Born into a family of artists, Horace Vernet's profession seems to have been inevitable. His father, Carle Vernet (1758-1836), was a painter and lithographer; his grandfathers were Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) and Jean-Michel Moreau the younger (1741-1814), and his uncle the architect Jean-François Chalgrin (1739-1811). While his earliest lessons were given by his father, Vernet also worked in the studio of François-André Vincent (1746-1814) until 1810. The following year Vernet created caricatures for the Journal des dames et des modes, an activity he would continue until 1815. He was first accepted at the Salon in 1812, and his talent so impressed Jérôme Bonaparte that he commissioned an equestrian portrait from Vernet. Throughout his life, he would receive many official commissions for contemporary history paintings. Vernet kept a busy studio that, during the first years of the Restoration, was used as a meeting place for liberals. When some of his paintings were rejected from the 1822 Salon because of their supposed antiroyalist subject matter, Vernet displayed them at his studio, attracting large crowds. Despite the Salon rejection, Vernet was elected to the Institut de France in 1826 and became the director of the Académie de France in Rome two years later, a position he would occupy until 1835. After his return to Paris, Vernet became a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts.
Antoine Pierre Mongin
Few documents have survived relating to Antoine-Pierre Mongin's life, and one can only attempt its reconstruction by interpreting the works that have survived. He studied at the London Royal Academy of Arts from 1782 to 1785 and exhibited regularly at the Paris Salon between 1791 and 1824. Mongin painted many subjects-rural and urban landscapes, scenes of military life, genre scenes and those inspired by literature. He also narrated subjects from French history ranging from Joan of Arc to Napoleon.1 Almost all his works that have appeared at auction since 1920 are gouaches, and only a half-dozen of his paintings have been recorded.2 Since the 1975 exhibition French Painting 1774-1830: The Age of Revolution, publications have brought to light additional information about him. A book, published in 1977 about Godefroy Engelmann, one of the initiators of lithography in France, points out the fundamental role that Mongin played in Engelmann's establishment in Paris in 1816.3 Mongin, who knew Paris's artistic milieu, had propagated lithography even before Engelmann arrived. He captured the interest of writer and theoretician Quatremère de Quincy, but especially of the artists Bertin (q.v.), Girodet (q.v.), and Carle Vernet (1758-1836). Bernard Jacqué, curator of the Musée de l'Impression sur Étoffes in Mulhouse, recently researched another facet of Mongin's artistic talent: he designed wallpaper for Jean Zuber & Compagnie in 1802.4 His panoramic landscapes established a new fashion, and designs such as the Gardens of France of 1821 were still being printed in the late 1840s.5
1. Robert Rosenblum, French Painting 1774-1830: The Age of Revolution, exh. cat., Paris/Detroit/New York (1975), 553.
2. Ibid., 553.
3. Michel Melot, review of Léon Lang's book, Godefroy Engelmann imprimeur-lithographe: Les incunables, 1814-1817 (Colmar, France, 1977), in "Les premières lithographies françaises," Nouvelles de l'estampe no. 34-35 (July-October 1977).
4. Bernard Jacqué, Le papier peint, décor d'illusion (Barembach, France, 1987).
5. London sale, Christie's (3 July 1990), lot 129, p. 143.
Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson
On the advice of his architecture instructor Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728-1799), Girodet enrolled in the atelier of David (q.v.) in 1783 to study painting, working alongside other young artists like Gros (q.v.) and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Wicar (1762-1834) who were also taught in David's neoclassical style. Girodet's early works display the influence of David in the linear and sculptural quality of his figures. After three consecutive years of competing for the Prix de Rome, he finally won at his fourth effort in 1789. Later that year the Revolution broke out in France and Girodet made numerous drawings of the fall of the Bastille. In 1790 he left for Italy where he stayed for five years. During that time his style changed and softened under the influence of the works of Leonardo (1452-1519) and Correggio (1489/94-1534). Girodet strove to be unique and original in his depictions and even went to great lengths to oppose David's neoclassicism. His new interest in atmospheric and light effects differed from that of his teacher. He made a name for himself at the Salon of 1793, with his submission of Sleep of Endymion (Musée du Louvre, Paris). After his return to Paris from Italy, Girodet became known as a portrait painter and accepted numerous commissions, but many of them were either late in delivery or never completed. Girodet's tendency to interpret commissions to prove his own originality often offended and alienated his patrons. He did not find official success at the Salon again until 1808 and produced little after 1815.