Lot 67
  • 67

Charles Mellin

7,000 - 9,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Charles Mellin
  • The Presentation in the Temple
  • Pen and brown ink and wash over traces of black chalk;
    bears old attribution in pen and brown ink lower right: Poussin
  • 5 7/8 x 4 1/4 inches


Pierre Crozat,
his sale, Paris, Description sommaire des dessins des grands maistres d'Italie, des Pays-bas et de France, du cabinet de feu M. Crozat, avec des réflexion sur la manière de dessiner des principaux peintres (catalogue by P.-J. Mariette), 10 April-13 May 1741, part of lot 966 (as Nicolas Poussin);
Antoine Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville (L.2591 & 2592),
possibly his sale, Paris, P. Rémy, Catalogue d'une collection de dessins choisis des maîtres célèbres ....de feu M. d'Argenville..., 18-28 January 1779, part of lot 330 or lot 334;
Georges Wildenstein;
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, 1984-1990 (de-accessioned);
Private collection


Nicolas Poussin, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1960, p. 245 (entry by C. Sterling, as Poussin: The Purification of the Virgin); 
W. Friedlaender and A. Blunt, The Drawings of Nicolas Poussin: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. V, London 1974, p. 76, no. 396 (as Poussin), reproduced pl. 293;
D. Wild, Nicolas Poussin, Zurich 1980, pp. 195-6, note 19;
J. Thuillier, 'Charles Mellin 'très excellent peintre',' in Les Fondations Nationales dans la Rome pontificale, Rome 1981, p. 618 and note 93, reproduced p. 667, fig. 54;
Claude Gellée et les peintres lorrains en Italie au XVIIe siècle, exhib. cat., Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1982, pp. 266-268, under no. 97;
J. Bean and L. Turčić, 15th-18th Century French Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1986, p. 173, under no. 187;
G.R. Goldner, European Drawings, 1: Catalogue of the Collections, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California 1988, p. 186, no. 83, reproduced (as Poussin);
Maîtres français 1550-1800: Dessins de la donation Mathias Polakovits à l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts, exhib. cat., Paris, Ecole national supérieure des Beaux-Arts, 1989, p. 86, under no. 23;
From Fontainebleau to the Louvre: French Drawings from the Seventeenth Century, Cleveland, Museum of Art, and elsewhere, 1989-90, pp. 57-58, under no. 22, and note 2, reproduced fig. 22a, pp. 62-63, under no. 25, and notes 1-4 (entry by H. Goldfarb, as Poussin);
P. Rosenberg, review of Cleveland exhibition, 1989-1990, Master Drawings, XXVIII, (1990), no. 4, p. 432;
G.R. Goldner, and L. Hendrix, European Drawings, 2: Catalogue of the Collections, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California 1992, p. 355, no. 83, (under Poussin, as de-accessioned);
P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665: catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan 1994, vol. II, p. 950, no. R 673, p. 828, under no. R 222, reproduced p. 951;
A.S. Harris, review of Rosenberg & Prat, Nicolas Poussin, catalogue raisonné des dessins, Master Drawings, XXXIV, (1996), no. 4, p. 428, note 2;
J. Labbé and L. Bicart-Sée, La Collection de dessins d'Antoine Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville reconstitueé d'après son "Abrégé de la vie des plus fameux peintres", edition de 1762, Paris 1996, p. 289;
P. Rosenberg, From Drawings to Paintings: Poussin, Watteau, Fragonard, David & Ingres (The A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, 1996, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.), Princeton 2000, p. 126, reproduced fig. 159; Idem. Dal disegno alla pittura: Poussin, Watteau, Fragonard, David e Ingres, Venice 2002, p. 196, reproduced p. 166, fig. 290;
Le Dessin en France au XVIIe siècle dans les collections de l'École des Beaux-Arts, exhib. cat., Paris, École national supérieure des Beaux-Arts, and elsewhere, 2001-02, p. 184 and p. 186 note 24, reproduced p. 182, fig. 2 (with incorrect location);
P. Malgouyres, 'Charles Mellin dessinateur,' Rencontres de l'École du Louvre (Dessins français au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles, Actes du colloque, École du Louvre, 24-25 June 1999), Paris 2003, p. 133, cat D 49 (with incorrect location) and p. 147, note 4;
Idem, Charles Mellin, un Lorrain entre Rome et Naples, exhib. cat., Caen, Musée des Beaux-Arts, and Nancy, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 2007, p. 292, no. D. 49

Catalogue Note

This accomplished drawing relates to Mellin’s first documented painting in Naples, The Presentation in the Temple, commissioned in 1643 for the church of the Santissima Annunziata, and destroyed in the fire of 1757.  The composition and development of this much admired painting is known from two engravings, six autograph drawings and two copies.Of all the surviving drawings, this one seems to be the closest to the final painted version, as recorded in the two known engravings.  The first of those prints, a near-contemporary work, in the past believed to be executed by Pietro del Po (active in Naples 1644-47), credits the design of the composition to Poussin, while the second, a much later aquatint by Francesco Rosaspina (1762-1841), is dated 1784 and claims to reproduce a drawing by Guido Reni.  

Jacques Thuillier was the first to recognize the link between these engravings and the painting in the Neapolitan church of the Santissima Annunziata, on the basis of a written description of the altarpiece by Charles-Nicolas Cochin, who saw it in 1750 during his Neapolitan sojourn; Cochin correctly credited Mellin with the execution of the painting in his published account of his travels, Voyage d'Italie ou recueil de notes...2

As Malgouyres has described (loc. cit., 2007) the evolution of the composition can be traced through the six surviving preparatory drawings.  Just as in a number of other projects, for which Mellin struggled to achieve a satisfactory solution, produced many intermediary studies, and extensively altered the positions of the main and secondary figures, so here he moves the pivotal figure of the Virgin backwards and forwards from left to right.3  The first of the six drawings, which clearly shows a less developed version of the composition, is the one in the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.4  Next in the sequence comes a drawing in a private collection, which shares the present drawing's provenance from the collection of Antoine Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville.5  In both these versions the Virgin is standing to the left of the composition.  In the next two sheets, however (in the Metropolitan Museum, and formerly in the Dhikeos collection6),  the Virgin is instead kneeling to the right.  Then comes a drawing the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where she remains kneeling, but now back on the left.7  Finally, in the present drawing, the composition is largely as in the printed versions, though St. Joseph holds a basket of doves, rather than releasing the birds into the air.

An intriguing record of an important, lost painting, this drawing is very characteristic of Mellin’s style, especially in the way in which facial features are barely indicated, and in the abundant use of broadly applied wash.

1 P. Malgouyres, exhib. cat., op. cit., 2007, respectively: engravings p. 268, nos. 29a 29b, reproduced p. 194, p. 195; drawings: 291-292, D 44-D 49, reproduced pp. 197-201; copies pp. 291-292, D 46a, D 48a

Published Paris, 1758, vol. I, p. 168; cited Malgouyres, op. cit., 2007, p. 199 

 For more detailed information on all changes see Malgouyres, op. cit., 2007, pp. 199-201

Inv. no. 1941.13; Malgouyres, exhib. cat., op. cit., 2007, p. 291, D 44

Ibid., p. 291, D 45

Inv. no. 1981.15.5; ibid., respectively p. 291, D 46-D 47

Inv. no. Masson 1122; ibid., p. 292, D 48