Lot 71
  • 71

Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée
  • Charles and Ubalde, surrounded by nymphs on their way to rescue Renaud from the Palais d'Armide
  • signed lower right: LAGRENEE. PINXIT. ROMAE
  • oil on canvas
  • 41 1/2  by 55 7/8  in.; 105.4 by 141.5 cm.


Purchased from the artist in 1785 by Charles Claude de la Billarderie, comte d'Angiviller (1730-1809);
Returned to Lagrenée in exchange for L'Amitié consolant la vieillesse in 1787, remaining in the artist's studio upon his death on 19 June 1805;
His sale, Hôtel de Bullion, Paris, 12 November 1814, lot 25;
M. Duval;
His sale, Paris, 10 January 1865, lot 35;
M. L. Levy;
His deceased sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 18 June 1917, lot 40;
M.E. collection;
By whom sold, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 12 June 1926, lot 50;
Féral collection, Paris, by June 1931;
Anonymous sale, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 12 March 1937, lot 58;
Possibly anonymous sale, 7 February 1951 (see M. Sandoz, 1983 under Literature, p. 281);
Anonymous sale, Palais-Galliera, Paris, June 23, 1964, lot 30;
Anonymous sale ("Property of a Lady"), New York, Christie's, 18 May 1994, Lot 106;
There acquired by the present collector for $184,000.


Paris, Salon, 1785, no. 3.


L.J.F. Lagrenée, Etat des tableaux faits depuis mon retour de Saint-Petersbourg, no. 322 (as "Un tableau représentant les chevaliers danois"), in M. Sandoz, Les Lagrenée: Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée 1725-1805, vol. I, 1983, p. 370, no. 371;
E. Benezit, Dictionaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, Paris 1976, vol. VI, p. 383;
J. Locquin, Le peintre d'histoire en France. 1747-1785, ed. 1978, fig. 199, as location unknown;
M. Sandoz, "Louis, Jean, François Lagrenée, dit l'Aîné (1725-1805), peintre d'histoire," in Bulletin de la Société d'histoire de l'art français, 1961, p. 131;
M. Sandoz, Les Lagrenée, I. - Louis (Jean-François) Lagrenée, 1725-1805, Paris 1983, pp. 280-282, 286, 370, 377, and 381.

J.-F. Beauvarlet (LeBlanc, no. 39)
P.-A. Martini, Coup d'oeil exact de l'arrangement des tableaux du Salon de 1785


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 work has not been restored for some time, but it is in very good condition. The lining is old but still presents an attractive surface. The paint layer is noticeably unabraded. The details are in very fresh and good condition throughout the work. There is a large restoration in the sky immediately next to the shoulder of the standing figure in the center, which covers some dark paint that is presumably original. It is unclear exactly what this darker pigment represents. It is unlikely that this is a pentiment. A branch of the tree behind the figure may have been eliminated by a restorer. There is a vertical restoration of about 3 inches in the center of the right side in the mountain and in the sky above. The thin break in the canvas here has been badly repaired, probably by the same hand that restored the area by the shoulder. The work should be cleaned and properly retouched.
"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

This large, impressive painting was listed by Lagrenée in his inventory of works painted after his return from Saint Petersburg, where he was director of the Academy and court painter for Elisabeth, Empress of Russia (1709-1762) from 1760-1762. It was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1785 and acquired by Charles Claude de la Billarderie, comte d'Angiviller (1730-1809), though two years later the collector returned it to Lagrenée in exchange for another painting by the artist, L'Amitié consolant la vieillesse. It then remained in Lagrenée's studio until the artist's death in 1805.

The subject is taken from Tasso's La Gerusalemme Liberata and also relates to the opera Armide by Glück. In the present scene, the Knights Charles and Ubalde (seen holding the magic wand), are searching for Renaud, who is being held prisoner in the palace of Armide.  While on their way to rescue him, the knights are met by a group of cunning nymphs who attempt to seduce them, though they are not fooled. Lagrenée depicts this dramatic scene with both grandeur and tenderness, in a large and complex composition.  The sumptuous nymphs emerge from the water, with clothing only partially draped over their bodies.  While Ubalde stands magnificently at center in his armor, keeping the nymphs at bay, Charles still struggles to remove his sword from the grasp of a beautiful nymph kneeling before him. A table displays a large pile of fruits, painted with great detail; a nymph beside it lifts a delicate glass of red wine.  

When it was exhibited at the 1785 Salon, the painting was extremely well-received; indeed a majority of critics preferred it to Lagrenée's other entry, depicting Alexandre chez Sisigambis.  The Mercure de France called it "parfait" and Affiches described it as "charmant2  

Letters between the comte d'Angiviller and Lagrenée provide a fascinating insight into the work's early history. On 17 September 1783, Lagrenée wrote to his patron from Rome and mentions Alexandre chez Sisigambis along with a second picture, likely the present work.  On 1 June 1785 he sends another letter, noting the completion of both paintings and confirming their transport to Paris, now referring to the second picture as "Ubalde."  By early July the painting was in Paris, and the comte d'Angiviller wrote to Lagrenée to express his great satisfaction and tell him of his plan to include the pictures in that year's Salon.3  The comte d'Angiviller, who was Directeur général des batiments et jardins du roi, owned two other paintings by Lagrenée in addition to the present work and the one it was exchanged for: L'Amour des arts console la Peinture of 1781, and a copy of a portrait of Beatrice Cenci, from 1787.4 

1. See M. Sandoz, 1983, under Literature, p. 280-2.
2. Ibid., p. 281.
3. Ibid., p. 281.
4. Ibid., cat. nos. 290 and 322 respectively.