• France, Private Collection.
The Artist’s Education
Son of a tailor in Dijon, Jean-Baptiste Lallemand appears to have initially exercised the paternal profession, while drawing and painting on his own. In 1739, he went to Paris as a journeyman tailor. According to Paillet, a collector apparently asked him to realize a series of Four Seasons which caused Lallemand to decide on his vocation. He is not known to have had any studio training in the capital, even if his œuvre reveals a certain influence from Jean Nicolas Servandoni (1695-1766), an architect and painter, student of the famous view painter Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765). If he wasn’t trained under Servandoni, Lallemand could have seen his “pictures of ruins and architecture” exhibited in the Salons between 1737 and 1743.
Admitted "to the number of the master painters" in Dijon in October 1744, Lallemand was received less than a year later into the Academy of Saint Luke in Paris as landscape painter. In 1747, in quest of new inspiration, he left for Italy, having financed the voyage himself. In Rome, he settled between the Trinita dei Monti and the Piazza Barbarini, the quarter which was strongly appreciated by artists and assiduously frequented by travelers, especially English ones who were accustomed to visiting the studios and acquiring works of art.
Lallemand in Rome
This long stay – it lasted fourteen years – finally opened an opportunity for the artist to discover the Roman landscape with his own eyes. Quite naturally and although he worked in the outskirts of the Academy’s sphere, he grew closer to French artistic circles, forged a friendship with Etienne Parrocel the Roman, Hubert Robert, and probably Joseph Vernet, as well as with the pensioners at the Mancini Palace, including the sculptor Jacques Saly, the architect Charles Wailly, a student of Servandoni, the painters Jean Barbault and Charles-Louis Clérisseau.
Thanks to his real and imaginary views realized in oil and especially in gouache, Lallemand rapidly forged a place for himself among the Roman artists. That is how he met the Scottish architect Robert Adam in 1755 to whom he taught landscape painting, whereas Clérisseau initiated him in perspective. Scattered during two sales in 1773 and 1818, the collections of the Adam brothers included no fewer than eighty-seven drawings by Lallemand which mainly dated to the Roman period.
Return to France
The reasons which caused the painter to leave the city where he had been so successful are unknown. He seemed to have settled permanently there, was married and the father of ten children. In 1759, the Pope commissioned a large decorative canvas, Moses saved from the Water (Vatican, inv. 913). Back in France in 1761, Lallemand led a full and prosperous career, painted views of French regions and regularly exhibited his canvases and gouaches in the non academic salons.
Signed "Lallemand," although the artist seems to have preferred a phonetic spelling “lalman” in Rome, our gouache dates to the period which immediately followed the artist’s return to France and where he continued to explore Roman motifs by producing very polished works destined for experienced collectors and connoisseurs. An elegant architectural caprice, our drawing is nourished by memories of the horizons of the Roman countryside, its statuary and antique ruins, as well as the Mannerist and baroque monuments of the Eternal City which the artist had studied as attentively as the vestiges from the era of the Caesars.
Lallemand imagined a villa in ruins like Hadrian’s. Even so, its architecture has nothing antique about it and skillfully mixes an arcade inspired by the fountains at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli and a Serlian which is reminiscent of the Villa Médicis façade, but here it is endowed with the Doric order and a double colonnade. In this theatrical setting, neither completely outside nor totally inside, the painter placed a white marble statue of Flora, which is no other than the famous Farnese Flora, from which in this case a spring of pure water gushes forth. Architecture and Nature unite and in the crystalline water, three young women are bathing who could have been taken for nymphs or the Graces if a washerwoman descending the steps with her laundry basket under her arm didn’t interrupt and bring us back to the rituals of daily life.
With the ease that was his, the artist has captured the rough texture of the stones, the minute details of sculpture, the transparency of the water in the basins. His touch is light, colors limpid and restrained. He envelopes his imaginary landscape in an evening light which marks the sky with broad swathes ranging from clear blue to gilt pink and tints the architecture a warm ochre ton with beautiful decorative effect.
General Bibliography (Unpublished Work)
Olivier MICHEL, "Recherches sur Jean-Baptiste Lallemand à Rome," G. Brunel (dir.), Piranèse et les Français, Rome, 1978, pp. 327-341.
Pierre QUARRE, Un Paysagiste dijonnais du XVIIIe siècle, J.-B. Lallemand, 1716-1803, exh. cat. Dijon, Museum of Fine Arts, 1954.