Grasse 1759 – Paris 1835
Cupids and two women sitting on a char drawn by lions (recto); A family gathering around a new-born (verso)
Oil on paper
160 x 207 mm – 6,3 x 8,15 in
A spontaneous and rare recto-verso sketch by Jean-Baptiste Mallet, an artist born in Grasse who trained with Prudhon. Mallet specialized in galant genre scenes, thoroughly describing refined interior settings before thriving in the “troubadour” style from 1810 onwards. The sketch on the verso relates to a series of allegorical works on the theme of love and marriage, probably executed at the occasion of the union between Josephine de Beauharnais and Napoleon Bonaparte. The Fragonard Museum in Grasse owns two such works whereas a third is in Thomas Henry museum in Cherbourg. On the verso is a preparatory study for a painting, Family gathering around a new-born in an interior, which was sold by Beaussant Lefèvre on 17 October 2019, lot 97.
Mallet, who trained with Simon Julien and then with Mérimée and Prudhon, specialized at the beginning of his career in genre scenes that were descriptive and meticulous, most often using gouache on paper. His illustrations describe ingeniously and with humour scenes of life that are typical of the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century. His taste for scenes of gallantry taking place in interiors with refined decors are at times at the limit of salaciousness. But his descriptions of decors in the antique or Egyptian manner are extremely precise and very useful to historians of taste.
Around the 1810s, Mallet abandoned gouaches on paper showing gallant scenes or genre scenes to produce a few images in the troubadour style among which some small masterpieces such as the Gothic Bathroom (1810 Salo). He also created some canvases showing Hellenistic or Anacreontic subjects, the Bath of Amor, the Bed of Amor, the Toilet of Amor for example, in an elegant style close to Prudhon’s manner, of whom he had been a pupil in Paris.