Landscape with Antique Ruins and Figures
after Pierre Patel the elder (Chauncy c.1605 – Paris 1676)
Patel was known as 'the French Claude', since, unlike the latter, he was born in France proper, and never even went to Italy, whereas Claude spent the whole of his working life in Rome. Patel's pictures, as here, make more play with the romance of the ruins that he had never seen, bathed in an eternal golden light. This might also be by his son, Pierre-Antoine Patel (1646-1707), whose earliest works were almost indistinguishable from his father's. It acquired its fine Rococo frame when made into an overmantel at Wallington, around 1750.
Oil painting on canvas, Landscape with Antique Ruins and Figures, after Pierre Patel the elder (c. 1605-1676) or possibly Pierre-Antoine Patel the younger (Paris 1648 – Paris 1707). A ruined temple and portico at the right. A copy in reverse, probably after the 1762 Vivares engraving, is in The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke on Trent, purchased in 1950.
Wallington has some of the finest Rococo plasterwork in the country, by Pietro Lafranchini (i). Even so, in a house otherwise given over to proconsular and Ruskinian high-mindedness for a century and a half, and thus to a certain sobriety (in keeping with which the once lilac-blue walls of the stuccoed Saloon were repainted in sub-fusc in 1885), it is something of a surprise that almost the first thing that one should come upon after penetrating it is this picture, as an overmantel in the Entrance Hall: a purely hedonistic landscape in a sportive Rococo giltwood frame. It was one of only five pictures to strike Arthur Young when he visited Wallington in 1768, when it was in the Drawing-Room (now the Library, which is still in its dulled-down state): "The chimney-piece of polished white marble, with festoons of grapes, &c. Over it a landscape, architecture, and trees, in a light, glowing, brilliant stile; extremely pleasing, though not perfectly natural" (ii). It can only have been acquired shortly before that date by Sir Walter Calverley Blackett, 2nd Bt (1707-77), MP, born Walter Calverley, but who had inherited the Blackett estates, including Wallington, in consequence of having married the illegitimate daughter and heiress of their last and deceased Blackett owner in 1729, and of having changed his name within a year of doing so. Earlier in his life he was vastly energetic, getting Daniel Garrett to modernise the house, turning barren moorland into a "noble and well-ordered estate", and endowing Newcastle (of which he was five times Mayor) with St. Nicholas's Library and a hospital for "decayed burgesses", and Hexham with its market-place and bridge. By the time that Reynolds had painted the full-length of him in the Saloon, however, and Arthur Young (who did not meet him) visited Wallington, another observer could write: "Sir Walter has a very great Fortune & keeps a large Family .... His fondness for his little Dogs [which he had had painted dancing, by Wootton: "grotesque enough", in Young's view] is quite ridiculous & Childish. He is what you may call a bon Vivant tho' not a hard drinker, but in the Article of eating he is a vrai Gourmand, he has a prodigious Apetite and eats voraciously .... He is call'd a jovial Companion and yet seems to have no satisfaction in anything. He loves to have his House continually full of Company, yet seems tired of them, himself & everything else .... In a word, he seems surrounded by all the Advantages of this Life without having any Relish for any of them". The probable inventor of this composition, Pierre Patel the Elder, was known as "le Claude Lorrain de la France" (usefully reminding us that the latter's customary second name is a sobriquet, not a patronymic name; that Lorraine was not finally annexed to France until 1766; and that his entire working career was spent in Rome), or - in England - as "Old Patel". This last was so as to distinguish him from his son, Antoine-Pierre Patel (1646-1707), whose oeuvre has still not been clearly differentiated from his father's, any more than has that of occasional imitators of his father's mannered but seductive way of painting landscape, such as Henri Mauperché (?1602-1686). It is for this reason that, although Natalie Coural has accepted this picture as an autograph work by Patel the Elder on the basis of a photograph , a little caution still seems in order. For it is clear that there is a difference in execution and quality between this picture and some of the paintings with which it is most comparable in its elements and composition, such