The Ford

Claude Lorrain (Claude Gellée) (French, Chamagne 1604/5?–1682 Rome)
possibly 1636
Oil on canvas
29 1/4 x 39 3/4 in. (74.3 x 101 cm)
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1928
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 618
This picture is accurately recorded in Claude’s Liber Veritatis, the book of drawings the painter made to record his compositions and to protect himself against forgers and imitators. On the back of the drawing Claude noted that the picture was made for Paris, but the client is not named. In the eighteenth century, this painting belonged to Dr. Richard Mead, the famous collector in London. Then, it was called Morning and was paired with another Claude landscape entitled Evening, which had not been conceived as its pendant.
This composition is faithfully reproduced as drawing no. 8 in Claude's Liber Veritatis, where he kept a record of each of his major paintings in an effort to prevent forgeries. The verso of the drawing is inscribed in Claude's hand: "Claudio fecit in VR," and below it, "faict pour paris" (Claude made it in the city of Rome for Paris). It is not known which of the artist's clients commissioned the picture. Vivares records a date of 1656 on his 1741 engraving (in reverse) after the painting, but it is more likely that the now illegible date at the painting's lower right once read 1636, a stylistically more probable date.

This work is referred to as A landscape and figures, the cool of the morning, in the 1754 catalogue of the Mead sale, and is immediately followed by a painting described as "The evening after sunset. There is a slight print of it etched by himself. The same size with the former," suggesting that the two pictures were pendants. Röthlisberger (1961) links the Evening in the Mead sale with a landscape in the Kaufmann collection, New York, of similar dimensions, after which Claude made an engraving, but he considers the paintings unlikely to have been conceived as pendants by the artist. Sterling (1955), more credibly, identifies the Mead Evening with a composition reproduced as Liber Veritatis 20, noting that its verso bears an inscription identical to that found on the back of LV 8. LV 20 records a picture (also similar in dimensions to The Ford) that is now in the North Carolina Museum of Art, Landscape with Peasants Returning with Their Herds. Claude also made an engraving after this picture.

An old copy of The Ford with the composition in reverse was at Allerton Priory, Liverpool, in 1858 and bequeathed in 1955 to the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (Morris and Hopkinson 1977, ill.). It may be identical to the version sold by W. Grindlay at Christie's, London, March 17, 1888, no. 102, to Sutherland (Röthlisberger 1961). In addition to the Vivares engraving, Röthlisberger mentions two almost identical drawings copied from Claude or from Vivares, which reproduce the composition in reverse: one in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg, and the other in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. A similar site appears in Claude's Landscape with a River in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, and in a landscape in the collection of Lord Fairhaven in 1961 (Röthlisbergber 1961, figs. 286 and 287).

Claude sometimes enlisted a figure specialist to add the staffage in his landscapes, but the rustic figures in the foreground here appear to be from his own brush. The young woman seated at the far right is putting on her stockings; this activity and the informally arranged group of peasants reflects the influence of the mostly Dutch genre painters then active in Italy, known as the Bamboccianti, with whom the artist had direct contact. The somewhat awkward integration of the genre-like figures with the soft focus of a highly idealized landscape setting is characteristic of Claude's earlier productions.

[Mary Sprinson de Jesús 2011]
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): CLAVD[IO F?] [AV in monogram] / ROM[AE?] [with traces of a date, no longer legible]
private collection, Paris; Dr. Richard Mead, London (by 1741–d. 1754; sale, Langford's, London, March 21, 1754, no. 51, as "Morning," for £113.8.0, to Scott); George Anson, Lord Anson, Soberton, Hants. (1754–d. 1762); his nephew, George Adams Anson, Shugborough Hall, Stafford (1762–d. 1780); his son, Thomas Anson, later 1st Viscount Anson, Shugborough Hall (1780–d. 1818); Thomas William Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield, Shugborough Hall (1818–42; his sale, Shugborough Hall, by Robins, August 10, 1842, no. 101, as "Bridge and Fishermen in a Boat," to Bassagio [sic]); ?[Giuseppe Bassegio, Rome, 1856]; Mme Benoît Fould, Paris (from 1856); her daughter, Mme Worms de Romilly, Paris; Marie-Berthe Worms de Romilly, marquise de Broc, Paris (until 1926); her cousin, Hélène de Cernowitz, vicomtesse Guy de Lantivy de Trédion, Paris (1926–28); [Durlacher, 1928; sold to MMA]
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 38.

Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 31.

Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 25.

Richard Mead. Authentic Memoirs of the Life of Richard Mead, M.D. London, 1755, p. vii, this picture is listed in the Mead sale as "A Landscape and Figures, the cool of the morning . . . engraved among the collection of landscapes published by Mr. Pond [the Vivares engraving?]".

Liber Veritatis; or A Collection of Prints, After the Original Designs of Claude Le Lorrain . . . Executed by Richard Earlom . . . Vol. 1, Boydell ed. London, [1777], p. 13, no. 8, publishes Earlom's engraving after Claude's Liber Veritatis record of this painting (LV 8) and notes that the painting was made for a gentleman in Paris in 1656 and engraved by Vivares in 1741; locates it in the collection of Dr. Mead.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 8, London, 1837, p. 198, no. 8.

John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 9, Supplement. London, 1842, p. 807, no. 10.

Léon de Laborde. "Notes manuscrites de Claude Gellé, dit Le Lorrain: Extraites du recueil de ses dessins." Archives de l'art français: Recueil de documents inédits relatifs à l'histoire des arts en France Ed. Ph. de Chennevières. 1 (1851–52), p. 442, no. 8, cites, somewhat inexactly, the inscription on drawing no. 8 in Claude's Liber Veritatis.

