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Bosse, Le Brun, Blanchard, Jouvenet

By mid-century the ingredients for the artistic reign of Louis XIV were beginning to form in Paris. In 1648, when Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin were painting the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba and Landscape with a Man washing his Feet at a Fountain in Rome, Pierre Patel and Gabrielle Pérelle were evolving in the direction of the monumental landscapes and topographical views with which they and their sons would help to perpetuate the glorious ethos of the emerging Sun King in prints to be published by successive generations of the houses of Le Blond, Mariette, and Drevet. Pérelle’s topographical style was strongly influenced by the etchings of Stefano della Bella—who left Paris for Florence in 1650, one year after completing the etching of the Persian head with a camel that Melville was to acquire (CAT 68), in response to the passions that the fronde had unleashed against Prime Minister Mazarin and other Italians.

This next group of prints from Melville’s collection features artists who were prominent in the artistic ferment that led to the formation of the Royal Academy (Académie Royale de Pienture et de Sculpture) in 1648 and its evolution during the rest of the century. The first two artists, Abraham Bosse and Charles Le Brun, were ardent admirers of Nicolas Poussin in the late 1640s whose paths quickly diverged over issues raised by the formation of the Royal Academy. Jacques Blanchard, like Claude and Poussin, traveled to Italy in the 1620; he died a decade before the formation of the Académie Royale, but his son Gabriel, strongly influenced by Le Brun's paintings, became a member in 1663. Jean Jouvenet collaborated with Le Brun before becoming a member of the Académie in 1675; in 1705 he became its director.