Clockwise from Right:
2. Baron Pierre-Narcisse GUÉRIN
Paris, 1774 – Rome, 1833
The Return of Marcus Sextus
Salon of 1799
"Having escaped the proscriptions of Sulla, Marcus Sextus returns to find his daughter in tears following the death of his wife." Both the characters and the action in this scene are imaginary and, during the Salon of 1799, royalists thought they saw an allusion to the return of the émigrés. But the work was above all praised for its dramatic power, the power and realism of the expressions.
Anne-Louis GIRODET DE ROUSSY-TRIOSON (Montargis (Loiret), 1767 - Paris, 1824)
Endymion. Moonlight Effect, also known as The Sleep of Endymion
Salons of 1793 and 1814
The shepherd Endymion, the most beautful mortal according to mythology, is sleeping naked beneath a plane tree. Juno, whom he had offended, put him to sleep for thirty years, during which he retained his youthfulness. The chaste Diana has succumbed to his perfect beauty and visits him nightly. The goddess, who is associated with the moon, manifests herself here in the form of a moonbeam, which caresses Endymion’s face and torso. Zephyr facilitates the Moon’s passage by pulling back the branches of a laurel tree.
Girodet painted this early work in 1791, during his stay at the French Academy in Rome. Every year, residents at the Academy had to send one academy figure (a study of a nude model) to the members of the Académie Royale de Peinture in Paris. Endymion is an academy figure which Girodet used as the character of a history painting. Girodet, as he himself wrote, wanted to “do something new” in this work. A pupil of David, he chose a mythological love scene more likely to have fascinated a baroque or rococo painter then his master. There is nothing heroic or moral about this painting. Endymion is a character from a Greek myth later transformed into a Roman fable told by Lucian in his Dialogues of the Gods. Girodet based his picture not on the Greek myth, in which the shepherd is loved by Selene, but on the Roman fable. Endymion’s body is suprisingly elongated, almost mannerist, and his pose is reminiscent of Correggio’s mythological figures or certain baroque martyrs. He exudes a blend of sensuality and coldness. The picture’s light is also very different to paintings by David and his pupils. The deep woodland shadows are traversed by a curiously blue-tinted shaft of light. The light on Endymion’s body shows Girodet’s taste for the bizarre: his moonlit torso is bathed in a vaporous effect evoking Leonardo da Vinci and Correggio, artists little appreciated at the time, except by Prud’hon. It is precisely this strangeness which heralds the emerging romantic sensibility.