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Landscape with figures surrounding steps of temple

CAT 150 Perelle figures foot of temple EBC.jpg

CAT 150. Drawn and engraved by Pérelle. Landscape with figures surrounding steps of temple, no. 1. Paris: Pierre Mariette (avec privil du Roy), rue St. Jacques, n.d. E. Barton Chapin Jr. Family Collection.

Here Pérelle clusters his figures near the steps of a temple resembling the one that was seen in the distance in the previous engraving. Now a temple similar to that in the previous one has receded more into the distance, as if this print is a successor to that one. Pérelle again uses high contrasts of light and shade, with the leaves on the tree on the right half eaten by the light of the sun. A body of water immediately under that tree can be read as the expansion of the narrow steam in the lower right corner of the previous print.

Melville’s copy of this image is the one published by Mariette—also the publisher of the copy in the Dresden album book (no. 148, A 70342). Thomas Ketelsen suggests that this was one of the Suite de Paysages avec figures that Mariette published after Pérelle (Le Blanc, nos. 77-102). Le Blanc also lists a Mariette edition of Pérelle’s Paysages ornés de ruines d’architecture (nos. 121-26). Pierre Mariette (ii) had set up a shop under the sign of L’Esperance by 1657 (Walsh). Röthlisberger indicates that the Mariette family kept Pérelle landscapes continually in print from 1694-1774 ("The Pérelles," 284).

In the Dresden album book, this print is the first in a suite of five. In the second print, two figures head out into the country on a light, white road. In the third, they continue on a country path with a ruined temple on the right, reeds growing in the foreground. In the fourth print, the sun breaks over the figures on a bright, white path (as also in CAT 146). In the last print, the figures return home to a chateau, castle, water, reflection, space, and calm. In series like these, the exploratory landscapes of Claude, Poussin, and Dughet have been domesticated, preparing the way for the French rococo of the eighteenth century.

The Pérelle landscapes that Melville acquired had originally helped to establish Claude’s Italianate style in seventeenth-century France, where each was published under royal patronage. Two centuries later, Gabriel Pérelle was valued in Melville’s copy of The Wonders of Engraving primarily for having “preserved the memory of many lost monuments, and enabled us to fancy the original state of many grand residences, which are now either mutilated or fallen from their first state” (Duplessis, 266). In this sense, Melville’s engravings after Pérelle relate to the topographical prints that he collected of ruined and mutilated monasteries in France and England, as well as to Piranesi’s imaginative reconstruction of the Arch of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, published in Rome in 1762 (CAT 79).