Circle of Jean Cotelle
Paris 1646 – Villiers-sur-Marne 1708
The Bath of Venus or the Element of Air
Pen and brown ink, grey wash, white gouache heightening on blue paper, framing lines with pen and black ink.
194 x 543 mm – 7 5/8 x 21 3/8 in.
The author of this drawing drew inspiration from Francesco Albani’s famous composition, The Bath of Venus or the Air (Paris, Louvre Museum), but he has horizontally extended it and added a few figures: a maid on the left-hand side of the composition and another one playing with a putto by the fountain. The vocabulary is indeed Francesco Albani’s, as employed by many artists from Louis XIV’s court: gods and goddesses absorbed in pastoral activities, groups of busy putti, various architectural elements symmetrically placed, fountains and groves.
Paintings by Bolognese painter Francesco Albani (1578-1660) were greatly appreciated by Louis XIV and his entourage. André Le Nôtre owned several works that he offered the King in 1693. But as early as 1685, the sovereign had himself acquired four paintings of the series of Venus, a series that had been ordered in 1621 by Ferdinando Gonzaga for the Villa Favorita in Mantua become famous in France since its reproduction in 1672 by engravers Etienne Baudet and Benoît I Audran.
Albani’s paintings inspired many artists such as Pierre Mignard or Jean Cotelle and were reproduced on fans or other decorative objects. This drawing cannot be attributed to Jean Cotelle whose rare securely attributed drawings date to the 1680s and 1690s and present homogenous style and specific characteristics such as very recognizable facial types, which are not present in this drawing. However, it must be related to the artist’s circle, whose artistic personalities are still poorly known and studied. Future research may hopefully enable further identifications. In the meantime, it is in light of this taste for the “Painter of the Graces”, as Albani was called in France, that we must apprehend this anonymous but nonetheless spectacular drawing.
Condition report – False margins. Very slight humidity stains in the upper part, on the right side. Pinholes on the upper center. Small folds on the right edge. Lower left corner slightly torn, a few abrasions.