Charles Nicolas Cochin
Paris 1715 – 1790
Sculpture, Painting and Engraving Morning the Death of the Marquis de Marigny et de Ménars
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, grey wash.
Signed C.N. Cochin fecit.
122 x 76 mm – 4 ¾ x 3 in.
This lovely drawing executed in a refined technique can be connected with the engraved frontispiece after Cochin’s drawing for the Catalogue des différents objets de curiosités dans les sciences et arts qui composoient le Cabinet de feu M. le Marquis de Ménars… by F. Basan and Ch. Joullain, Paris published at the occasion of the auction held on 18 March 1782(fig. 1). Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving are depicted stricken with grief around the coat of arms of Abel Poisson de Vandières, marquis de Marigny et de Ménars: two fishes facing away from each other. They are placed at the foot of an obelisk decorated with a medallion with his effigy. A veritable tribute paid by the arts to the late marquis, this frontispiece bears witness to the long and fruitful relationship between the two men.
Coming from several artistic families, particularly engravers, Cochin was appointed to the Menus-Plaisirs in 1739 and made an agréé at the French Royal Academy in 1741. From 1746 onwards, he frequented the salon of Madame Geoffrin which gathered the leading figures of the art world, and it was on Cochin that the Marquise de Pompadour called to educate the taste of her brother, future marquis de Marigny. The two men were sent to study in Italy in December 1749, in the company of the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot and by the art critic and historian abbé Leblanc. The death of the director of the king’s buildings, Lenormant de Tournehem, interrupted their journey. Marigny was recalled back to France to assume the vacant post, which he held until his resignation in 1773. He performed this function with great intelligence, encouraging important projects and developing with artists relationships based on trust and esteem. As for Cochin, he was awarded full membership of the Academy upon his return and received accommodation in the Louvre in 1752 on the occasion of his appointment as curator of the king’s drawings. From 1755 to 1770, he was royal administrator of the fine arts under the direction of Marigny and, in this function, commissioned other artists, established decoration programs for the royal palaces, and granted pensions.
Cochin was also an excellent and prolific portraitist sought after by the best Parisian society, especially at the Monday dinners of Madame Geoffrin where, as reported by the guard of the royal print cabinet, Hugues-Adrien Joly, “while some are engaged in conversation, S. Cochin amuses himself by drawing either his fellow artists or art amateurs, as if he would intend to have them all engraved in order to make a series of portraits” (“Exposition de l’Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, faite dans une salle du Louvre le 25 août 1753”, Mercure de France, October 1753, p.164). Cochin executed about a hundred portraits. The early ones were exhibited at the 1753 Salon. Systematically drawn in black chalk, they show the models in profile and set within a medallion format. The portrait on the obelisk in the present drawing is the exact effigy of the marquis de Marigny, which Cochin executed in this context in 1757 (fig. 2, Paris, Musée Carnavalet). It is difficult to say whether this drawing is a detailed project preparing an engraving or an autograph repetition that the artist made for an amateur. Be that as it may, the present sheet is a work of great refinement due to both its sophisticated graphic technique and the composition’s admirable balance.
Condition report – The sheet laid down on a late 18th-century mount. Very good condition.