Théodore Lejeune. Guide théorique et pratique de l'amateur de tableaux. Vol. 1, Paris, 1864, p. 148, as in the collection of Mme Helena Fould, purchased by her in Rome in 1856.

Mme Mark Pattison [Lady Dilke] J. Rouam. Claude Lorrain, sa vie et ses oeuvres d'après des documents inédits. Paris, 1884, p. 208, no. 8, gives the wording on the back of Liber Veritatis drawing no. 8 as: "Claudio fecit in V. R., pour Paris.".

Owen J. Dullea. Claude Gellée le Lorrain. London, 1887, p. 101, no. 8.

B[ryson]. B[urroughs]. "The Ford: A Painting by Claude Lorrain." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 23 (December 1928), pp. 306–8, ill., briefly traces the painting's history; notes that in comparison with the refinement of the landscape the figures are rather boorish in type and heavy in workmanship; suggests that they were painted by a Dutch collaborator or "at least one who followed the Dutch ideals".

Thomas Craven, ed. A Treasury of Art Masterpieces from the Renaissance to the Present Day. revised and enlarged ed. New York, 1952, p. 172, colorpl. 92, dates it 1861; notes that it represents Daumier's fascination with the poorer parts of Parisian life.

Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 82–83, ill., notes that our picture is signed and that there are traces of an illegible date; suggests that the engraver Vivares misread the date as 1656, and that it may originally have read as 1636, a stylistically more likely date; observes that when it was in the collection of Dr. Richard Mead in London in the 18th century, our painting was known as "Morning" and had a companion piece called "Evening"; suggests that Liber Veritatis no. 20 records the latter [this painting is now in the Museum of North Carolina, Raleigh] noting that the drawing bears the same handwritten note on its reverse that appears on LV8; believes the figures in our picture were painted by Claude himself.

Marcel Röthlisberger. "Earliest Dated Claude." Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 52, no. 253 (1957), p. 54, compares this picture with Claude's pastoral landscape in the Philadelphia Museum, which is signed and dated 1629; reads the date on our picture as either 1632 or 1636, noting that one of the figures (the seated woman dressing) occurs again in Claude's 1634 etching of a ford [see Ref. Knab 1969, fig. 10].

Michael Kitson and Marcel Röthlisberger. "Claude Lorrain and the 'Liber Veritatis'—1." Burlington Magazine 101 (January 1959), p. 23, agree with Sterling that this picture may once have been dated 1636, as the 1656 date read by Vivares is "obviously impossible on stylistic grounds".

Eckhart Knab. "Die Anfänge des Claude Lorrain." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 20 (1960), p. 149, dates it probably in 1636.

Theodore Rousseau Jr. The Splendid Century: French Art, 1600–1715. Exh. cat.Washington, 1960, supplement, pp. 8–9, no. 178, suggests that the date originally read as 1636.

Marcel Röthlisberger. Claude Lorrain: The Paintings. New Haven, 1961, vol. 1, pp. 108–10, 474 n. 2; vol. 2, fig. 40, cites the inscription on the verso of Liber Veritatis no. 8 as "Claudio fecit in V.R. faict pour paris."; reads the date on our canvas as "163.," suggests that it was painted in 1636 and lists related compositions; identifies the picture listed as its pendant in the Mead sale, not as LV 20 [see Ref. Sterling 1955], but as the "Mill," no. 210 (Kauffmann collection, New York); does not, however, believe the pictures were conceived by Claude as a pair.

Michael Kitson. "Claude Lorrain: Two Unpublished Paintings and the Problem of Variants." Studies in Renaissance & Baroque Art Presented to Anthony Blunt on his 60th Birthday. London, 1967, p. 143.

Marcel Roethlisberger. Claude Lorrain: The Drawings. Berkeley, 1968, vol. 1, pp. 114, 429, publishes the Liber Veritatis drawing (vol. 2, pl. 116) that records this painting.

Eckhart Knab. Bulletin Museum Boymans-van Beuningen 20, no. 3 (1969), pp. 104, 116, fig. 9.

Doretta Cecchi in L'opera completa di Claude Lorrain. Milan, 1975, pp. 91, 95, no. 59, ill., dates it 1636.

Edward Morris and Martin Hopkinson. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool: Foreign Catalogue. [Liverpool], 1977, text vol., p. 45, catalogue a copy of our painting, formerly at Allerton Priory, Liverpool, that shows the composition in reverse, and propose that Vivares's 1741 etching was probably its source.

Michael Kitson. Claude Lorrain: Liber Veritatis. London, 1978, p. 56, publishes the related drawing Liber Veritatis 8 and notes that it corresponds exactly to the painting; believes the date on our picture is likely to have read 1636.

Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, p. 360, no. 2, ill. [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris, 1982].

Marcel Roethlisberger. Im Licht von Claude Lorrain: Landschaftsmalerei aus drei Jahrhunderten. Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst München. Munich, 1983, pp. 67, 147, 236, 238, 271, 285.

Richard Shiff. Cézanne and the End of Impressionism. Chicago, 1984, pp. 100–101, 105, 264 n. 5, fig. 16, discusses the composition in detail.

Christopher Wright. The French Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Boston, 1985, p. 163.

Lino Mannocci. The Etchings of Claude Lorrain. New Haven, 1988, p. 94.

Katharine Baetjer in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 174–78, no. 31, ill. (color, overall and detail) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 96–99, no. 25, ill. (color, overall and detail)].