JOSEPH VIVIEN, attributed to Lyon 1657 – 1734 Bonn
Oil on canvas 80.5 x 64 cm / 31.5 x 25.2 in, with frame 95 x 77 cm / 37.4 x 30.3 in
PROVENANCE Neumeister Auktionshaus, München, Frühjahrsauktion, 31 March 2022, lot 324 (as Nicolas de Largillière, circle of).
For any connoisseur of French art, the era of the 18th century has always been and remains the pinnacle and culmination of all national French culture. In the 18th century, the artistic language of French culture reaches its creative maturity and becomes dominant in Europe. In the 18th century, powerful cultural archetypes were formed, which we see in the culture of France today. And, of course, it is the 18th century that will mark the beginning of the powerful cultural expansion of France, first in Europe, and at the end of the century on the American continent. In this context, the cultural ties between France and conditional Germany in the 18th century are of a very special interest. The scale of these contacts was colossal and the contribution of French culture to the culture of Germany is still waiting for its assessment and rethinking. Speaking of art, and in particular of painting, the German 18th century forms three powerful cultural centers with a strong French artistic influence. First of all, this is Dresden, the capital of Saxony, where the French taste was represented by the painter Louis de Silvestre. The second important center was the capital of Prussia, Berlin, in which the role of arbitrum elegantum was performed by another French artist, Antoine Pesne. And in Bavaria, in Munich, Joseph Vivien becomes the conductor of the French artistic taste. Like Louis de Silvestre and Antoine Pesne, Joseph Vivien had the unenviable role of being somewhat "forgotten" by French culture. Only the incredible efforts of the pastel art researcher, Neil Jeffares, contributed greatly to Vivien's "rehabilitation" and the return of interest in his art. But again, it was largely about the heritage of Vivien in the pastel technique, his paintings, meanwhile, especially performed in Munich, and now remain practically unknown to the general public. Born in 1657 in Lyon, Joseph Vivien received his initial art education in his native city. Later, the beginning artist moved to Paris. There, as it is believed, his talent as a portrait painter was “seen” by Charles Lebrun, who advised Vivien to devote himself to this particular genre. Vivien enthusiastically devotes himself to portraiture, moreover, he also chooses a special technique - pastel. It is pastel portraits that bring real recognition to the artist. His reputation and fame go beyond France - in 1698 the artist went to Brussels, where he first met his future patron, Maximilian Emmanuel of Bavaria. Vivien creates a pastel portrait of the Elector and his mistress, Countess D'Arco. Later, the artist's contacts with the Bavarian court became more intense, Vivien visited Bonn several times and worked in Munich for quite a long time. On one of these trips to Bonn, in 1734, the artist caught a serious cold and died. The fate of his heritage in Germany is interesting. Working in Bavaria, the painter begins to increasingly return to the technique of oil painting. He paints not only large representative portraits of the elector and his family, but also detailed historical and allegorical works. It is noteworthy, but it is precisely this interesting part of the artist’s heritage, literally “conserved” in Bavarian palaces and residences, that turns out to be hidden from researchers of the French portrait for many years. On the one hand, Vivien's picturesque works demonstrate an unconditional familiarity with the art of his great contemporaries, Largillière and Rigaud. On the other hand, many years of the artist's work in the pastel technique had a very strong influence on his painting style: Vivien conveys hair in her portraits in a very special way - a transparent, but multi-layered technique is very reminiscent of pastel techniques. Also, in a very special way, the artist writes highlights on draperies - they always feel not glossy, but matte, as is typical of pastels. "Portrait of a young lady" is a good example of Vivien's mature manner. The picture, based on the features of the hairstyle, can be dated to the period 1715-25. While formally an excellent example of a French portrait of the early 18th century, the painting at the same time bears the features of Vivien's purely individual style. The portraits of his contemporaries, Largillière and Rigaud, were characterized by an emphasis on the formal representation of the model. Vivien, on the other hand, prefers a more intimate, informal interpretation. This was largely due to the work of the artist in the pastel genre with his very personal attitude to the model model. This is noticeable both in the transfer of emotions, Vivien's characters always seem somewhat "tired". The compositional technique, when the sitter leaning on the foreground of the picture, as if only interrupted the dialogue, was taken by Vivien from Dutch genre painting. Such a composition, so typical of Vivien, we will never find in Largilliere and Rigaud. It is noteworthy, but this technique will later be developed in the art of Maurice Quentin de la Tour.
Wladyslaw MAXIMOWICZ Bratislava, 2022
Epoque: XVIII century
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