after an engraving by Jacques Callot
Oil on panel : 42,2 x 70.2 cm.
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This elegant bird’s-eye view is a rare example of a 17th century painting of the gardens of the Ducal Palace of Nancy. It takes as its source Jacques Callot’s engraving of the courtly grounds, La Parterre de Nancy, printed in 1625 (fig. 1), and for which he made two preparatory drawings, today preserved in the Hermitage and in the Musée Lorrain in Nancy. Callot was a draftsman and printmaker whose fame spread far and wide. Much of his early training was in Italy, first in Rome and then in service to the Medici in Florence. La Parterre de Nancy was one of his first works he made for the Court of Lorraine in his hometown of Nancy after his return from Florence in 1621.
In the present picture, Callot’s monochromatic engraving, one that would have circulated in Lorraine and beyond, is brought to life with a colorful palette. Each element of Callot’s conception is carefully adapted to the oil technique, including his characteristic repoussoir elements in the lower left corner, particularly the seated and elegantly attired onlookers. Filling the center of the scene are the low gardens of the palace with symmetrically patterned plant beds designed in 1612 by the royal architect Métezeau and gardener Hector Harent. In the distance beyond the low gardens is the high garden of the palace whose edge is defined by a line of trees and three curved bastions. Separating these two gardens is a retaining wall with carved archways filled with statues and a double staircase closely comparable to the one by Siméon Drouin’s in the gardens at Saint-Germain-en Laye, inspired by the Villa d’Este in Tivoli.
The harmonious space is filled with a variety of figures, from gentlemen to servants, and from women and children to busy gardeners. At the lower center of the gardens appears Duchess Nicole of Lorraine (1608-1657) to whom Callot’s original engraving was dedicated on 15 October 1625. Before her is a throng of people watching a game of Pallone col bracciale, a seventeenth century ball game with Greco-Roman origins that was popular in Italy from the 15th century onwards and also played in France, notably at the court of Lorraine where Italian influences had a strong foothold. In this game, the players wear cylindrical-shaped gloves with protruding blunt wedges as they hit an inflated ball back and forth across the field after it is put into play by the server, or the mandarino.
Despite his intricate details and distinct rendering of perspective, Callot took some creative liberties in his recordings of the gardens in his engraving, introducing many Italian elements into the scene. The ornate Italianate palace visible here on the right, for example, was imaginary and replaced the Orangerie. The moats and water basins also seem to have been a creation of his imagination, for such features are missing in Claude Deruet’s 17th century print of the ducal palace (fig. 2) as well as in a later anonymous painting in depository at the Louvre museum, the only other 17th century painting of this view known.
The palace was built in the 15th century for René II, Duke of Lorraine. In the 18th century the palace was extended by Baroque architects. Under the rule of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, parts of the building were pulled down in preparation of greater projects he intended. After the house of Habsburg had ceded Lorraine to French control in exchange for Tuscany, the ducal palace in Nancy became the home of Stanislaw Leszczynski ( King of Poland and Duke of Lorraine ). After his death, the Dutchy was inherited by his son -in-Law, King Louis XV of France and incorporated in his dominions.
In 1848 the palace was converted to house the Museé Lorraine. The museum
collections include artefacts from the Gallo-Roman and Merovingian civilization of the east of France. The museum also includes a collection of Renaissance art relating to the history of the Palace itself. As well as of major works by George de La Tour and Jacques Callot
A comparable painting after this engraving is in the Nationalgalerie Prag as Flemish school before 1640 since this painting was already in Prag in that year. The engraving by Callot dates from 15 October 1625.
Notes on the provenance
Jacques Guerlain was a famous perfumer in France. Over eighty of Guerlain’s perfumes remain known, though certain estimates suggest he composed some four hundred. Among his greatest fragrances are L’Heure Bleue (1912), Mitsouko (1919) and Shalimar (1925). Though his work earned him universal renown, a considerable fortune and honours such as that of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour, Guerlain avoided public attention, never once granting an interview. As a result, relatively little is known of his creative process or personal life. Guerlain was an avid devotee of the arts, lending his patronage to the Society of the Friends of the Louvre. He admired many artists whose work he collected.
Gärten und Höfe der Rubenszeit, Exh. cat. Hamm und Mainz 2001, pp. 178,179