Imaginary Landscape with the Palatine Hill from Campo Vaccino
François Boucher (French, Paris 1703–1770 Paris)
Oil on canvas
25 x 31 7/8 in. (63.5 x 81 cm)
The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 539
Boucher was the most influential of Rococo artists, a prolific painter and draftsman, engraver, and designer whose pastoral motifs found expression in every medium from gold boxes to tapestry. He was influenced by François Lemoyne (1688–1737), but did not receive training at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. Having won the Prix de Rome in 1723, he was not awarded a place at the Académie de France and was instead obliged to stay in Paris and make a living as a printmaker. His visit to Italy, from 1728 to about 1731, was unofficial and he was admitted to the Académie only in 1734, when he was over thirty. Boucher’s brilliant official career was launched the following year, when he received a commission for four paintings for the queen’s chamber at Versailles. He was also patronized by Louis XV (1710–1774) and, from 1747 until her death in 1767, by the royal mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Boucher eventually was named first painter to the king and director of the Académie, flourishing until his death in 1770.
The present landscape, which is partly real and partly imaginary, is conspicuously signed and dated 1734 and was thus painted several years after Boucher’s return from Rome. The ruins of the forum were largely buried in the first half of the eighteenth century and the area, used for pasturage, was called the Campo Vaccino after the cows that grazed there. The artist’s close-up view of the Palatine Hill from the Campo Vaccino focuses on the ancient substructure that supported the palace of Caligula and Tiberius, built in the first century A.D., and on the pavilions and western wall of the Orti Farnesiani, terraced botanical gardens, also in ruinous state, designed in the mid-sixteenth century for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520–1589).
Here Boucher removed the buildings of the Palatine from their natural setting, which would have been familiar to many of his travelling contemporaries, and introduced into the landscape peasants that quote in a most deliberate fashion drawings by Abraham Bloemaert (1566–1651), the Utrecht Mannerist. The same two figures, in different groupings and among many others, Boucher etched and published in 1735 under the title Livre d’études d’après les desseins originaux de Blomart, demonstrating his admiration for the pastoral works of the seventeenth-century Dutch painter and draftsman. The same artist must have inspired the conical hut with the straw roof and the blasted trees introduced into the right foreground. A number of related drawings by Boucher attest to his preoccupation with this important, relatively early landscape painting.
[Katharine Baetjer 2011]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left center): boucher·1734
?private collection, France (until 1952); Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky, New York (?1952–his d. 1980); The Jack and Belle Linsky Foundation, New York (1980–82)
Rome. location unknown. "Il Settecento a Roma," March 19–May 31, 1959, no. 98 (as "Veduta del Palatino," lent by the Weitzner collection, London [in error]).
New York. Finch College Museum of Art. "French Masters of the Eighteenth Century," February 27–April 7, 1963, no. 19 (as "View of the Palatine Hill," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Linsky).
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "François Boucher in North American Collections: 100 Drawings," December 23, 1973–March 17, 1974 (in unnumbered supplement, as "Landscape with Ruins," lent anonymously).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "François Boucher, 1703–1770," February 17–May 4, 1986, no. 23 (as "Capriccio View of the Farnese Gardens").
Hermann Voss. "François Boucher's Early Development." Burlington Magazine 95 (March 1953), pp. 80, 82, 85, ill., states that the picture was "sold to America by a French private collector in 1952"; dates it to the last stage of Boucher's early development, noting the influence of Abraham Bloemaert, from whom Boucher borrowed the two figures.
Emilio Lavagnino. Il Settecento a Roma. Exh. cat., location unknown. Rome, 1959, pp. 67–68, no. 98, pl. 41, presumes that Boucher painted it upon his return to Paris, from studies executed in Italy; relates it to the art of the bamboccianti.
Pierrette Jean-Richard. "Expositions, Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins: Boucher, gravures et dessins." Revue du Louvre et des musées de France 21 (1971), pp. 198–99, remarks that the composition is identical to that of a black chalk drawing by Boucher (one of a pair in the Cabinet des dessins, Musée du Louvre, Paris); notes that Boucher copied the shepherds from Bloemaert, and that the related prints are plates 8 and 10 in his "Livre d'Étude" of 1735.
Regina Shoolman Slatkin. "Two Early Drawings by François Boucher." Master Drawings 9 (Winter 1971), pp. 399–401, 403 n. 9, fig. 3, dates the landscape drawings 1732–34; concludes that the two paintings in New York and Stockholm based on these designs were intended as pendants.
Alexandre Ananoff with the collaboration of Daniel Wildenstein. François Boucher. Lausanne, 1976, vol. 1, pp. 228–29, no. 101, fig. 394, as "Vue de Campo Vaccino"; list among related works Boucher drawings at Stockholm, Orléans, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, and a Natoire drawing of the same site, Campo Vaccino, in 1766.
Regina Shoolman Slatkin. "Abraham Bloemaert and François Boucher: Affinity and Relationship." Master Drawings 14 (Autumn 1976), pp. 248–49, 254, discusses the prints and drawing at Orléans, and notes that Boucher's peasants and shepherds were generally based on Bloemaert prototypes.
Pierrette Jean-Richard. L'Œuvre gravé de François Boucher dans la Collection Edmond de Rothschild. Paris, 1978, p. 72, under no. 182.
Alexandre Ananoff with the collaboration of Daniel Wildenstein. L'opera completa di Boucher. Milan, 1980, pp. 92, 93, no. 101, ill.
Pontus Grate. Letter to Susan Stein. June 3, 1982, believes that in view of the discrepancy in size the Stockholm picture cannot be the pendant to this one.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983–1984. New York, 1984, pp. 60–61, ill. (color).
Katharine Baetjer inThe Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1984, pp. 118–20, no. 45, ill. (color).
Alastair Laing inFrançois Boucher, 1703–1770. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1986, pp. 17, 60–61, 112, 132, 150–54, no. 23, ill. (color), as "Capriccio View of the Farnese Gardens"; questions Schreiber's suggestion that the Louvre's upright drawing is after our painting as this would be an unparalleled procedure for the artist; proposes that an upright painting might have formed a pendant to the "View of Tivoli" in Boulogne, but notes that no record of another version exists.
Georges Brunel. Boucher. London, 1986, p. 81, fig. 39.
Philip Conisbee inClaude to Corot: The Development of Landscape Painting in France. Exh. cat., Colnaghi. New York, 1990, p. 88, ill.
Marcel G. Roethlisberger. Abraham Bloemaert and His Sons: Paintings and Prints. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1993, vol. 1, p. 219, under no. 281.
Alan Wintermute in Stephen D. Borys. The Splendor of Ruins in French Landscape Painting, 1630–1800. Exh. cat., Allen Memorial Art Museum. Oberlin, Ohio, 2005, p. 26, calls it "Capriccio View of the Farnese Gardens".
Old Master & British Paintings: Evening Sale. Christie's, London. December 3, 2013, p. 90, under no. 22.
For the group of the seated shepherd with another boy there is a preliminary drawing by Boucher, after Bloemaert (Orléans, inv. 94668). A study for the cow in the left foreground is in Stockholm (inv. H2955/1863). A pair of upright drawings (Louvre, inv. 24797, 24800) relate to this painting and one in Stockholm ("Landscape at Tivoli with the Temple of Vesta," inv. 5035), but the two pictures differ in size and quality and are not pendants. A drawing at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, a landscape very similar to the present work, may be earlier in date.
The painting, in beautiful state, was cleaned at the Museum in 1982. The foliage of the tree at the center and a few of the architectural details are slightly rubbed. There is a pentiment behind and to the left of the standing cowherd.