as the Landscape with ruins and cowherds engraved by Vivares when it was in Dr Chauncey's collection and now in the Louvre; or the three signed and dated Landscapes of 1652 with religious pretexts: the Christ and the Centurion in the Hermitage, St Petersburg; the Journey to Emmaus in the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Va.; and the Rest on the Flight into Egypt recently acquired by the National Gallery, London ; or two other Landscapes with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt (evidently a favourite pretext) that were on the market between the wars (iv). All these are - sometimes appreciably - smaller than the present picture, which was perhaps conceived from the first with some decorative use in mind; whilst the three signed and dated pictures of 1652 were painted with twenty-four years active career still before the artist. Most of the few datable or dated pictures of his fall within a decade either side of these: the oval Landscape painted for the Cabinet de l'Amour of the hôtel Lambert around 1646 , the Rest on the Flight of 1658 acquired by the Musée de Tours in 1985, and the two pictures of Moses painted for Anne of Austria in 1660 (Musée du Louvre). Only the little copper with the Rest on the Flight to Egypt in the Louvre is dated as late as 1673. We therefore do not know the extent to which Patel the Elder's manner may have broadened, and even coarsened - as seems the case in the present picture - particularly in such larger-scale decorative pictures, as time wore on, and as he perhaps grew a little stale with self-repetition. His son's signed and dated oils, by contrast, all seem to bear dates in the 1690s and 1700s, by which time Pierre-Antoine had already evolved a different, more northern and more congested, but less idyllic, way of presenting landscape, that is prefigured in some gouaches dated in the 1680s (v). This seems to leave the period of between about 1665 and 1685, when it is almost impossible to know whether we are dealing with a late phase of Patel the Elder's work, with a period of collaboration with his son, or with the point at which the latter had become an independent practitioner through the death of his father. Already in the mid-18th century the great collector and connoisseur, Mariette, could say that: "sometimes a painting is attributed to the father that, in fact, belongs to the son" (vi). There are certain other pictures that are comparable to the present painting whose attribution seems, significantly, to have oscillated in just this way between father and son. Foremost amongst them, perhaps, is the Landscape with Antiochus precipitated from his chariot (wrongly called the Fall of Phaethon) now in the Musée de Picardie, Amiens as by Patel the Elder, but previously twice exhibited at the Finch College Museum of Art, New York, and sold , as by Patel the Younger. Then there is the River Landscape with Classical ruins and figures and animals crossing a bridge, that was in the Camperdown sale at Christie's in 1921 as simply by 'Patel', but which was sold again there on 28 June 1974 as by Patel the Younger; or the Landscape with Classical Ruins and Herdsfolk that was advertised by the Pulitzer Gallery, London in 1966 as by the Elder, but sold at Sotheby's on 16 February 1983 as by the Younger; or finally, the Landscape with Classical Ruins and Goatherds that was ascribed to the Elder when in the Ford collection , but which in the Gaekwad of Baroda's collection has been ascribed to both Younger and Elder. Of all Antoine-Pierre's signed pictures, on the other hand, the Landscape with the Exposure of the Infant Moses of 1705 in the Hermitage comes closest in compositional character to his father's works, yet seems appreciably different in execution from the present picture. Perhaps the first metropolitan airing of the Wallington painting will enable its exact status between father and son to be better assessed. Patel's paintings, though always scarcer than Claude's, seem to have been quite eagerly collected in England in the 18th century. They appear with some regularity in sales; the Chauncey picture was engraved by Vivares and another was engraved by Benazech as The Calm, with a dedication to Dr. Philip De la Cour; whilst the familiar way in which the artist was referred to as 'Old Patel' shows that he was an accepted and cherished figure. Many of the fine examples now in America or back in France were sold from Britain in this century, so it is good both that the National Gallery should have recently imported such a fine example, and that this picture should