Gustave MOREAU(Paris 1826 - 1898 Paris)
(Paris 1826 - 1898 Paris)
Saint Sebastian discovered by Saint Irene
Oil on wood panel Tachet
12.5 x 15 cm
Inscription on the back of the panel: "Gustave Moreau - sketch - Narcissus or Christ at the Olive Trees".
Inscription on the back of the panel: "TACHET BREVETE A PARIS".
Inscription on the back of the panel: "Narcisse P. 15".
Provenance: Rouïba (Algeria), private collection, then by descent to the present owner, Paris.
A painter of dreams par excellence, Gustave Moreau sometimes allows himself to be absorbed, according to Ary Renan, "in pious images and adorns the heroes of the Old Testament, the holy figures and the Christian divinity itself with the most marvellous apparatus". During a period from 1867 to the early 1870s, the artist seems to have shown a keen interest in various religious subjects such as The Good Samaritan (illus. 01), the Pietà (illus. 02) but also the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (illus. 03). His deep reflection on the languid body and its torments led him to produce a number of compositions to which this unpublished study is undoubtedly linked. Representing Saint Sebastian discovered by Saint IreneThis painting adopts a structure that recurs in several works painted by Gustave Moreau at this time. This structure can be found in particular in The Calvary (illus. 04) or in the numerous scenes devoted to the hagiography of Saint Sebastian (illus. 05). Ary Renan, a great champion of the painter, praised the merits of his religious work and perfectly understood his approach. According to him, "Moreau's paintings of piety are most often of smaller dimensions, as if they were to be placed in an intimate oratory". Of a reduced size indeed, this panel representing Saint Sebastian discovered by Saint Irene attests to the artist's brilliance and ease in producing this type of constrained format. Dressed in a simple loincloth, the saint is depicted pampering himself at the foot of a chromatic mass on which a foliage is outlined, the site of his captivity and torture. As a fine colorist, Gustave Moreau renders the horror of the scene by letting his brush ooze and by adding a range of colors mixing reds and browns. He counterbalances this by painting the left side of his composition in cooler tones. With an alert brush, he opts for a classical iconography by choosing to surround his representation with a nocturnal and lunar atmosphere. On the left, Saint Irene is summarily depicted in her blue and red garment.
The reverse of the painting is also rich in information about its materiality. It is painted on a Tachet panel which Gustave Moreau seemed to greatly appreciate. On September 19, 1845, Claude François Tachet, a manufacturer of precision and mathematical instruments, filed a patent application for the so-called "ouxhygrometric" preparation of wood. According to its inventor, this technique makes it possible to remove them "from atmospheric influences". In December 1851, after several certificates of addition, Claude François Tachet renamed