Enfilade

Exhibition | Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Gardens and Gods

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on June 24, 2018

From Versailles:

Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Gardens and Gods
Grand Trianon, Château de Versailles, 12 June — 16 September 2018

Curated by Béatrice Sarrazin with Clara Terreaux

Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Gardens and Gods, the first exhibition dedicated to the painter, will honour an artist who was very popular in his time, featuring some 120 works: paintings, drawings, engravings, miniatures, and sculptures from public and private collections. Jean Cotelle the Younger belonged to the generation of painters called upon by Louis XIV to decorate the Grand Trianon, a pleasure palace secluded from the hustle and bustle of the court.

For the Trianon Gallery, which overlooks the gardens and connects the Cool Room and the Garden Room, Cotelle was entrusted with the largest portion of the commission: twenty-one paintings. In order to adapt to the setting, he painted in vertical format, rather unusual for landscape painting, to create topographical representations of the Versailles gardens. He adorned the scenes with characters from mythology or fables arranged in two registers (earthly and heavenly), modelled upon the bucolic landscapes of Bolognese painter Albani.

This cycle, completed by three paintings by Jean-Baptiste Martin and Etienne Allegrain, represents a unique ensemble, providing insight into the king’s taste for his gardens which had recently been created by André Le Notre. Hidden by vegetation, the groves served as a backdrop for the portrayal of the loves and pleasures of the gods.

The exhibition will feature the twenty-four restored paintings following a restoration campaign that lasted several years. Along with the large format canvases, the fifteen gouaches created by the artist, masterpieces of miniature painting, will also be displayed. Additionally, a selection of lead sculptures will be included in the exhibition to evoke the decoration of the groves which have since disappeared, in relation to Cotelle’s paintings.

While the Trianon commission represents one of the highlights of Cotelle’s career, retracing the various stages of his work nevertheless reveals different aspects of his talent and his varied career in Saint-Cloud and Versailles as well as in Provence.

Jean Cotelle, Fountain Scene with Alpheus Pursuing Arethusa, 1689–91 (Château de Versailles, Dist. RMN/Jean-Marc Manaï).

Jean Cotelle the Younger was born into a cultured family in Paris in 1646. He grew up in the company of artists, especially painters, including his father Jean Cotelle the Elder, painter to the King, decorator and ornamental painter. He most likely received his early training from the portrait painter Claude Lefèvre. Jean Cotelle the Younger then visited Rome, where he stayed from 1665 until 1670 at his own expense.

His notable works from 1675 and the years which followed include miniatures to illustrate The Campaigns of Louis XIV as well as a large-format May for Notre-Dame in 1681 representing The Marriage at Cana. Cotelle also worked on other decorative commissions, in particular in Saint-Cloud where he created the jewellery cabinet as part of the decoration depicting the story of Venus and Aeneas.

The most important commission he received was a commission in 1688 from Louis XIV to decorate the Trianon gallery also called the Cotelle gallery. Cotelle painted twenty-one topographical representations of the gardens of Versailles, which he adorned with mythological and literary characters. At the same time, he carried out a series of twenty gouaches representing the Trianon Gallery in miniature.

In 1693, he left Paris for Provence, first making a stop in Lyon, where he created the decoration on the ceiling of the great hall for the Château de la Damette. From 1695 to 1700, he lived in Marseille and became the co-director of the opera with Duplessis. He also created ephemeral decorations such as The Entry of the Duke of Burgundy and the Duke of Berry into the City of Avignon. Jean Cotelle the Younger returned to Paris in 1703 where he continued his work for the Academy until his death in 1708.

Beatice Sarazin, ed., Jean Cotelle (1646–1708): Des Jardins et des Dieux (Paris: Liénart, 2018), 240 pages, ISBN: 978-2359062366, 39€ / $68.

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In preparation for the exhibition on Jean Cotelle, the Palace of Versailles launches a research notice for three works attributed to the painter: two gouaches and a drawing. These works disappeared from the public eye in the 1980s for two of them and soon after the year 2000 for the last one. However, reproductions and publications confirm that they exist (see the Château de Versailles website for images).

The works are:
La Toilette de Vénus, drawing
Vue du Château de Choisy du côté des parterres et la famille de Louvois, gouache
Eliezer et Rebecca au Puits, gouache

Once found, their identification would enrich the corpus of the artist and the value of these works, which could be displayed in the exhibition. Internet users are invited to spread this search as far as possible with the hashtag: #ExpoCotelle. People having information about these works can contact the Palace of Versailles through: cotelle@chateauversailles.fr.

2 Responses

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  1. Pierre Henri Biger said, on June 24, 2018 at 7:57 am

    One of the three works ( Eliezer et Rebecca au puits) has been found in a private collection and is shown in the Versailles exhibition.

  2. Editor said, on June 24, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks, Pierre Henri, for noting it! One down two to go! -Craig


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