Between 1736 and 1738 Trémolières painted large canvases of Comedy and Tragedy. Both belong now to the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Cholet. The former, for which this is probably a study, was exhibited at the Salon of 1738. A drawing for the head of Comedy is in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. The allegorical subjects were a novelty at the time.
Pierre Charles Trémolières was sent at an early age to Paris, where he entered the studio of Jean-Baptiste Van Loo (1684–1745). In 1726 he came in second in a competition which funded study at the Académie de France in Rome, and in 1728 he left for a stay of six years in Italy. Trémolières was received into the Académie in 1737 with a painting of a scene from Homer's Odyssey. He received commissions for decorative paintings for the Hôtel de Soubise and for tapestry designs for the crown, but his health failed him and he died at the age of thirty-six.
This painting of Comedy is either a study for or a later variant of a larger painting of the same subject which now belongs to the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire in Cholet, Maine-et-Loire, with its pendant, Tragedy. Both larger works belonged to Voltaire (1694–1778); Tragedy is signed and dated 1736, while its pendant representing Comedy seems to have been exhibited at the Salon in 1738. Such allegories were innovative in the 1730s and in both versions of Comedy Trémolières uses props to make clear the allusion: she is depicted with a theatrical mask in her right hand, reclining on two books which, in the larger painting, are inscribed "Molière."
The theatrical allegory is emphasized in the larger painting by the inclusion of four marionette puppets to the left of the figure. The smaller painting was probably in the collection of the Prince de Conti (1717–1776) at the time of his death. A place in such a prestigious collection indicates the merit of the work in its own right. A study head with the same tentative smile we see here is preserved at the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm.
?Louis François I, prince de Conti (until d. 1776; his estate sale, Muzier père and Pierre Rémy, Paris, April 8–June 6, 1777, no. 706, h. 17 pouces, w. 20 pouces 6 lignes [18 1/8 x 23 1/8 in.], for Fr 180 to Rémy); [Fischer-Böhler, Munich, by 1954–at least 1955, as by François Boucher]; Emma A. Sheafer, New York (by 1970–d. 1973, as "Muse," attributed to François Boucher)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection: A Selective Presentation," July 16, 1975–?, no. 30.
Jean-François Méjanès et al. Pierre-Charles Trémoliéres (Cholet, 1703–Paris, 1739). Exh. cat., Musée Municipal de Cholet. Paris, 1973, pp. 67–68, 86, remarks that allegorical images of Tragedy and Comedy were relatively new—not having been introduced in Cesare Ripa's "Iconologie," published in France in 1644, 1677, 1681, and 1693—and believes Trémolière's paintings are innovative; illustrates his larger painting of "Comedy" (signed but undated) and of "Tragedy" (dated 1736), both in the museum in Cholet, and reproduces a drawing for the head of Comedy (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm); mentions a smaller version of Comedy, "apparently a sketch" for the picture in Cholet, that was in the Conti sale in 1777.
Yvonne Hackenbroch and James Parker. The Lesley and Emma Sheafer Collection: A Selective Presentation. Exh. brochure, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1975, no. 30, suggests these might be the first representations in French painting of subjects that would become very popular.
Per Bjurström. French Drawings: Eighteenth Century. Stockholm, 1982, unpaginated (under no. 1217), ill.
Per Bjurström. The Art of Drawing in France, 1400–1900: Drawings from the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm. Exh. cat., The Drawing Center. New York, 1987, p. 144, under no. 92.
Artist: Pierre Charles Trémolières (French, Cholet 1703–1739 Paris)Date: ca. 1737Medium: Black chalk and charcoal, stumped, heightened with white, on gray-blue paper (recto); black and red chalk, charcoal, stumped, heightened with white (verso).Accession: 1985.102On view in:Not on view