Isabelle Tillerot, Jean de Jullienne et les collectionneurs de son temps (Paris: Editions Maison des Sciences de L’homme, 2011), 510 pages, ISBN: 9782735112531, €48.
Reviewed for Enfilade by David Pullins
Between 1726 and 1735, Jean de Jullienne oversaw and financed the publication of some 495 prints in four volumes, all after the work of the recently deceased painter and draftsman, Antoine Watteau. This unprecedented form of commitment to a contemporary artist has rightly secured Jullienne’s fame ever since and earned the complicated publishing venture he spearheaded the unofficial title of the “Recueil Jullienne.” Émile Dacier and Albert Vuaflart’s three-volume Jean de Jullienne et les graveurs de Watteau au XVIIIe siècle (1921–29) remains indispensible for understanding the project, its chronology, and participants. A recent exhibition and catalog from the musée du Louvre, Antoine Watteau et l’art de l’estampe (2010), revisited the history of the publication by attempting to piece together what can be learned by comparing the wide variation between surviving copies. As the consolidation of an artistic personality that took into account all aspects of a single artist’s production, the Recueil Jullienne continues to have much to offer scholars not merely as documentation of lost works by Watteau, but also as a significant moment in the practice of writing and publishing the history of art.
In a substantial new monograph on Jullienne, Isabelle Tillerot deliberately devotes only a few pages directly to the Recueil in order to focus her attention on Julienne as a collector and amateur. While Jullienne no doubt will remain best known for the Recueil bearing his name, Tillerot’s work uncovers the social and commercial networks that he occupied in meticulous detail and plants him firmly in the ground of recent scholarship on the art market, collecting, and the amateur in eighteenth-century France. While consistent in its thoroughness with the monographs that have come out of France in recent years – including the most exhaustive examples, Guillaume Glorieux’s work on the dealer Gersaint (2002) or Christian Michel on Cochin (1993) – Tillerot’s book aims to connect with broader theories on collecting and the status of works of art as physical objects with citations from Maurice Blanchot and Michel Foucault. This framework speaks to a larger ambition for the potential of monographic studies, while at times not feeling entirely integrated with the primary material that is in the end the heart of her project.
For the history of collecting, Jullienne’s singularity is based largely on his social position as a successful dyer and cloth merchant and the survival of an album of watercolors illustrating the hang of his collection at his hôtel in the rue des Gobelins from around 1756 (now owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library). While Dacier and Vuaflart alerted scholars to both of these elements in the 1920s, Tillerot contributes additional archival research (providing more precise documentation of available sources) and then extrapolates from this material in order to argue for why Jullienne is of interest apart from his engagement with Watteau. Jullienne’s self-made status – “I declare that I have not inherited any means either from my father or mother and that all I have comes solely from my own efforts and pains,” he wrote in 1764[i] – and strong mercantile ties make him unusual among French collectors of the first half of the eighteenth century. His patent of nobility, granted in 1736, was in fact based on his success in business; when he met Rosalba Carriera, probably through Pierre Crozat in 1721, he gave her a piece of scarlato, an expensive fabric related to his trade.[ii]
Tillerot highlights Jullienne as an early example of the merchant-collector in France and works through the unlikely but intimate connection of his family to the circle of the comtesse de Verrue, a pioneer in the collecting of Flemish painting, but also a representative of a more conventional, aristocratic model in Tillerot’s account. The illustrated album of Jullienne’s collection – the survival of which is a remarkable piece of historical luck – allows Tillerot to discuss the means through which Jullienne integrated the longstanding French admiration for Italian painting, newly developing taste for Flemish painting, and his own interest in the contemporary French school. By the time of his death in 1766, Jullienne owned a significant group of contemporary French paintings by Watteau, Boucher, Greuze, and de Troy (both father and son). In charting his relationship to the art of his own time, Tillerot works from Colin Bailey’s articulation of a “goût patriotique,” and, again, Jullienne emerges as a particularly early and notable example of a model more familiar later in the century. In dialogue with the recent work of Charlotte Guichard on the institutional framework supporting the amateur in eighteenth-century France, this aspect of Jullienne’s collection returns her to his publishing project and his gift in 1739 of the four volumes after Watteau to the Académie royale, which in turn granted him the title conseiller honoraire et amateur.
The impact of Tillerot’s work is evident already in Christoph Vogtherr and Jennifer Tonkovich’s current exhibition and catalogue for The Wallace Collection, Jean de Julienne: Collector & Connoisseur (2011), which relies heavily on the research presented in Tillerot’s dissertation, completed under Christian Michel in 2005 and on which the present book is closely based. The relevance of Tillerot’s research will continue to be felt with the massive, continued efforts to document the life and work of the collector Jean-Pierre Mariette – who, as Tonkovich has detailed in the Wallace catalogue and related articles, heavily annotated the catalog of Jullienne’s collection when it was sold over fifty-four days in 1767. While the documentary evidence Tillerot provides (including a lengthy index of his painting collection and images from the album) proves an important resource, her shift towards a more integrative approach, taking into account the broader social network in which Jullienne functioned moves her study away from the recent impulse toward the exhaustive monograph and points to the potential for examining the almost maddening interconnectedness that characterizes collecting in eighteenth-century France.
From the MFAH:
Programming for the Life & Luxury Exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
23 & 24 September 2011
Peter Björn Kerber (J. Paul Getty Museum), Sister Arts: Opera and Painting in Eighteenth-Century Europe
7 & 8 October 2011
David E. Brauer (Glassell School of Art, MFAH), From the Sun King to the Revolution: The Real vs. the Ideal in Eighteenth-Century French Painting
14 & 15 October 2011
Eric T. Haskell (Scripps College), Edens of Excess: Gardens of Eighteenth-Century Paris