Two lions pulling a chariot after Peter-Paul Rubens (detail of L'Entrevue du roi et de Marie de Médicis à Lyon, 9 November 1600, Musée du Louvre, Paris).Oil on canvas 45.8 x 55.2 cm
Like two horses harnessed to a chariot, these two lions show behaviour similar to that of equestrians: one advances its leg as if on parade while the other seems to neigh. The team, of which only the front of the chariot can be seen, is indeed incongruous because it is allegorical. The idea is to evoke a historical event in a mythological register where, in the original canvas painted by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Henry IV, in the guise of Jupiter, meets Marie de Médicis, in the guise of Juno, in the city of Lyon, evoked by a young woman seated in a chariot drawn by these two eponymous lions. Géricault chose to focus on the felines in Rubens' painting, ridding himself of the putti originally placed on their backs. An animal painter as much as a portraitist or history painter, Géricault liked to paint his bestiary from life, but he also knew how to copy it from the great masters, notably by visiting the Louvre, an inexhaustible source of inspiration. From Rubens, he reproduces here the style, the tones and the vivacity, but he brings his personal experience with a freer touch that recalls the lions observed from life at the Jardin des plantes.
Théodore Géricault (1791-1824) was the first French romantic painter. Trained in Carle Vernet's studio, he studied with Guérin. Although he failed the Prix de Rome competition, he left for Italy in 1816 to discover the painters of the Renaissance. He was then strongly struck by the works of Michelangelo, whose influence is evident in the powerful anatomies of his flagship work, The Raft of the Medusa. Exhibited at the 1819 Salon, the story of this event, elevated to the rank of a history painting by its monumental format, caused a scandal and divided the critics. The horror of the subject fascinated, provoking both disgust for this 'heap of corpses' deemed too realistic, and admiration for a modern painting with a political and topical subject. Disappointed, Géricault decided to leave for England with his painting, where he discovered the landscapes of Turner and Constable, who invited him to enrich the registers of his painting. Passionate about the equestrian world, Géricault was also the painter of horses - but also of felines - to which he devoted many paintings to the point of creating real 'portraits' with an almost human look. He died as a result of a fall from a horse.
Provenance: According to Ph. Grunchec and G. Bazin: Catalogue des tableaux anciens & modernes par ou attribués à Bastien-Lepage, [...], Géricault, [...], aquarelles et gouaches, dessins [...] ayant compose la collection de Monsieur F. Funck-Brentano, Henri Baudoin, auctioneer, Marignane, expert, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, room n° 1, 29 April 1921, n° 179 : ' Géricault. Copy after Rubens of the lions of the Life of Henry IV, in the Louvre / Painting / Canvas. Height, 50 cent; width, 61 cent'. Paris, Pierre-Olivier Dubaut (1886-1968) collection, probably from 1937, painter and collector. Paris, collection of Maxime Dubaut (1920-1991), painter. Paris, Jacqueline Dubaut-Bellonte collection (1926-2012), gallery owner
Künstlerkopien, Basel, Kunsthalle, 18 September - 17 October 1937, no. 78: 'Géricault, Kopie nach Rubens. Aus der Geschichte der Maria von Medici/. Detail aus der Vermählung Heinrichs IV mit Maria von Medici (Louvre). / Verkäuflich'
Certificate: Bruno Chenique - 2022
Bibliography: Philippe Grunchec, 'L'inventaire posthume de Théodore Géricault (1791-1824)', in Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'art français, année 1976, 1978, p. 415 note 44: Géricault, Deux lions, d'après Rubens, ancienne collection de Pierre Dubaut. Philippe Grunchec, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Géricault, introduction by Jacques Thuillier, Paris, Flammarion, 1978, p. 88, no. 18, reprint: 'Géricault, Deux lions, d'après Rubens, 1808-1812, oil on canvas, 45 x 55 cm, Paris, private collection' Germain Bazin, Théodore Géricault. Étude critique, documents et catalogue raisonné, t. II, L'oeuvre, période de formation, Paris, Bibliothèque des arts, 1987, p. 434, no. 320, reprint: 'Auteur inconnu, Deux lions, d'après Rubens, oil on canvas, 45 x 55 cm, Paris, private collection'. Philippe Grunchec, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Géricault, introduction by Jacques Thuillier, Paris, Flammarion, 1991 [1978 edition, revised and expanded], p. 88, no. 18, repr: 'Géricault, Deux lions, d'après Rubens, 1808-1812, oil on canvas, 45 x 55 cm, Paris, private collection. Germain Bazin, who admits not having seen the painting, prefers to reserve his opinion. Bruno Chenique, 'Théodore Géricault, Two lions, copy after Rubens', Tableaux et sculpture XIXe et XXe siècle. Pierre Dubaut Collection, Arcurial-Deauville, James Fattori and Bernard de Reviers, auctioneers, Cabinet Turquin-Mauduit, Deauville, 22 August 2009, pp. 14-16, no. 17. This work will be included in the Catalogue raisonné of Théodore Géricault's paintings, currently in preparation by M. Bruno Chenique.
Scientific examinations: Painting examined by Lumière Technology (now The Whole Picture), in June 2009.
On the back, on the stretcher, red wax stamp of the Pierre Dubaut collection.