In the latter 1700s the severity of landscape architecture exemplified by André Le Nôtre’s designs for Versailles in the prior century gave way to a new informality inspired by models from across the Channel. The English in their turn had drawn inspiration for their private parks from the arcadian paintings of artists such as Nicolas Poussin, Claude Lorrain, and Salvator Rosa, which they had acquired in Italy on the Grand Tour. Within a short distance of Paris, the châteaux at Ermenonville, Malmaison, Montmorency, and Saint-Cloud all acquired parks in the new style, and their embellishment continued well into the nineteenth century. Under the Empire, Dunouy received a number of commissions from the new crop of owners of these domains, notably from Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte, at Mortefontaine, for whom in 1806 he executed a pair of views of the grounds (private collection; formerly Ben Elwes Fine Art, London). The park depicted here has not been identified, but the gentleness of the landscape is undoubtedly attributable as much to its design as to Dunouy’s idealizing tendencies. This sketch may date to the first years after 1800, but it could also have been painted after the artist’s second Italian sojourn (1810–15). For a sketch comparable in style and of similar size, see Le Paysage français de Valenciennes à Bonington (exh. cat., Talabardon & Gautier, Paris, 2002, unpaginated, no. 21, ill.).
[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]