92 x 137.5 cm
Oil on curvilinear canvas, later adapted to rectangular format
Arsène Houssaye’s Collection, Sale in Paris, Drouot, May 1896, under number 71 ;
Sale in Madrid, Alcala Subastas, October 6t 2011, lot 398 (as an autograph work by François Lemoyne, opinion by Alastair Liang) ;
Acquired and conserved until now by the actual owner
J-L.BORDEAUX, François Le Moyne and his Generation, 1688-1737, Paris : Arthena, 1984, p. 87, n.35, reproduced in black and white Fig.3.
Galerie Alexis Bordes, Tableaux anciens du XVIe au XIXe siècle, November-December 2012
A student of Louis Galloche in the early 18th century, François Lemoyne was received as an academician in 1718. As opposed to his contemporary, Watteau with whom his works have often been confused, he had an official career as a Professor at the Academy (1733) and First Painter to the King (1736).
While his first canvases were conceived in warm tones learned from Jouvenet, Pellegrini’s sojourn in Paris with whom he worked on the ceiling project for the Royal Banque and his voyage to Italy (Rome, Venice, 1723) reoriented him rapidly towards studies in lighter coloring and adopting an unctuous, more fluid, vibrant touch which can be seen, for example, in the picture of Hercules and Omphale conserved in the Louvre.
Upon returning to France, Lemoyne worked for various Parisian monuments and churches before receiving two commissions for the Château of Versailles: an allegorical composition for the Salon of Peace (Louis XV Bringing Peace to Europe, 1728-1729) and the ceiling of the Salon of Hercules (1733-1736, sketch in Versailles). These grand decors remained within a tradition inherited from the Grand Century, although the compositions are more legible, less austere and certainly less monumental.
Our picture was realized in about 1728-1732 as an overdoor in a curvilinear format which was subsequently adapted to a rectangle, but its origins remain unidentified. Jean-Luc Bordeaux’ article in number 473 of the review, L’Estampille Objet d’Art, which appeared in November 2011, enumerates the rediscovery of Lemoyne’s curvilinear works executed for the Biron Hôtel. However our picture, though concerned by this register, does not seem to have come from the said Biron Mansion. Our painting is closely related to the work conserved in the Louvre of Juno, Iris, and Flora, an overdoor executed for the Château de Montfermeil.
The Triumph of Juno seems to be one of the most beautiful illustrations of the point of balance established between the grand French decorative tradition and the taste of the time for lighter more legible painting. The painting of Lemoyne’s students Boucher and Natoire is evidence of the blossoming of elegance and grace rendered possible by this equilibrium.
Here, the goddess Juno (patroness of marriage and fertility), Jupiter’s jealous vindictive wife, is depicted triumphantly in her chariot pulled by her emblematic peacocks. Midst a host of putti, she floats among the clouds, as if carried by the air of which she is also the allegorical figure.
The closeness of the details in our picture to those in the Versailles ceiling painting, The Apotheosis of Hercules, the coloring, forms and movements of the putti, support dating it to this period. Comparison with the modello of the decoration of François Lemoyne’s decoration of the vault in the Salon of Hercules (1732, oil on canvas laid down on pasteboard, 116 x 149 cm. / 3 ft. 3 11/16 in. x 4 ft 10 11/16 in., Versailles Château), the final sketch for the composition, perfectly demonstrates our point.
Finally, we emphasize that the presence of pentimenti in the contours of the putti’s heads in the central part of the picture is similar to those in the Venus and Adonis in the National Museum in Stockholm (Inv. 824, 92 x 73 cm. / 3 ft. ¼ in. x 2 ft. 4 ¾ in., signed and dated lower lower left: F. LEMOYNE 1729). These characteristics confirm the work’s very free and spontaneous expression.
Undoubtedly it is this style so strongly imbued with the taste of its time, which pleased the poet and collector Arsène Houssaye. A Romantic Man of Letters associated with Gerard de Nerval and Theophile Gautier, Houssaye in the 1830s and 40s especially contributed to bringing 18th century art back into contemporary favor. He was one of the first to write about Watteau and the Van Loo, and he put together a beautiful collection of works which were scattered in 1896. Among them could be found our picture.