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Claude's Liber Veritatis Drawings in Melville's Copy of Claude Gellée Le Lorrain

Melville’s fifteen free-standing prints by or after Claude Lorraine were augmented by 16 illustrations in his 1887 New York edition of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain. The frontispiece was a portrait of the painter. The other illustrations reproduced two etchings by Claude and thirteen drawings form the Liber Veritatis. We will comment briefly on selected images that may have been of particular interest to Melville.

Since Melville collected prints of three etchings by Claude Lorrain, he would have looked closely at the two etchings by Claude reproduced in Dullea’s book (and documented in Dullea’s Appendix D). The Herdsman (fig. 1) would have been of particular interest because Melville also had a reproduction of the same etching in his copy of The Works of Eminent Masters. The two reproductions differ in tone and texture as well as in size (see CAT 123, fig. 1).


Figure 1. Claude Lorraine, The Herdsman, etching no. 8, reproduced on page 24 of Melville’s copy of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain. [All figures in this section are study photos from a facsimile edition of Dullea; we plan to substitute images from Melville’s personal copy of the book at the Houghton Library.]

Claude’s Dance by the River Side substitutes a small ensemble of pastoral figures for the lone shepherd who was piping next to the butting rams on the edge of the water across from the mill in the painting of The Piping Shepherd that Melville saw during his visits to the private collection of Samuel Rogers in 1849 (LV 11, CAT 123, fig. 2).


Figure 2. Claude Lorrain, Dance by the River Side, etching no. 6, reproduced facing page 26 in Melville’s copy of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain.

Three of Dullea’s reproductions of the Liber Veritatis drawings that Claude made of his own seascapes or harbor scenes would have been of considerable interest to Melville. Dullea’s reproduction of The Landing of Æneas in Italy (fig. 3, LV 122) would have interested him as a reader of Virgil’s Aeneid, as a collector of Claude’s seaport scenes, and as a reader Hazlitt. The original oil painting from which Claude made this drawing was The Rise of the Roman Empire that Hazlitt visited twice in the collection of Lord Radnor. Melville marked passages about that painting in two separate essays by Hazlitt (see Parting Thoughts on Claude Lorrain). Roethlisberger notes that this composition was Claude’s “first open coast scene” (Paintings, p. 300).


Figure 3. Claude Lorrain, The Landing of Æneas in Italy, LV 122, in Melville’s copy of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain.

Dullea’s reproduction of Claude’s drawing of the Seaport, documenting the oil painting that had gone to the Louvre (fig. 4, LV 14), would have reminded Melville of the day he had run the “painted gauntlet of the gods” at the Louvre during his one visit to Paris in December 1849, revisited three years later in the concluding chapter of Pierre (NN J 31; NN P 350). Dullea dated this Seaport painting 1639 and noted that its subject was “sometimes known as The Ancient Port of Messina” (p. 34). Melville acquired a more recent view of the port of Messina by a German artist published in Dresden in 1836 (CAT 252). Messina was the first Italian port at which Melville landed in 1857: “Fine harbor. Like lagoon” (NN J 100).


Figure 4. Claude Lorrain, Seaport, from the Picture at the Louvre, LV 14, in Melville’s copy of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain.

Dullea’s reproduction the Embarkation of St. Paula (fig. 5; LV 49) would have interested Melville in relation to his copy of Earlom’s engraving of the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba (CAT 125; LV 114) from the same period in Claude’s career. Claude’s painting captured that moment in which the legendary St. Paula “left Rome in 385 for the Holy Land . . . full of sorrow at leaving her four children against her will” (Roethlisberger, Paintings, p. 184). Dullea identified two separate paintings of the Embarkation of St. Paula, one at the Prado Museum in Madrid (LV 49) and the other at the Dulwich Gallery in London (LV 61). Melville would have seen the London version among other “gems” by Claude at the Dulwich Gallery in November 1849 (NN J 20). St. Paula Embarking was listed as no. 270 in the catalog of the Dulwich collection in Melville’s copy of Hazlitt’s Criticisms on Art (Appendix II).


Figure 5. Claude Lorrain, Embarkation of St. Paula, LV 49, in Melville’s copy of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain.

Three additional mythological or religious subjects from Claude’s Liber Veritatis reproduced in Dullea’s book would have interested Melville as a collector. Dullea’s reproduction of an early version of The Rape of Europa (LV 144; CAT 131, fig. 2) contrasted with Melville’s copy of Radclyffe’s steel-plate engraving of the later version in the Queen’s collection at Buckingham Palace (CAT 131).

Of equal interest would have been Dullea’s reproduction of Claude’s drawing of The Annunciation, or Hagar and the Angel from the painting Melville would have seen at the London’s National Gallery in 1849 (fig. 6, LV 106). Roethlisberger notes that “the Angel is pointing to the home of Abraham from which Hagar has been expelled,” a theme Claude was to continue in subsequent paintings of Hagar, Ishmael, and the Angel (listed as LV 173 and 174 in Dullea’s Appendix B). The subject of Hagar and the Angel has sometimes been confused with that of Tobias and the Angel, the name given to its reproduction in the copy of The Works of Eminent Masters Melville acquired in 1871 (fig. 3 before CAT 130). Roethlisberger notes that Claude’s “compositional type” for this painting goes back to Domenichino’s “small painting illustrating the similar theme of Tobias and the Angel” at London’s National Gallery (our figure 1 before CAT 130), itself closely related to Domenichino’s painting of Tobias and the Fish that Melville saw in the collection of Samuel Rogers soon after visiting the National Gallery in 1849 (see the introduction to Six Unframed Mythological, Pastoral, and Religious Landscapes).


Figure 6. Claude Lorrain, The Annunciation, from the picture in the National Gallery, LV 122, in Melville’s copy of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain.

Of particular interest to Melville as a collector of landscapes by Claude and his successors would have been Dullea’s reproduction of Landscape: Mercury and Battus (fig. 7, LV 192). According to Roethlisberger, Dullea had followed Earlom in giving this image the wrong title; its true subject is Landscape with Apollo and Mercury. The original painting was Claude’s only depiction of this “rather rare subject, contained in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes (not in Ovid).” On one side of the river across from an imaginary temple, “the seated Apollo gives Mercury the lyre which he holds in his hands, for the herd of cows Mercury had stolen from him; the gestures of the two gods are explicit. Apollo has at his side the golden staff which he was to exchange for Mercury’s pipe” (Paintings, LV 192, p. 450). Melville was well versed in Homer, as well as in his own namesake Hermes, so he might well have recognized the actual subject Claude had painted.


Figure 7. Claude Lorrain, Landscape: Mercury and Battus, LV 192, in Melville’s copy of Dullea’s Claude Gellée Le Lorrain.

Claude’s Landscape with Apollo and Mercury was one of his last paintings, completed in 1679. Its Liber drawing is exceptionally sharp and clear even in Dullea’s reproduction. The original painting no longer survives but its landscape aesthetic was to live on in prints Melville was to acquire of Claudean landscapes created by Pierre Patel and Gabriel Perelle in seventeen-century France (CAT 145, 148-150), followed into the eighteenth century by John Taylor and Richard Wilson in England (CAT numbers to be assigned).