have remained where it was first admired in the 18th century . Notes: (i) See Carlo Palumbo-Fossati, Gli Stuccatori Ticinesi Lafranchini in Inghilterra e in Irlanda nel Secolo XVIII, Lugano, 1982, pp.36, 49, 86-89, & pls. 75-79. (ii) Arthur Young, A Six Months Tour through the North of England, 1770, vol.iii, p.101. He further makes the interesting remark, à propos the 'vails' normally paid to servants by visitors to and guests in houses: "Sir Walter Blackett's is the only place I have viewed, as a stranger, where no fees were taken" (p.102). (iii) Letter of 26 August [?1767], from a P. Poynings to an unknown correspondent, Wallington archives. (iv) Mariette, Abecadario, ed. Ph. de Chennevières & A. de Montaiglon (1857/8), vol.IV. p.88. Claude was not French by birth nor training: Lorraine was annexed to France only 1766. (v) Letter of 1987. (vi) See Natalie Coural, 'Le Paysage avec ruines et pasteurs de Pierre Patel (1605—1676)', La Revue du Louvre, 1990, no.4, pp.307-9. This, the only serious published study on the artist, is also a distillation of the author's 'thèse de 3e cycle' for the Sorbonne on the artist, which it would be good to have published in its entirety. Her assumption that Dr Chauncey's Patel remained in England until it was acquired by the Louvre in 1989 is, however, incorrect, since it was sold at Bukowski's, Stockholm, 7-9 May 1941, lot 116, as by the non-existent Benoît Patel. (vii) Coural, art.cit., figs. 3, 4 & 5. (viii) Crampton sale, Christie's, 16 May 1923, lot 156 (acquired by the Musée du Louvre in 1936). Anon. sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 4 March 1931, lot 81 [quaere whether this is the p. acquired by Tours in 1985? 1931 p. was 40.5 x 57.5cm. (acquired by Louvre,. in Revue du Louvre, 1985-87, date 1658). (ix) See exh. cat. Le Cabinet de l'Amour de l'hôtel Lambert, Musée de Louvre, 1972. (x) There is no proper study of Patel the Younger, but see the useful entry on the Landscapes of the Months of 1699 in the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums catalogue by Pierre Rosenberg & Marion C. Stewart, French Paintings 1500-1825, 1987, pp.74-78. (xi) Abecedario, 1857/8, vol.iv, p.89. (xi) Sotheby's 13 December 1978, lot 82. Acquired by Amiens in 19[ ]. Natalie Coural, 1990, pp.308 & 309, n.20, accepts the reattribution to the Elder, but calls it, impossibly, The Death of Hippolytus(?). (xii) Connoisseur, May 1920. (xiii) See Nadezhda Petrusevich, Five Hundred Years of French Painting, Leningrad, 1990, no.81. (xiv) There are also two Patel the Elders (one doubtful) at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and others at Glasgow and Sheffield (cf. the listing in exh. cat. Masterpieces of Reality: French 17th Century Painting, The Leicestershire Museum and Art Gallery, Leicester, 1985-86, pp.127-28, at which the last was exhibited, no. & pl. 59). The Landscape with Jephthah and his daughter acquired by the Birmingham City Museum & Art Gallery as a Patel the Elder in 1967 is, however, more probably by Henri Mauperché (exh.cat.cit. no.58, pp.121-22 & pl. 58). The Landscape with Cybele and Atys changed into a pine tree at Dinton House (NT) is signed and dated by Pierre-Antoine Patel, 1703. (adapted from author's version/pre-publication, Alastair Laing, In Trust for the Nation, exh. cat., 1995)
First when engraved by Vivares in 1762, in the collection of William Fawkener, Esq.; then in 1768 recorded at Wallington, in the possession of Sir Walter Calverley Blackett, 2nd & last Bt, MP (1707-1777); thence by descent from his sister's son, Sir John Trevelyan, 4th Bt of Nettlecombe (1734-1828), to Sir Charles Trevelyan, 3rd Bt, of Wallington (1870-1958); by whom deeded to the National Trust with the estate and house of Wallington and its contents in 1941, taking effect at his death in 1958
Makers and roles
after Pierre Patel the elder (Chauncy c.1605 – Paris 1676), artist possibly Pierre-Antoine Patel the younger (Paris 1648 – Paris 1707), artist
In Trust for the Nation, National Gallery, London, 1995 - 1996, no.38
Wright 1985 Christopher Wright, The French Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, 1985, p.240 Wright 1985 C. Wright, Masterpieces of Reality, The Leicestershire Museum & Art Gallery, 1985 , p.128 Young 1770 Arthur Young, A Six Months Tour through the North of England. Containing, an account of the present state of agriculture...Interspersed with descriptions of the seats of the nobility, 1770 , Vo. III, pp. 100-102 Wallington [National Trust], 1994, p. 43, illus. p. 44 Coural 2001 Natalie Coural, Les Patel, Paris, 2001, pp.197-98, cat CP1