CAT 123. Etched and drawn by Claude Lorrain. Le Troupeau en marche par un temps D'Orage(The herd returning in stormy weather), c. 1650-51. Fac-similé d'une eau-forte de Claude Lorrain. Reprinted from Armand-Durand’s 1875 facsimile edition, 1880s. E. Barton Chapin Jr. Family Collection.
This image of a herdsman and his flock in stormy weather is the perfect companion for Melville’s other two etchings by Claude Lorrain. This pastoral scene framed by the tall, overgrown columns perfectly complements the urban scene with the columns on the left and the harbor scene with the large tower on the left. This, though a landscape, is nearly as open and fluid as the harbor scene. A large tower on a less distant hill anchors the scale of the pastoral space through which the herdsman is driving his flock across the foreground to the left. The angled horns of the flock and elevated stick of the herdsman lend individuality and particularity to the bodies in motion beneath the firm, towering columns. Just as the brightly lit landscape in the foreground sets off the relative darkness of the moving figures, so does the brightness of the expansive sky set off the relative darkness of the storm coming on. As Mannocci notes, such a storm is extremely rare in any of Claude’s pastoral scenes, which nearly always take place in placid climes (see, for example, Le Berger Galant,CAT 132). The preparatory drawing for this etching had no storm; Claude added the darkening clouds and the bursting rain when he took the needle to the plate (Mannocci, no. 40, pp. 9, 248).
Mannocci points out that this was the first etching that Claude made after a ten-year hiatus that had concluded with Harbour with a large tower. “His return to etching cannot be explained any more easily than his abandonment of it ten years earlier. I would like to think that, after a decade of continued success as a landscape painter, Claude felt that he could once again devote some time to an old and never-forgotten love.” The result “is a masterpiece equal to his best work of the 1630s.” Claude differed from many painter-engravers in that his etchings “were from the outset conceived as independent works. They were never meant to only to reproduce a painting or a drawing and it is therefore inappropriate to refer to them as being ‘after’ another work.” Unlike the reproductive engraver, Claude “did not care for a line that referred only to itself, nor for a line that only described the object it surrounded. . . . His lines, while varying in length, thickness, and shape, always referred to the whole of the image around it and it is their ‘presence,’ sometimes almost messy, that creates the texture and atmosphere of his prints” (Mannocci, pp. 8-9). Such qualities Melville could examine himself in the three etchings by Claude in his collection; he could then compare them with the work of the other hands that had created the twelve reproductive prints after Claude that he owned.
In Melville’s print collection, Claude’s etching of The herd returning in stormy weather compares most strikingly with Linnell’s 1840 engraving after Titian’s Landscape, with Herdsman (CAT 109). Here are two great artists a century apart depicting very similar subjects—in one of the few landscapes ever attributed to Titian, and in one of the few storm scenes ever depicted by Claude. Similar as their subjects are, however, they differ entirely in technique. The decisive, edgy lines etched in copper by Claude contrast with the smooth, soft tonalities of Linnell’s mezzotint rendering of Titian’s painting. Dullea notes that Claude’s etching, which he calls the Flock in Stormy Weather, was the only etching executed by Claude between the early 1640s and the early 1660s (61).
Melville had information about all three of his etchings by Claude in his copy of Dullea’s 1887 book on the artist. Dullea provides a fine overview of the Claude’s life and art, with a comprehensive catalog of the paintings, drawings, and etchings. He lists the three etchings that Melville owned as nos. 13, 18, and 23 in “List of Claude’s Etchings” (Appendix D, where they are crosslisted with the corresponding paintings and Liber drawings in Appendices C and B). Dullea praises Claude’s exceptional ability as an etcher even though he is much better known as a painter. The passage Melville underlined in his copy of Dullea’s book praises Claude’s ability to achieve “a sincerity of air that was pure and simple” (Dullea 44, Cowen 4:526).
