The oil on canvas represents a view of the town of Frascati with plains and mountains in the background. A natural wooded landscape, with tall trees, acts as an architectural backdrop, while in the foreground there are boulders and earthy paths. In the center there is a gathering in which two characters, dressed in common but colorful clothes, are dancing; around them other figures are observing them, some standing and some sitting on the grass. The blue sky is slightly hazy and creates a chromatic contrast with the palette used to create the fronds of the trees and the earthy landscape in the background.
Dimensions: 80,5 x 101 cm ( 31,7 x 39,8 in )
The famous reference model is the autograph painting by Achille Etna Michallon (1796-1822), presented at the Parisian Salon of 1822, where it was purchased by Louis XVIII to be included in the royal collections; it is currently kept in the Musée du Louvre (inv. 6633). This work was painted following his trip to Italy, during which he created an album of sketches drawn en plein air, which he later took as a model for the paintings reworked in the studio. The Parisian painting is in fact a reworking of the Frascati view by the painter, the landscape is inhabited by characters considered characteristic of the uses and customs of Italian culture. An “Italian dance” attended by a small group of spectators including the brigand Masocco, whom the artist had studied from life in 1820, in a meeting that took place in the prisons of Termini.
Michallon was one of the leading French artists active in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the son of a sculptor, he was a pupil of Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, one of the most popular landscape painters at the time. From a very young age, Michallon distinguished himself in the creation of works among the most popular genres of the time, that of the historical landscape, winning the dedicated prize, the Prix de Rome, on the occasion of the Salon of 1817. He was also a pupil of Jacques-Louis David and until 1821 he lived in Italy, in Rome, specializing in the creation of ideal landscapes, characterized by an absence of anecdotal implications and by the search for luministic data, a peculiarity that he also transmitted to one of his most famous students: Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot.
Corot himself is the author of a copy of the Frascati Landscape in the Louvre, derived from the master’s original, but slightly smaller in size and which is already characterized by the characteristic brushstrokes that mark Corot’s work. Another painting recently went up for auction, a preparatory sketch by Michallon himself, used by the artist as a sketch for the finished work then at the Salon.
The work proposed here must have been created within the close circle of Michallon’s workshop. Despite the small size, the close adherence to the work preserved in the Louvre and the search for a rendering of the lenticular detail do not, in our opinion, raise doubts about the area.
– Achille Etna Michallon, exhibition catalog (Paris, Musée du Louvre, Pavillon du Flore, 10 March-10 June 1994), edited by Vincent Pomarède, Blandine Lesage, Chiara Stefani, Paris, Réunion des Musée Nationaux, 1994, n. 111, p. 197;
– Chiara Stefani, Corot peintre d’après nature, in Corot, un artiste et son temps, paris, Klincksieck, 1998, pp. 192-225;
– Chiara Stefani, Vedere, descrivere e dipingere l’Italia tra Sette e Ottocento, in “Italia e Italie”, a cura di Mariasilvia Tatti, Roma, Bulzoni, 1999, pp. 279-298.