Louis GAUFFIER (Poitiers 1762 - Florence 1801) The picking of oranges, or family reunion of a diplomat accredited in Italy under the Directory Canvas signed and dated (1797-98) lower left: "L. Gauffier / Flor. ce an 6° /de la Rep. e" The sketch of this composition is kept in the museum of the palace of Versailles (MV 4851). Height. 69, Width. 99 cm. (old restorations). Provenance: family of Alexandre Marie Gosselin de Sainct-Même (Paris, 1746 - Marseille, 1820), administrator of the Military Subsistances of the Italian Army; by descent until 2020. Orange picking. Canvas signed by Louis Gauffier, located in Florence and dated year 6 of the Republic, 1797-1798, and whose sketch is kept at the Palace of Versailles. Extension on rouillac.com : - "La cueillette des oranges de Louis Gauffier", by the Turquin cabinet - "Réunion de la famille Sainct-Même sous le Directoire", by Aymeric Rouillac "The open-air portraits are perhaps among the most personal works. Gauffier presents his figures, very often, on a terrace; they lean on a balustrade or, more frequently, on antique fragments, capitals or column bases. They stand out against a backdrop of a distant landscape." This analysis of the painter published by Crozet in 1936 applies perfectly to our unpublished painting (R. Crozet, Louis Gauffier (1762-1801), Bulletin de la société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, Years 1941-1944, published in 1947, p.100 to 113). On this one, the presence of the orange tree in an earthen pot, placed on an upside down Corinthian capital, brings to this family reunion a picturesque Mediterranean charm, a perfume of "dolce vita", in which the details also play a part: the brick apparatus behind the plaster on the left wall, or the watering can. The family atmosphere is Rousseauist; the dress code is French, as can be seen in the shirt dress, probably made of plumetis, with a high waist golden belt worn by the young mother. Here Louis Gauffier abolished the traditional categories of academic genres: portraits, genre scenes, still life (watering can, tree) are intertwined in a frieze composition characteristic of neoclassical history painting. With the exception of the little girl holding a doll, the female and male figures are grouped together on one side of the canvas (as in David's paintings of this period). A pupil of Taraval in Paris and winner of the Prix de Rome in 1784 ex-aequo with Jean-Germain Drouais, Gauffier spent the rest of his life in Italy. In 1793, anti-French demonstrations forced the residents of the Académie de France to take refuge in Florence, under the protection of François Cacault. He befriended the cosmopolitan and cultured milieu of the poet Vittorio Alfieri and his wife Louise Stolberg, Duchess of Albany. He frequented artists passing through the Tuscan capital - Gérard, Gros, Garnier -, or those who had settled there, republicans such as Boguet, Gagneraux, the Sablet brothers or anti-revolutionaries and Anglophiles such as Fabre. He sided with this second camp. He abandons religious subjects or subjects of ancient history to devote himself to portraits, staged as English "conversation pieces" (Zoffany) and develops a modern sensitivity to the open air landscape. Most of his models are Russian or English aristocrats of the Grand Tour, French officers, and more rarely Italians. But these characters are often isolated. Family groups are very rare, less ambitious, limited to a small number of characters in a range of dates close to ours: "The Family of André-François Miot, Count of Melito, French Consul in Florence", 1796 (Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Illustration 2), or the "Salucci Family", 1800 (Paris, Musée Marmottan, Illustration 3). One may wonder about the fruits represented and the place. Could they not be mandarins, or even more bitter oranges, as the shape of the leaves suggests. The "Limonaia" (orange grove in French) of the Boboli Garden, adjacent to the Pitti Palace, built in 1778/1779, included a very rich collection of citrus trees (still in use today, its present architecture dates from 1816). The conical terracotta vase decorated with a frieze of garlands - and here with a head of Hermes - is typical of Tuscany; it is very porous and allows excess water to pass through. In 1801, Gauffier took up this motif of the orange tree planted in a pot placed high up, in the "Portrait en pied d'un officier de la République Cisalpine" (Paris, Musée Marmottan, illustration 4).
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