Melville had another fine source of information about Claude in the thirteen-page essay devoted to that painter in the copy of The Works of Eminent Masters that he acquired in 1871 (Sealts no. 564). Published in London in 1854, this comprehensive overview of Claude’s life and career was illustrated with an engraved portrait of the painter and engravings of six of his pastoral scenes. One of the six pastoral scenes, The Herdsman (1:304; fig. 1 below) is another fine complement to Melville’s Le Troupeau en marche par un temps D'Orage. Here the herdsman is piping some pastoral tune as he sits before a tree as his herd of cattle begins to ascend up a path from a pond.
Figure 1. Claude Lorrain. The Herdsman. In Melville’s copy of The Works of Eminent Masters, 1854. Houghton Library, Harvard University (Sealts no. 564).
As Dennis Berthold has pointed out, the above image from Melville’s personal library relates closely to one category of prints that Melville had himself depicted when writing Redburn in 1849. Every Saturday morning, Redburn and his siblings gazed an the “large green French portfolio” of prints in the family home whose visual treasures included “rural scenes, full of fine skies, pensive cattle standing up to their knees in water, and shepherd boys and cottages in the distance, half-concealed in vineyard and vines” (NN R 6; Berthold, pp. 224-25, fig. 2).
As Redburn was being published and reviewed in London late in 1849, young Melville encountered one pastoral scene by Claude during his two visits to the private gallery of Samuel Rogers whose beauty and immediacy of effect would have surpassed that of any etching or engraving of a pastoral scene by Claude that later entered either his print or book collection. The catalog of Rogers’s collection published in the 1844 edition of Hazlitt’s Criticisms of Art listed two original works by Claude Lorrain. One painting was from the collection of Benjamin West, the other from the Orleans Collection; Claude had made a drawing of each for the Liber Veritatis. The painting Rogers acquired from West is listed in the 1844 catalogue as Landscape; the Mill; a Shepherd playing on his pipe (no. 11 in the Liber Veritatis)” (“Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures,” No. 5). Widely known as The Piping Shepherd, this image has long been recognized as one of the purest and most exquisite pastoral images Claude ever created. We show it here in the mezzotint that Richard Earlom engraved for his celebrated 1774 edition of the Liber Veritatis (LV 11; fig. 2).
Figure 2. Richard Earlom after Claude Lorrain. The Piping Shepherd, from the Original Drawing in the Collection of the Duke of Devenshire. No. 11 in Earlom’s 1774 edition of The Liber Veritatis.
Claude’s painting of this pastoral scene was seen by many who visited Rogers’s private gallery as one the very finest works in his highly selective collection. In 1847, The Art-Union identified the painting as Landscape, with a Piping Shepherd and his Flock—in the distance a Mill,” noting its “octagonal form” and calling it “a perfect gem of pastoral tranquility” (85). Gustav Waagen in 1854 was equally taken by Claude’s image of “a lovely shepherd playing the pipe, with his peaceful flock, in a soft evening light. Of the master’s earlier time, careful and delicate, decided and soft, all in warm and golden tone. An exquisite little gem. In the Liber Veritatis No. 11. Few pictures give such a sense of the fine delicious stillness of a summer’s evening” (1:78; see also Wallace, 1995, “The Ambrose Group,” p. 18-20, fig. 3). Roethlisberger dates the original painting from the Rogers Collection to 1636 and describes it as an oil on canvas, 12.5 x 14.5 inches, in a private collection in Connecticut (Paintings, pp. 117-18, fig. 47; Drawings, no. 126, p. 116).
The fifteen engravings Melville acquired by and after Claude Lorrain were supplemented in his memory by original paintings by Claude he had seen in London and Paris in 1849 and in Italy in 1857. These tactile and retinal impressions were themselves augmented by the detailed accounts of Claude’s life and artistry in the copies he acquired of the 1854 edition of The Works of Eminent Masters, the 1871 edition of Duplessis’s The Wonders of Engraving, and the 1887 edition of Dullea’s book illustrating and documenting Claude’s entire career. Melville had remained very up to date, when collecting both books and pictures, in following the artist Duplessis had called “the greatest interpreter of nature the world has ever produced” (252-53).