Jean Mariège, a little-known Lyon-based painter, attests to the 18th-century fashion for capricci and the transition to Rococo painting.
Jean Mariège (active 1721-1728), Vues de ports imaginaires avec statues et personnages orientaux (Views of Imaginary Ports with Statues and Oriental Figures), pair of paintings, 49.5 x 76.5 cm/19.48 x 30.12 in.
The 18th century was the era of capricci, a genre launched a hundred years earlier in Italy by painters such as Viviano Codazzi, whose architectural fantasies can be seen today in the royal apartments of the Palazzo Pitti in Florence. The Grand Tour and archeological discoveries in Italy fueled the rise of capricci. Straddling the line between decorative and landscape painting, the genre had many followers in 18th-century Europe among artists who traveled to Italy. Jean Mariège was one of them. Active in Lyon between 1721 and 1728, he was certainly an itinerant artist. Little is known about his life except that he painted the decor for the theater (demolished) and the Jesuit school in Lyon (now the Lycée Ampère). Fewer than a dozen of his paintings are known, some of which are in public collections, such as the musée Fabre in Montpellier and the musée Ingres-Bourdelle in Montauban. These two imaginary seaside landscapes feature Eastern and Western figures, ships setting sail, statues in the manner of the Italian Baroque sculptor Bernini, fortified architecture and round towers like small ziggurats. In France, works like this superseded Louis XIV-style architectural paintings such as those by Philippe Meusnier and Jean II Cotelle and ushered in the Rococo manner.