Camille Corot (French, 1796–1875)
Oil on paper laid down on wood
15 5/8 x 19 1/2 in. (39.7 x 49.5 cm)
Inscribed (verso): Cette étude de mon maître Corot peinte vers 1830 / qui lui a servi pour son tableau d'Hagar dans le désert / fut donné [par lui à?] Célestin Nanteuil en 183[5?] / Je l'ai retrouvé en fort mauvais état en 1884 / à Ma . . . lle [Marseille?] Je l'ai nettoyée et fait mettre / sur Panneau dans l'état où elle se trouve / Corot l'estimait comme une de ses meilleurs. / Français (This study by my master Corot painted about 1830 / which he used for his painting of Hagar in the desert / was given [by him to?] Célestin Nanteuil in 183[5?] / I rediscovered it in very bad condition in 1884 / at Ma . . .lle [Marseille?] I cleaned it and had it put / on panel, its present state. / Corot considered it one of his best. / Français)
Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1979 (1979.404)
Corot painted this study in the summer of 1832 or 1833 in Bas-Bréau, a section of the Forest of Fontainebleau that was famous for its immense oak trees. At the time, Corot was living in the nearby village of Chailly-en-Bière. He painted this study in the naturalistic style that he had developed in Italy during his sojourn there, from 1825 to 1828. The tree reappears in Hagar in the Wilderness (38.64), a large canvas he exhibited at the 1835 Paris Salon. Improbably, in his realization of that biblical scene, Corot transported the oak from northern France to the Palestine desert.
A long inscription on the back of the present wood panel by the painter Louis Français (1814–1897) records the history of this sketch. In 1835, Corot gave it to his friend the artist Célestin Nanteuil (1813–1873), presumably in return for Nanteuil's lithographic copy of Hagar in the Wilderness. After Nanteuil's death, Français discovered the study in Marseilles, cleaned it, and mounted it on wood.