Jean II COTELLE dit Cotelle le Jeune (Paris, 1645 – Villiers-sur-Marne, 1708)

Ceres Overseeing the Harvest and Venus and Apollo

With frame : 32.3 x 37.9 cm. (12 11/16 x 14 15/16 in.) Visible : 18.5 x 23.9 cm. (7 5/16 x 9 7/16 in.)

Two gouaches with gold highlights on vellum,
Louis XV sculpted gilt frames

Provenance :
Belgium : Private Collection
“(...)Mr Cottelle of the Royal Academy who is both an excellent painter and a very honest man.”

Admitted in 1672 as “Ordinary Painter to the King in his Royal Academy,” Jean Cotelle the Younger practiced almost every genre of painting, although his history paintings and mythological scenes defined his reputation. Illustrator of The Campaigns of Louis XIV, Cotelle’s talents as a painter were known both to the monarch who probably personally approved his appointment to decorate the Trianon, and to Monsieur, the king’s brother, for whom he worked at Saint-Cloud.
Trained under his father Jean I Cotelle, called Cotelle the Elder, Jean II the Younger was trained as an ornamentalist, a fact which seems to explain the quest for precision and preciousness in his work. Thus, blending his training with his inspiration, Cotelle gave birth to a hitherto unknown genre which introduced enchantment to miniatures.
Considered modelli, Cotelle’s works in gouache are so refined that they in fact constitute finished works. They are systematically infused with a delicate poetic atmosphere enlivened by floating figures which appear in the clouds as entrancing illustrations of the Sun King’s reign. Moreover, our two scenes are related to theater scenes, an art which was highly appreciated by the king, in which playful nymphs and cupids having fun add to a pleasant light heartedness. One of them presents an episode in the story of Venus, a mythological figure whom the artist favored, as can be seen in his eight page Book dated before 1706 in which several Adventures from the Story of Venus are depicted. The other features Ceres, Goddess of the Harvest. Most of the known works by the artist privilege known mythological figures, identifiable by their attributes, who are surrounded by nymphs and cupids enlivening the composition.

Preserved from the wear of time, our two works in gouache have conserved all of their brilliance. The colors, sometimes dazzling in places, are so masterfully handled that one’s gaze perambulates through the entire composition. The small scale gives a precious quality which is reinforced by the vellum support and golden double filigree framing the pictures. The finesse in execution in both quantity and quality of depiction of details is typical of Cotelle. Faces with striking facial expressions and exaggeratedly elongated bodies amble nonchalantly while a light breeze plays with their slightly ballooning draperies. The plump joyful putti have a characteristic common to Cotelle’s works: blond curls are drawn individually across their broad foreheads. They celebrate marriage with their torch, and summer harvest with the wheat.
Through these images, Love and France triumph together for the Sun King’s glory. These two gouaches conserved in their original frames enrich the very narrow corpus of an artist known for his large scale paintings decorating the Trianon who actually was an established miniaturist.

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