Pierre Antoine Augustin Vafflard (French, Paris 1777–1837 Paris)
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas
10 3/4 x 8 1/8 in. (27.3 x 20.6 cm)
The Whitney Collection, Promised Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003
Not on view
In 1736 the English poet and playwright Edward Young was traveling through France with his family when his stepdaughter, Elizabeth Temple, died at Lyons. Forbidden to inter her remains in the city’s Catholic cemetery because of their religion, he was obliged to seek out the Protestant burial ground in the middle of the night. His romantic and indelibly macabre poem relating the story, The Complaint, or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742–45), was especially popular during the period of the French Revolution. This is a study for a painting Vafflard exhibited at the Salon of 1804 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angoulême).
This work is a study for Young and His Daughter (Musée des Beaux-Arts d'Angoulême), which was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1804. The entry in the Salon catalogue (no. 467) included a quotation by the painting’s subject, the English poet and writer Edward Young (1683–1765), excerpted from the "Quatrième nuit" of a French edition of his extended poem The Complaint, or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality (1742–45; the relevant passage is found in "Night 3" of the English edition). The figure identified as the daughter in the title of the Salon painting was, in fact, Young’s step-daughter Elizabeth, who died in Lyons in 1736, when they and their respective spouses were en route to Nice. In this macabre scene, Young is shown carrying her corpse to the only cemetery in town that would receive her for burial, that of the Protestants, having first been refused at the Catholic cemetery. Her death was followed by those of her husband Henry Temple, son of First Viscount Palmerston, and his own wife, Lady Elizabeth Young, in 1740. This series of tragic deaths inspired Night-Thoughts, which was illustrated by William Blake in 1797 and by Thomas Stothard in 1799.
The quickly worked, richly impasted surface of the study contrasts with the smooth and highly finished picture at Angoulême. Despite its small dimensions and sketchiness it contains all the essential elements of the Salon picture. (For the latter work, see Lacambre 1974; see also Adrien Goetz in L’invention du sentiment aux sources du Romantisme, exh. cat., Musée de la Musique, Paris, 2002, pp. 118–19, no. 22.)
[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]
the artist, Paris (until 1832; studio sale, Salle Lebrun, Paris, April 5–6, no. 78, probably this painting, for Fr 14.50 to Debay); Debai (possibly spelled Debay; from 1832); [Galerie de Staël, Paris, until early 1990s; sold to Whitney]; Wheelock Whitney III, New York (from early 1990s)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850," January 22–April 21, 2013, unnumbered cat. (fig. 67).
J[ean]. L[acambre]. French Painting, 1774–1830: The Age of Revolution. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. 1975, p. 634, under no. 178 [French ed. "de David à Delacroix, la peinture française de 1774 à 1830," Paris, 1974, p. 626, under no. 178], mentions the sketch sold as no. 78 in Vafflard's studio sale, Paris, April 5–6, 1832 (possibly this work).
Asher Ethan Miller. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 70 (Winter 2013), p. 47, fig. 67 (color).