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Oil painting - Studies of Animals: Cows and Oxen, Sheep and a Donkey
  • Studies of Animals: Cows and Oxen, Sheep and a Donkey
    Legillon, Jean François, born 1739 - died 1797
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Studies of Animals: Cows and Oxen, Sheep and a Donkey

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Bruges (probably, painted)
    Paris (possibly, painted)

  • Date:

    Late 18th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Legillon, Jean François, born 1739 - died 1797 (painters (artists))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on paper laid on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Jean-François Legillon (1739-1797), born in Bruges, was trained by Jean-Baptiste Descamps (1715-1791) in Rouen (France), whose paintings, which typically depict scenes of daily life, were influenced by the work of Jean-Siméon Chardin (1699-1779) and Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Legillon quickly specialised in landscapes and interior scenes, reminiscent of the art of the Golden Age's painters Paulus Potter (1625-1654) and Karel Dujardin (1626-1678).

This study of animals is a good example of Legillon's working process. He executed a few studies of this kind as a preparation for his landscape paintings in which he would include these figures. He thus followed the great landscape tradition which developed in the Netherlands during the 17th century and was still very appreciated in the following centuries up to the end of the 19th century.

Physical description

Studies of animal seen from profile and the back in diverse positions: cows, oxen, sheep and a donkey.

Place of Origin

Bruges (probably, painted)
Paris (possibly, painted)


Late 18th century (painted)


Legillon, Jean François, born 1739 - died 1797 (painters (artists))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on paper laid on canvas


Height: 34 cm estimate, Width: 24.7 cm estimate, Weight: 4 kg with frame, Height: 54 cm frame, Width: 44.7 cm frame, :

Object history note

Possibly in the collection of Alexander Constantine Ionides, father of Constantine Alexander Ionides. Bequeathed by Constantine Alexander Ionides, 1900

Historical significance: Jean-François Legillon made a few studies of full-length animals and human figures after life, drawn in different positions that he would reused in his landscape paintings. Comparable studies of cows are in the Steinmetzkabinet, Bruges. He specialised in landscape paintings with cattle, such as Landscape with barn and cattle, dated ca. 1776, in the Groeningemuseum, Bruges. He hardly used to include human figures in his compositions, following thus the style of the Dutch Golden Age's painters Paulus Potter and Karel Dujardin.
In addition to these full-length studies, he also executed more detailed studies such as the Head of a goat and Head of a donkey, both in the Steinmetzkabinet, Bruges.
The representation of cows was important in the whole Netherlands as they were a symbol of national pride, especially after the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648) when the Netherlands finally gained their independence from the Spanish dominion. This iconographic representation extended well into the 19th century during which Netherlandish artists, even those who belonged to The Hague School (1870-1890), considered as a vehicle for a new artistic approach, continued to depict them as the main subject of their works.

Historical context note

Italianates landscapes were particularly praised during the 17th century up to the early 19th century. The term conventionally refers to the school of Dutch and Flemish painters and draughtsmen who were active in Rome for more than a hundred years, starting from the early 17th century. These artists produced mainly pastoral subjects bathed in warm southern light, set in an Italian, or specifically Roman, landscape. They formed in Rome a proper association called the Schildersbent, which flourished from ca. 1620 to 1720 and was notorious for its opposition to the Roman Accademia di S Luca.The term is also often applied, but wrongly, to artists who never left the northern Netherlands but who worked primarily in an Italianate style. Eighteenth-century collectors, especially French ones, preferred a view by Nicolaes Berchem (ca.1620-1683) or Jan Both (ca.1610-1652) to a scene of the Dutch country side by Jacob van Ruisdael (ca.1628-1682) for instance. The taste for the Italianates continued undiminished into the 19th century. An early voice denouncing these artists was that of John Constable (1776-1837) and at the end of the century Italianates had lost favour oartly because of the rise of Impressionism and the appreciation of the Dutch national school of landscape expounded by such eminent critics as Wilhem von Bode, E.W. Moes and Cornelis Hofstede de Groot.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'Studies of Animals', Jean François Legillon, late 18th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 168, cat. no. 207.
B.S. Long, Catalogue of the Constantine Alexander Ionides collection. Vol. 1, Paintings in oil, tempera and water-colour, together with certain of the drawings, London, 1925, p. 47.


Oil paint; Paper; Canvas


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Sheep; Donkeys; Cows; Oxen




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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