. His first visit was shortly after 1817, when his parents purchased the property; his room, located on the third floor, had a view looking down on the large pond –l'étang neuf. However, most of the vistas were painted from across the pond with a view of the villas seen through the trees, as depicted in the present painting. Here, two peasant women inhabit the landscape, perhaps gathering mushrooms or early spring dandelion greens, judging from the sack held by the crouching figure. The ground is dotted with flowers, which are scattered like colorful confetti. The branches on the trees spread like a web across the pond. In fact, the closest comparison to our painting is Corot's 1870 Salon entry depicting a similar view of Ville d'Avray (fig. 1), a painting Alfred Robaut referred to as "the spider's web," (A.Robaut, "Cartons Alfred Robaut: Notes, croquis, calques, photographies, estampes,"Cabinet des Estampes, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, carton 22, fol. 769). Originally recorded by Robaut as L'Étang derrière les arbres, it was likely Pierre Dieterle who aptly revised the present work's title to Les étangs de Ville d'Avray for the 1996 Galerie Schmit exhibition (as mentioned in his introduction to the exhibition catalogue).
It is impossible to determine if Corot's views of Ville d'Avray were painted en plein-air, or if his memory of the place – its trees, houses, paths and pond – was so vivid that he was able to exactly recreate the bucolic setting back in his Paris studio. Certainly, the impressions created by the silvery light, cottony trees and feathery brushwork were features that corresponded with a new generation of plein-air painters. Corot's late paintings, such as L'Étang derrière les Arbres, provided the link between the grand tradition of French landscape painting of Poussin and Claude and a new movement, which would become known as Impressionism.
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