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The Ascension and the Incredulity of St Thomas (sketch for the decoration of the chapel at Chatsworth)

Oil Painting
1689-1693 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Louis Laguerre (1663-1721) was born in Paris and studied with the Jesuits before enrolling at the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture. He worked with Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) before moving to England in 1683-84 and spent there the rest of his life. He specialised in decorative scheme in the Baroque manner, working for some time with Antonio Verrio (ca. 1639-1707), and achieved a great success as a decorator.

This painting is an oil sketch intended as a preparatory study for the decoration of the ceiling in the chapel at Chatsworth. It depicts the central oval panel with the ascension of Christ attended by angels and beneath, in grisaille, the Doubting of St Thomas, flanked by St John the Evangelist on the left and St Matthew on the right. This composition is a fine example of the Baroque taste in vogue at the end of the 17th century in England.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief Description
Oil painting, 'The Ascension of Christ and the Incredulity of St Thomas' (sketch for the decoration of the chapel at Chatsworth), Louis Laguerre, 1689-1693
Physical Description
In an oval panel with garlands of flowers around the edges, the Ascension of Christ attended by a retinue of angels, beneath the doubting of St Thomas in grisaille flanked by two evangelists seated on clouds.
Dimensions
  • Estimate height: 39in
  • Estimate width: 28in
  • Unframed height: 989mm
  • Unframed width: 715mm (Note: Framed: 102.4 x 74.7 x 4.2)
  • Unframed depth: 22mm
Styles
Object history
Sir Anthony Cope, Bart., sale at Eversley Manor, Hampshire, 14th and 15th Jul 1949, lot 355 as by Verrio - sold to Mr Einstein



Historical significance: This painting was formerly attributed to Antonio Verrio (ca. 1639-1707) as a preparatory study for a ceiling in Bramshill Hunt, Arborfield, Berkshire but was subsequently identified as an oil sketch for the ceiling of the chapel at Chatsworth, Derbyshire. It shows two compartments of the ceiling's decoration: the central oval panel with Christ in glory among the angels and a subsidiary section beneath showing in the grisaille technique the doubting of St Thomas, flanked by two evangelists in colours, John on the left, with his usual attribute, an eagle, and Matthew of the right, identifiable thanks to the winged man.

The decoration of the chapel at Chatsworth was undertaken in 1689 and lasted until 1693. It involved a team of artists among whom the woodcarver Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) and the sculptor Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700) while Antonio Verrio, with whom Laguerre first worked upon his arrival in England, was entrusted with the execution of the altarpiece showing the Incredulity of St Thomas (still in situ). The decoration of Chatsworth is described by Horace Walpole in his Journals (1927-28)

This oil sketch is a good example of the artistic practice of presenting a first compositional idea to the commissioner before undertaking the large scale work. It is also a fine example of the Baroque taste in vogue at the end of the 17th century in England. Antonio Verrio and Laguerre are perhaps the most famous exponents of the genre which favoured some theatrical grandeur and the sense of movement in large decorative compositions.

Sir Anthony Cope noticed at the time that the Ascension was treated 'like a bouquet of flowers'. The decoration by Laguerre at Chatsworth is one of his most important surviving works, the other being at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire.
Historical context
An oil sketch is a type of painted work of small dimensions that first appeared in the 16th century. It derives from the Renaissance practice of preparatory drawings in pen and ink and is generally executed as a preparatory study in mixed oil and tempera for a finished larger work as an alternative to drawings. The finish of these studies, often called modello, can be more or less refined. The earliest known oil sketches are by Polidoro da Caravaggio (ca. 1497-ca. 1543) but the technique spread quickly among the artists including Federico Barocci (1528-1612), Cristofano Allori (1577-1621), Tintoretto (1519-1594 ) and Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664 ) and became an important feature of the Baroque art. Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) for example is one of the greatest examples of Baroque artists' use of the oil sketch and contributed to introduce its practice in Flanders. This method benefits to both artists and patrons as not only the artists were able to present and promote their work through these support but the patrons could also request an oil sketch to evaluate a project at an early stage. Sometimes considered as a works of art in se, oil sketches were also offered by the artists to connoisseurs. Oil sketches were still favoured during the Rococo and the Romantic period but at the end of the 19th century, the artists tent to paint more and more directly on the support, abandoning thus gradually the oil sketch in its function as a preparatory study.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Louis Laguerre (1663-1721) was born in Paris and studied with the Jesuits before enrolling at the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture. He worked with Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) before moving to England in 1683-84 and spent there the rest of his life. He specialised in decorative scheme in the Baroque manner, working for some time with Antonio Verrio (ca. 1639-1707), and achieved a great success as a decorator.



This painting is an oil sketch intended as a preparatory study for the decoration of the ceiling in the chapel at Chatsworth. It depicts the central oval panel with the ascension of Christ attended by angels and beneath, in grisaille, the Doubting of St Thomas, flanked by St John the Evangelist on the left and St Matthew on the right. This composition is a fine example of the Baroque taste in vogue at the end of the 17th century in England.
Bibliographic References
  • Martyn, Thomas. The English Connoisseur, London, 1776, p.13.
  • Walpole, H. "Country Seats", published in The Journal of the Walpole Society, vol.16, 1927-8, p.28
  • Vertue, G. "Notebooks" Journal of the Walpole Society, vol.21, 1931-2, pp.37, 124-5,
  • K. G. 'country Homes: Derbyshire: a seat of the Duke of Devonshire', Country Life, vol.XXI, June, 1907, London, pp. 870-880.
  • Croft-Murray, E. Decorative Painting in England 1537-1837, London: Country Life Limited London, 1962, p.251, no.6.
  • Thompson, P. The History of Chatsworth London, 1949, pp.43, 135-8.
  • daniels, J. 'English Baroque Sketches at Marble Hill' The Burlington Magazine, vol. 116, no.856, July 1974, pp.420-422.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1949, London: HMSO, 1961.
  • p. 114Rubens and his legacy London : Royal Academy of Arts, 2014. ISBN: 9781907533778
Collection
Accession Number
P.27-1949

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record createdFebruary 6, 2007
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