Lot 12
  • 12

ATTRIBUTED TO FRANÇOIS LEMOYNE AND HIS STUDIOPARIS 1688 - 1737 | A young woman at a sculpted fountain

20,000 - 30,000 EUR
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  • A young woman at a sculpted fountain
  • Oil on canvas
  • 73,9 x 93 cm; 29 by 36 1/2  in. 


The painting has been relined. No major damages seem to be apparent; the painted surface seems to be in a good condition with some of its impastos well preserved, especially in the whites and the yellows. There is a little repaired damage of circa 1cm in the upper right corner. Another little damage (tear ?) of circa 2cm is visible in the yellow cloth lower right. A larger repaired hooked damage of circa 7x7 cm can be seen above the figure's left arm. A repaired damage of circa 7cm can be observed in the lower part of the fountain center left. Furthermore some surface dirt. Some discoloured retouchings can be seen around the edges. The painted surface is covered with a fine craquelure pattern which is a little bit coarse in the flesh tones. Some minor thinness can be observed in the bodice and in the landscape in the background on the right. Under UV light The varnish layer fluoresces partially, showing the repaired damages mentioned above and some further retouching to some of the craquelure pattern of the flesh tone. Some minor strengthenings on the lace of the bodice. Offered in an elaborate carved and giltwood frame. Please note that Sotheby’s does not guarantee the condition of the frame.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

François Lemoyne had a unique destiny in the history of eighteenth-century French painting. Promised to a bright future, a pupil of Levrac-Tournières and then of Louis Galloche, he won the Prix de Rome in 1771 with Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz (present whereabouts unknown). Although he was unable to go to Rome for budgetary reasons because of the then-ailing royal finances, he was however accepted as an Academician in 1718, with a painting depicting Hercules and Cacus (Paris, Ecole nationale des Beaux-Arts) which met with great success and earned him his first commissions.

If the artist subsequently enjoyed a prestigious career, culminating with the commission of the ceiling of the Salon d'Hercule at Versailles (1732-1736), which inaugurated a new era of monumental painting in France, and his nomination in 1736 to the post of First Painter to the King, Lemoyne was also a man of changeable temperament, subject to a certain melancholy according to several contemporary reports (including that of François Boucher himself, who was his pupil). Exhausted by the execution of the ceiling, his health declining rapidly, he committed suicide in September 1737, at the height of his renown.

Unpublished until now, the work presented here is known through several other versions, including variants. In the best-known of the compositions two figures appear (see on this subject J.-L. Bordeaux, François Le Moyne and his generation 1688-1737, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1985, pp. 101-102 n° P 55, repr. fig. 54 and 55, for a second version): a young girl washing linen in a fountain and an old man dressed in Turkish fashion who seems to be interrupting her, giving the impression that he may be propositioning her. The iconography of this miniature play for two protagonists has never been satisfactorily explicated, whether drawn from the Bible, from mythology, or from another more recent source. Whatever the case, Jean-Luc Bordeaux dates the original composition to 1721-1723, just prior to Lemoyne's sojourn in Italy.

The work presented here only sets the scene for a single protagonist: the young woman washing white linen in the clear water of a stone fountain. Another version of this composition with a single figure is known (sold at Sotheby's Paris, 21 June 2012, lot 54). The latter is very slightly smaller than our version and is nearly square in format. The old man has likewise disappeared, probably because of a patron who wished to see only the young maid. Jean-Luc Bordeaux considers it an autograph work (with possible minor workshop participation) and dates it to 1725-1726, after Lemoyne's return from Italy, at a time when the artist was receiving numerous commissions for easel paintings.

The blonde palette of the present version, the delicacy of the flesh tones and the ample, swift yet precise brushstrokes suggest that this may be the work of Lemoyne himself, perhaps with the assistance of his workshop.

We are grateful to Dr. Jean-Luc Bordeaux for having confirmed the painting can be attributed to the artist and his studio, based on photographs; it will be included in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné.