The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler

YMSM 018
Copy after a Group in Couture's 'Romains de la d├ęcadence'

Copy after a Group in Couture's 'Romains de la d├ęcadence'

Artist: James McNeill Whistler
Date: 1857/1858
Collection: Whereabouts Unknown
Accession Number: none
Medium: oil
Support: unknown
Size: unknown
Signature: unknown
Inscription: unknown
Frame: unknown

Date

Copy after a Group in Couture's 'Romains de la décadence' dates from between 1857 and 1858.

On 17 June 1856, Whistler, sponsored by Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre (1806-1874), had obtained permission to enter the Musées Impériaux, Paris, 'pour les jours d'étude' (on study days). 1 Whistler's known copies date from late 1857 or early 1858 and were probably sent to America in March 1858.

Couture, Romains de la décadence, Musée d'Orsay
Couture, Romains de la décadence, Musée d'Orsay

According to Thomas Armstrong (1832-1911), who was with Whistler in Paris in the late 1850s, one of Whistler's commissions from 'a whaling captain' was to paint a copy after a group in Romains de la décadence by Thomas Couture (1815-1879), then in the Musée du Luxembourg. 2 Couture's painting was bought from the Salon of 1847 and exhibited at the Luxembourg from 1851 until after 1871. It is now in the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. There is, however, no record in the Archives du Louvre of Whistler having requested permission to copy a painting by Couture.

Images

Copy after a Group in Couture's 'Romains de la décadence', Whereabouts unknown
Copy after a Group in Couture's 'Romains de la décadence', Whereabouts unknown

Couture, Romains de la décadence, Musée d'Orsay
Couture, Romains de la décadence, Musée d'Orsay

Unknown artist, Study of a Head after Couture, private collection
Unknown artist, Study of a Head after Couture, private collection

Subject

Titles

Only one title has been suggested:

Description

Couture, 'Romains de la décadence', Musée d'Orsay
Couture, 'Romains de la décadence', Musée d'Orsay

It is not known which group in Couture's painting was copied by Whistler: it is an enormous painting (472 × 772 cm) with over thirty figures, including nude or half-draped men and women, all either drunk or caressing each other, except for a couple of men looking on disapprovingly at right, and a few serious statues standing between the Corinthian pillars of the open loggia.

Comments

Pamela Robertson comments:

'Though Whistler did not meet Manet till 1861, there were connections beforehand. Manet had been a pupil of Couture from 1850 to 1856; Whistler copied part of Couture’s celebrated Romains de la Décadence of 1847. In 1852 Manet copied Boucher’s Diane au Bain, which Whistler subsequently copied. Both artists copied Velasquez’s La Réunion des Cavaliers ... Manet in 1859-1860.' 4

In 1954, a Study of a Head after Couture, was lent by Denys Sutton (1917-1991) to an exhibition in Chicago and New York. 5

Unknown artist, Study of a Head after Couture, Private collection
Unknown artist, Study of a Head after Couture, Private collection

According to the catalogue, this was a signed oil, 20 x 16 inches, painted during Whistler's early days in Paris (1855-59), after one of the twenty-seven sketches of heads that Couture had made in preparation for Les Enrôlements des volontaires de 1792, which was commissioned by Louis Napoleon in 1848. Couture's original sketch is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art. The whereabouts of the copy is unknown; from a photograph, the compilers doubt the attribution.

Technique

Composition

Couture, 'Romains de la décadence', Musée d'Orsay
Couture, 'Romains de la décadence', Musée d'Orsay

It is not known which figures were copied by Whistler from Thomas Couture's Romains de la Décadence, 1847, oil on canvas, 472 × 772 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Technique

Unknown.

Conservation History

Unknown.

Frame

Unknown.

History

Provenance

According to Thomas Armstrong (1832-1911), one of Whistler's commissions from 'a whaling captain' was to paint a copy after an unspecified group in Thomas Couture's Romains de la décadence, then in the Musée du Luxembourg; there is no further record of it. 6

Exhibitions

No exhibitions are recorded.

Bibliography

Catalogues Raisonnés

Authored by Whistler

Catalogues 1855-1905

Journals 1855-1905

Monographs

Books on Whistler

Books, General

On Couture:

Catalogues 1906-Present

Journals 1906-Present

Websites

On Couture:

Unpublished

Other


Notes:

1: Card No. 3338, Comte Alfred Émilien O'Hara van Nieuwerkerke (1811-1892) to Whistler, GUW #04523.

2: Lamont 1912 [more], pp. 178-79.

3: YMSM 1980 [more] (cat. no. 18).

4: P. Robertson 2010 [more], at p. 12.

5: Exhibition catalogue Chicago and New York 1954 [more], p. 76.

6: Lamont 1912 [more], pp. 178-79.