Claude Lorrain (c. 1600-1682) was born Claude Gellée in the Duchy of Lorrain. He is called Le Lorrain in France, whereas British art historians refer to him simply as Claude. Claude arrived in Rome in the early 1630s, where he remained for the rest of his professional life. He and his fellow French émigré Nicolas Poussin were each inspired by the Roman Baroque artists Domenichino and Guido. Claude expanded the mythical and Biblical landscape style Domenichino had developed in Rome (see CAT 112, fig. 5) into a signature style of his own that caused him to be seen, especially in England, as the greatest landscape painter in the world. From the time William Woollett engraved The Enchanted Castle in 1772 to the death of J. M. W. Turner in 1851, most English painters, collectors, and art critics other than John Ruskin elevated Claude’s landscapes above those of any other painter. Turner’s Bequest left the entire contents of his studio to the British nation on the condition that two of his landscape paintings be hung next to those of Claude Lorrain in London’s National Gallery.
Our first indication that Melville collected prints after Claude Lorrain was Arthur Stedman’s statement, a few days after the author’s death, that Melville had “a fine assortment of prints, those of Claude’s paintings being his favorite” (Sealts, Early Lives, 100). Lewis Mumford in 1928 mentioned that “Claude and Turner” were Melville’s “masters” in landscape (336). And Frank Mather in 1938 recalled the “silvery prints after Poussin and Claude” he had seen when visiting the apartment of Herman’s widow a decade after his death (355). But even after the 287 engravings that Eleanor Metcalf had given to the Berkshire Athenaeum in 1952 were documented in 1986 we still had no idea how many Claudes Melville had collected, whether any of them still survived, or the title of any single one.
That changed when two engravings after seascapes by Claude Lorrain surfaced in the collection of Priscilla Ambrose in 1995. These were followed by five more prints after Claude from the Bart Chapin Jr. Family Collection in 2000, soon followed by seven more, two of them framed, from the collection of Bart Chapin’s brother Melville Chapin. These fourteen prints were more recently augmented by an etching by Claude that surfaced from the Osborne Collection at Southwestern University in Texas in 2018 (the essays in which these prints have been revealed are listed in the "Key to the Primary Sources On Prints from Melville's Collection" in our "Guide to Use of Catalog").
Those fifteen prints depicting works by Claude Lorrain include one of the most celebrated and influential images in English printmaking history, William Woollett’s 1782 engraving of Claude’s Enchanted Castle. Its value for Melville was attested by the fact that he framed it to hang in his 26th Street home. Melville also framed a companion print after Claude from the same period in England’s printmaking history, John Browne’s 1779 engraving entitled Landscape with Cephalis and Procris reunited by Diana. These two prints hung together when I visited the home of Melville Chapin in the late 1990s.
The two seascapes that surfaced from the collection of Priscilla Ambrose in 1995 are also from this pioneering period in English printmaking history. Each was a mezzotint engraved by Richard Earlom for his celebrated edition of Claude’s Liber Veritatis in the mid-1770s. Melville also owned a less well-known image, the mezzotint Landscape—Christ Tempted that Earlom engraved for volume 3 of the Liber in 1802. All five of the above exemplify the way in which English collectors and engravers had elevated Claude to Old Master status during the late eighteenth century.
Three other prints in Melville’s collection, all published in the nineteenth-century, are etchings from Claude’s own hand. One was printed in London in 1816. The other two were facsimiles published in Paris after 1875. The other six engravings after Claude include one published in France in the eighteenth century, two published in Germany in the nineteenth century, and three published in England in the nineteenth century. The latter three prints were published in London’s Art-Journal between 1859 and 1861 in close proximity to images of similar subjects by J. M. W. Turner, the English painter who had died in 1851. These juxtapositons allowed readers of The Art-Journal to make their own comparisons between Turner and Claude, a question that had become highly volatile after John Ruskin published Modern Painters I in 1843.
As Susan Pearce has declared, the “meaning” of the “objects” in a collection is “produced by arranging them in sets, both mentally and physically” (14). One way to arrange Melville’s engravings after Claude would have been to begin with the two framed engravings and continue with the unframed ones. Another would have been to present the prints according to the chronology by which they were published (as in the paragraphs immediately above). I have chosen to arrange them in a different sequence of “sets,” one which highlights both the selectivity and the comprehensiveness of Melville’s collection of Claude. A collection such as Melville’s is somewhat dependent upon whatever prints happen to become available at a price the collector can afford. But his fifteen Claude Lorrain prints do appear to embody a considerable amount of conscious choice—not only in representing a wide range of Claude’s many styles and subjects, but also in allowing Melville to make his own direct comparisons between Claude and Turner.
- Works cited in this section:
- “The Beacon Tower: The Royal Pictures.” The Art-Journal 23 (1861): 182.
- Berthold, Dennis. “Melville and Dutch Genre Painting.” In Christopher Sten, ed. Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1991. 218-45.
