View in the Gardens of the Villa d'Este

Léon Pallière (French, Bordeaux 1787–1820 Bordeaux)
ca. 1814–17
Oil on paper, laid down on canvas
9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm)
Credit Line:
The Whitney Collection, Promised Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003

Accession Number:
Not on view
This view within the gardens of the Villa d’Este at Tivoli, renowned for its cypresses and waterworks, was painted between 1814 and 1817, during Pallière’s residency at the Villa Medici in Rome, twenty miles away. Pallière, the French Academy’s 1812 laureate for history painting, made sketches like this one to help formulate settings for narrative subjects, but also for pleasure. This is one of only two known examples from the trove of landscape studies discovered in Pallière’s studio after he died.
Pallière, a pupil of François André Vincent, was awarded the Prix de Rome for history painting in 1812. On July 22, 1816, the director of the Académie de France à Rome, Charles Thévenin, reported that Pallière was making progress on his final envoi to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Mercury and Argus (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux), noting that the artist "makes a great number of landscape studies after nature, and in the painting which presently occupies him, he has made a felicitous application of that which he has learned in this part of his art (letter to vicomte Joseph-Henri-Joachim Lainé, Minister of the Interior; Archives, Académie de France à Rome, box 23). A posthumous list of Pallière’s works compiled a few years later mentions "a great number of views from nature, of picturesque sites and monuments in Italy, which at the very least attest to a great facility on the part of their author" (A[lphonse]. Mahul, Annuaire nécrologique, 2e année [1821], Paris, 1822, p. 261; italics in original).

The Museum’s study, painted in somewhat muted tones, shows a view in the gardens of the Villa d’Este at Tivoli. It is one of only two landscape oil sketches by Pallière that have been identified to date; the other, probably painted during the same excursion, depicts the famous waterfalls nearby (private collection, Paris). Pallière’s evident interest in imbuing the backgrounds of his figure paintings with a fidelity to nature may also lie behind such works as Prédication en plein air, exhibited at the Salon of 1819 (location unknown).

[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]
sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, February 20, 1984, no. 21bis, as "Villa d'Este à Tivoli," by Gallien(?), sold to Whitney; Wheelock Whitney III, New York (from 1984)
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. 41).

Asher Ethan Miller. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 70 (Winter 2013), pp. 35, 47, fig. 41 (color).

The stretcher bears an early inscription: Léon Pallière / Villa d'este à Tivoli. This may or may not be in the artist's hand; a similar inscription including is found on the reverse of the view of the falls at Tivoli in a private collection (see Catalogue Entry).