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Jean-Jacques de Boissieu, 1736-1810

View of the Lac de Garde

Description:Read An Essay On This Drawing

This very delicate ink-wash drawing, done in the neoclassical style prevalent in the late eighteenth century, is one of the very few works in the Peabody Art Collection that can be documented as having belonged to Robert Gilmor, Jr. The inscriptions in the bottom margin were written by Charles J. M. Eaton and record that the drawing was acquired in Baltimore in 1845 from R[obert] G[ilmor]. Eaton also wrote the artist's name and birth and death dates in the lower-right margin of the mount.

The attribution to Jean-Jacques de Boissieu is confirmed not only on stylistic grounds but also by the appearance of another drawing of the same image on the art market in Paris in 2000.1 The drawing offered for sale then was monogrammed, dated 1782, and had the words "vue du Lac de Garde" written in the margin, presumably by the artist, thereby providing a title and an approximate date for the present sheet. Boissieu scholar Marie-Félicie Perez confirmed that the artist commonly made several drawings of his own work sometimes after his prints, although in this case no corresponding print has been found.

Gilmor made two trips to Europe, the first in 1799-1801 and the second in 1817-18. This drawing may represent a souvenir of sorts of one of those trips because the Lac de Garde-or, more correctly, Lago di Garda--is featured in many editions of various travel guides of Italy from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The drawing bears a resemblance to the description offered in one such guide: "[The Lago di Garda is] by far the noblest lake in Italy. The eastern side is romantically magnificent; while the western has the softest and most delicious views. Salo, the principal town, is well built, and has about 5000 inhabitants. The whole country for at least twenty miles is one continued garden."2 Gilmor, who prided himself on the connoisseurship skills he had honed by visiting many private collections while on tour, had several contemporary European models to follow in collecting the work of Boissieu. For example, Aignan Thomas Desfriches (1717-1800) and Tønnes Christian Bruun Neergaard (1776-1824) acquired Boissieu's drawings and prints.3 Desfriches was a well-known collector and draftsman himself, who opened a gallery in his house in Orléans. Bruun Neergaard was a Danish collector who published his art criticism in Sur la situation des beaux-arts en France, ou, Lettres d'un danois à son ami in Paris in 1801. Boissieu's work continued to hold its appeal to collectors well into the nineteenth century and can be found in the collection of Alfred Armand (1805-1888).4 Philippe de Chennevières thought it important to include him in his own survey of drawings published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1879.5

Boissieu studied briefly at the Ecole Gratuité de Dessin in his hometown of Lyons but otherwise was self-taught. Although he is known to have made some paintings, he established his reputation as a printmaker. The artist traveled through Italy in 1765-66 and returned to Lyons with a portfolio of drawings he made on the trip, which he continued to draw from later in his career. The Peabody work is likely one of these. Cheryl K. Snay

1. Piasa, Importants dessins anciens et du xixe siècle (Paris, 20 November 2000), 59, lot no. 131.

2. Galignani's Traveller's Guide through Italy (Paris, 1820), 649-50.

3. For a description of Desfriches's collection, see J. Dumesnil, Histoire des plus célebres amateurs français et leur relations avec les artistes (Geneva, 1973), reprint of the 1857-58 edition published in Paris; for Bruun Neergaard's collection, see his sale F. L. Regnault-Delalande, Paris, 29 August 1814.

4. E. Brugerolles, Les dessins de al collection Armand-Valton (Paris, 1984), 219-22.

5. P. de Chennevières, Les dessins des maîtres ancient exposés à l'Ecole des Beaux-Arts en 1879(Paris, 1880), 84.

Medium: Brush and ink and wash over graphite on cream, medium weight, slightly textured laid paper
Dimensions: Sheet: 192 x 340 mm.; Mount: 229 x 373 mm.
Date: ca. 1782
Category: landscape
Subject: Lake Mountains
Alternate Title: A Ferry Across a Lake
Inscriptions and Markings: RECTO: on mount, LL, brown ink, 'Baltimore 1845. R.G.'; LR, brown ink, 'J J de Boissieu 1736- / 1810.'; VERSO: TC, graphite, '1007-2'. Watermark: illegible lettered watermark vertically through center
Exhibition History: Baltimore Museum of Art, 'Drawings from the Gilmor Collection', Nov. 16, 1977-Feb. 5, 1978. The Walters Art Gallery, 'An Exhibition Commemorating Robert Gilmore II of Baltimore (1774-1848)', March 19-April 24, 1949.
Bibliography: Cheryl Snay, "Acquiring Minds: The Early Patrons of Nineteenth-Century French Drawings in Baltimore," Master Drawings 42:1 (Spring 2004); p. 69, ill. p. 68. Lance Humphries, 'Robert Gilmor, Jr. (1774-1848): Baltimore Collector and Art Patron', Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1998, vol. II, 269-70.
Provenance: Maryland State Archives by transfer, 1996; Johns Hopkins University by transfer, 1979; Peabody Institute, Baltimore, by bequest, 1893; Charles J. M. Eaton (1807-1893), Baltimore, 1845; Robert Gilmor, Jr. (1774-1848), Baltimore.
Collection: State of Maryland Archives: Peabody Collection
Credit Line: The Peabody Art Collection. Courtesy of the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property of the Maryland State Archives, on loan to The Baltimore Museum of Art MSA SC 4680-13-0000
Object Number: R.11826.372