- “Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures belonging to Samuel Rogers.” In William Hazlitt, Criticisms on Art, Second Series. London: Templeman, 1844. Appendix IX.
- Coesvelt, William G. Collection of the Pictures of W. G. Coesvelt, esq. of London. London: J. Carpenter and Son, 1836.
- A Collection of Original Etchings. London: J. McCreery, Black-Horse Court, Fleet Street, 1816
- “Domenic Zampieri” (Domenichino). In The Works of Eminent Masters in Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, and Decorative Art. London: John Cassell, 1854, 2 vol. in 1, 2:193-204 (Sealts no. 564).
- Dullea, Owen John. Claude Gellée le Lorrain. New York: Scribner and Welford, 1887 (Sealts no. 192).
- "Europa: The Royal Pictures." The Art-Journal 21 (1859): 296.
- Ford, Richard. A Handbook for Travellers in Spain. London: John Murray, 1845. 2 vol.
- “Gaspar van Wittel, The Darsena, Naples.” Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bournemisza. https://www.museothyssen.org/en/collection/artists/wittel-gaspar-van/darsena-naples
- “A Harbour c. 1630-1720, Style of Claude Lorrain.” Windsor Castle. Royal Collection Trust, https://www.lot-art.com/auction-lots/Vivares-Francis-A-View-near-Naples-1769/196-vivare_franci-04.3.20-dominic.
- Hazlitt, William. Criticisms on Art: and Sketches of the Picture Galleries of England. London: Templeman, 1842 (Sealts no. 263a).
- ------. Table Talk: Opinions on Books, Men, and Things. First American Edition. New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1845. 2 vol. in 1 (Sealts no. 266a).
- Keats, John. “A Reminiscence of Claude’s Enchanted Castle.” https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Poetical_Works_of_John_Keats/A_Reminiscence_of_Claude%27s_Enchanted_Castle
- Langdon, Helen. Claude Lorrain. London: Guild Publishing / Phiadon Press, 1989.
- Levey, Michael. “’The Enchanted Castle’ by Claude.” Burlington Magazine 130 (November 1988): 812-20.
- Lorenzen, Gustav. “Nogle småbemæninger om Claude Gellée kaldet Le Lorrain.” In Kunstmuseets Årsskrift, 1952-1955 (Copenhagen: Glydendalske Boghandel, Nordisk Forlag, 1956), 157-68.
- Mannocci, Lino. The Etchings of Claude Lorrain. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.
- Manwaring, Elizabeth Wheeler. Italian Landscape in Eighteenth-Century England. New York: Oxford University 1925; rpr. New York: Russell and Russell, 1995.
- Payne, A. H. “The Flight into Egypt: Painted by Claude Lorrain.” In Payne’s Royal Dresden Gallery: Being a Selection of Subjects Engraved after Pictures, by the Great Masters. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1867.
- Payne’s Royal Dresden Gallery. 2 vol. in 1. New York: D. Appleton, 1867.
- Pearce, Susan M. On Collecting: An Investigation into Collecting in the European Tradition. London: Routledge, 1995.
- “Printed Books, Maps & Manuscripts, Library of Dawson Turner, Wednesday, 4 March 2020, Lot 196.” Dominic Winter Auctioneers,” https://www.lot-art.com/auction-lots/Vivares-Francis-A-View-near-Naples-1769/196-vivare_franci-04.3.20-dominic.
- Roethlisberger, Marcel. Claude Lorrain: The Drawings. 2 vol. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968.
- --------. Claude Lorrain: The Paintings. 2 vol. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961.
- Russell, H. Diane. Claude Lorrain: 1600-1682. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1982.
- --------. “Claude’s Psyche Pendants: London and Cologne.” In Claude Lorrain 1600-1682: A Symposium, ed. Pamela Askew. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1984, 67-82.
- Sealts, Merton M., Jr. The Early Lives of Melville: Nineteenth-Century Biographical Sketches and their Authors. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1974.
- “A Sea-Port: The Royal Pictures.” The Art-Journal 21 (1859): 52.
- Shanes, Eric. Turner’s Human Landscape. London: Heineman, 1992.
- Tamarkin, Elisa. “Melville with Pictures.” The New Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville. Ed. Robert S. Levine. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 169-86.
- “Vivares, François.” Dictionary of National Biography. London: 1885-1900. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_National_Biography,_1885-1900/Vivares,_Fran%C3%A7ois
- Waagen, Gustav. “Mr. Rogers’s Collection.” In Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London: John Murray, 1854; rep. London: Cornmarket Press, 1970. 1:73-83.
- Wallace, Robert K. Melville and Turner: Spheres of Love and Fright. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992.
- Wine, Humphrey. The Seventeenth Century French Paintings. London: National Gallery, 2001.
- The Works of Eminent Masters, in Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, and Decorative Art. London: Cassell, 1854. 2 vol. in 1 (Sealts no. 564).