Corot, the Light of Italy

On 28 April 2021, by Caroline Legrand

The painting by the inventor of outrenoir might take center stage, but this luminous landscape by Camille Corot is sure to spark a great bidding war.

Camille Corot (1796–1875), Deux moines sur la terrasse du palais Doria à Gênes (Two Monks on the Terrace of the Palazzo Doria in Genoa), June 1834, oil on canvas, 25 x 36.5 cm/9.85 x 14.38 in.
Estimate: €150,000/250,000

Soulages followed a painter’s classic path: the quest for light, which climaxed in a brilliant painting from 1975. One of his forerunners, Camille Corot, devoted himself to the study of light over time. Since the 18th century, a trip to Italy had been part of any young artist’s training. Corot was no exception. In 1823, just back from the peninsula, he joined Michallon’s studio and was introduced to open-air painting. Two years later, his wish for a three-year stay in Italy came true; passing through Switzerland, he reached Rome in December. The following summer he worked in the Sabine and Alban Hills and, in winter, Tivoli. In 1827 he continued his "painting campaigns". In the following spring he visited Naples and, after a stay in Venice, returned to Paris in the fall. He brought back many studies, using them to paint from in his studio. Sketches made on the spot in Italy were precious tools allowing landscape artists to paint sweeping compositions, sometimes years later.

Corot’s second journey, in 1834, took him to Tuscany, Venice and the Lake Region. “Arrived in Genoa on June 1, 1834, at 4:12 p.m. (hôtel du Petit Paris),” he wrote in one of his notebooks. During his brief stay he painted this picture, which appeared in the sale after his death. On his return, Corot reproduced a composition he had already used in Rome and Florence for the 1835 painting, Vue de Florence depuis le jardin de Boboli (View of Florence from the Boboli Gardens), where two monks converse while admiring a sweeping view of the city. In the Genoa sketch, they stand out against the crystal clear air on the terrace of the Palazzo Doria overlooking the port as wispy clouds float across the cerulean blue sky. Corot painted the city in a range of light beige tones. A sense of peace is combined with harmony, which the Impressionists later echoed. "He is still the greatest," wrote Degas in 1883. "He anticipated everything.”

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