ANTOINE-JEAN GROS, CALLED BARON GROS | HEAD OF CHARLEMAGNE
Property from Richard L. Feigen & Co., New York
ANTOINE-JEAN GROS, CALLED BARON GROS
Paris 1771 - 1835 Meudon
HEAD OF CHARLEMAGNE
oil on canvas
unframed: 24 x 19⅝ in.; 61 x 50 cm.
framed: 31 x 26½ in.; 78.8 x 67.3 cm.
The painting has been relined and is flat and stable, though there are a few creases running horizontally across the canvas which can been seen in raking light. The varnish is thick and bright, and the colors have retained their vibrancy nicely. The loose, sketchy brushwork, particularly in the hair and background, is well-preserved even if the surface is slightly flatter than it once may have been. Some retouching is visible under ultraviolet light, most noticeably in the cheekbone and in a small area above the sitter's proper right eyebrow; there are also two thin scratches in the lower left. Overall the painting presents well and can be hung as is. Offered in a carved giltwood frame.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
The collection of the artist;
His studio sale, Paris, 23 November, 1835, lot 18;
Anonymous sale, Monaco, Christie's, 2 December 1989, lot 65;
J. B. Delestre, Gros, sa vie et ses ouvrages, Paris 1867, p. 251;
J. Tripier Lefrance, Histoire de la vie et de la mort du Baron Gros, Paris 1880, p. 674.
"The monumentality of this depiction of the great Charlemagne is what strikes me here. This coupled with the light and almost bucolic colors makes it a rather unique image. His strikingly contemporary facial hair stands in contrast to the stoic, outward glance with which Charlemagne surveys his empire, or perhaps his future as Emperor."
This painting is a study for the figure of Charlemagne that Gros executed as part of the fresco decorations for the cupola of the Pantheon in Paris. The project was commissioned to Gros in 1812 by Napoleon, who had re-established the Pantheon as a church after it had been secularized during the revolutionary period. The vast program was to depict the apotheosis of the patron saint of Paris, Saint Geneviève, who receives the homage of Clovis, Charlemagne, Louis IX, and Napoleon, each representing one of the four principal dynasties of France. The association of Napoleon with these royal forbears, particularly Charlemagne, was intended to proclaim the legitimacy of his reign, but the work did not come to fruition as planned. In 1814, when the Bourbons were restored to the throne, Gros was ordered to replace the image of Napoleon with that of Louis XVIII. During the Hundred Days, Napoleon countermanded the order, and Gros restored his image on the cupola; but when the French leader was defeated at Waterloo, Louis XVIII was again re-inserted. The cupola was finally unveiled in November of 1824. Gros' work was received as a major triumph and the culmination of his career, for which he was awarded the title of baron.
Two studies for the head of Charlemagne figured in the artist's studio sale held on 23 November 1835: lot 18, a "tête colossale de Charlemagne" and lot 19, listed as "même tet. Petite étude." The former is certainly identifiable with the present painting, in which the head is larger than life.