In its immediacy and breadth of handling, this small picture recalls drawings that Claude made from nature in the environs of Rome. The composition is recorded in the painter’s Liber Veritatis. The building, which still stands in the outskirts of Rome, was a medieval fortress transformed into a country house, which in the seventeenth century belonged to the aristocratic Crescenzi family.
This small picture is unusual among the works of Claude's maturity in that it represents an actual site, the castle of La Crescenza and its environs in the Roman Campagna. Claude often sketched here in the company of Poussin, studying the effects of light in a setting that included rolling hills and woodlands and gathering motifs he would later arrange toward his own expressive ends in formal landscape compositions. This subject appears frequently among sketches he made during these expeditions (Roethlisberger 1968, vol. 1, nos. 514, 589, and 672, among others). With few of the compositional devices the artist favored in his large pastoral idylls, the painting has a remarkable freshness and immediacy and may well have been painted from life.
Drawing no. 118 in Claude's Liber Veritatis, the artist's record of the composition, is inscribed on its reverse "Claudio ivf" (Claude made it) and immediately below this, "Faict ilmo sigre monsigneur di masso" (made [for] the illustrious monsignor 'di masso' [generally assumed to be Camillo Massimi, who was made Cardinal in 1670 and died in 1676]). Also on the back is the chalk inscription of a date and three words, perhaps in Claude's hand: . . . / 1677 . . . Cardinalle (?) [an annotation made after the Cardinal's death?]. Massimi, who took drawing lessons from Poussin, was a close friend and patron of both Poussin and Claude and owned a higher percentage of landscape paintings than any other Roman collector of his time. La Crescenza, however, is more likely to be an independent, experimental work by the artist, of which there are a number from this period, rather than a commission from Massimi himself.
The picture was owned until 1977 by descendants of the prominent English connoisseur and antiquarian Richard Payne Knight, who purchased it in London in 1806.
La Crescenza belonged in the seventeenth century to the Crescenzi family, for whom Claude had painted frescoes in his youth. It lies about an hour outside Rome, to the northwest, beyond the Ponte Molle. It also appears in Achille Etna Michallon's pencil study from life (Louvre, Paris) inscribed by the artist: "Fabrique dit du Poussin / Rome 1820" and in an 1826 painting by Corot, View of La Crescenza, also called Fabrique du Poussin (private collection; see Ottani Cavina 2007).
[Mary Sprinson de Jesús 2011]
Cardinal Camillo Massimi, Rome; Colonna family, Colonna Palace, Rome (by 1783; cat., 1783, no. 378, as "Un Quadro di 2 1/3 [palmi] per traverso=Paese=Claudio Lorenese" [2 1/3 palmi=22.84 in.], possibly this work); [Robert Fagan and Charles Grignion, London, probably by 1804, until 1806; "Littlehales*" sale, Christie's, London, March 2, 1804, no. 63, as from the Colonna Palace, "A Landscape, with a View of the Palace of the Prince of Colonna, at Genezanno," presumably bought in; their sale, Squibb, London, May 29, 1806, no. 36, for 64 gns. to Knight]; Richard Payne Knight, Downton Castle, Ludlow, Shropshire (1806–9); his brother, Thomas Andrew Knight, Downton Castle (1809–d. 1838); his grandson, Andrew Rouse-Boughton-Knight, Downton Castle (1838–d. 1909); his son, Charles Andrew Rouse-Boughton-Knight, Downton Castle (1909–d. 1947); his nephew, Major William Mandeville Peareth-Kincaid-Lennox, Downton Castle (1947–d. 1969); his grandson, Denis Peareth Hornell Lennox (1969–77); [Agnew, London, 1977–78, and E. V. Thaw, New York, 1978; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections," May 26–August 22, 1982, not in catalogue.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Claude Lorrain: 1600–1682," October 17, 1982–January 2, 1983, no. 38.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "Claude Gellée dit Le Lorrain: 1600–1682," February 15–May 16, 1983, no. 38.
New York. Richard L. Feigen & Co. "Landscape Painting in Rome, 1595–1675," January 30–March 23, 1985, no. 19.
Washington. Phillips Collection. "Places of Delight: The Pastoral Landscape (The Modern Vision)," November 6, 1988–January 22, 1989, no. 81.
Tokyo. National Museum of Western Art. "Claude Lorrain and the Ideal Landscape," September 15–December 6, 1998, no. 48.
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Claude Lorrain—The Painter as Draftsman: Drawings from the British Museum," October 14, 2006–January 14, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Williamstown, Mass. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. "Claude Lorrain—The Painter as Draftsman: Drawings from the British Museum," February 4–April 29, 2007, unnumbered cat.
Paris. Grand Palais, Galeries nationales. "Nature et idéal: le paysage à Rome, 1600–1650," March 9–June 6, 2011, no. 84.
Madrid. Museo Nacional del Prado. "Roma: Naturaleza e Ideal, Paisajes 1600–1650," July 5–September 25, 2011, no. 84.
Richard Payne Knight. Catalogue of the Payne Knight collection. n.d. [see letter of June 13, 1978 in European Paintings Department archives], lists it as from the Colonna Palace, and describes it as "A view from nature of a park and castle on the coast of the Mediterranean taken immediately after sunset; the mellow pinkness of twilight, reflected on the low foliage in the centre of the picture by the first birds of a warm evening being admirably expressed . . .".
Mme Mark Pattison [Lady Dilke] J. Rouam. Claude Lorrain, sa vie et ses oeuvres d'après des documents inédits. Paris, 1884, p. 217, no. 118, notes that the reverse of Liber Veritatis no. 118 is inscribed "Claudio IV F Faict por il Smo signor monsignor di Masso"; observes that the picture must date from 1667.
Marcel Röthlisberger. Claude Lorrain: The Paintings. New Haven, 1961, vol. 1, pp. 240, 293, 392, 394, publishes the related drawing, Liber Veritatis 118 (vol. 2, fig. 206), reads the inscription on its verso as "Illmo sigre monsigneur di masso" and surmises that the painting was one of five by Claude commissioned by Poussin's patron, Carlo Camillo Massimi (1620–1676), who was made a cardinal in 1670; states that no trace of the painting is known, but tentatively dates it 1648/49; judging from the composition, concludes that the painting "was probably medium sized or rather small, with warm evening atmosphere" and calls it Claude's first heavily wooded landscape; mentions two later drawings after the composition, in the British Museum and location unknown.
Marcel Roethlisberger. Claude Lorrain: The Drawings. Berkeley, 1968, vol. 1, pp. 212, 260, 341–42, publishes the related drawing, Liber Veritatis 118 (no. 669; vol. 2, pl. 669), identifying the site as the property known as La Crescenza, and observing that the introduction of an extant building into a composition is uncommon at this point in Claude's career; notes that there was no cardinal named Massa and states that nothing is so far known about the person who commissioned this painting [dropping the connection made with Cardinal Massimi made in Ref. 1961]; publishes the two later drawings of the composition (nos. 918–19), LV 166 (no. 951), LV 196 (no. 1099) and other related drawings; catalogues other compositions in which La Crescenza is depicted (nos. 514, 672, 870a, and 589, which is not identified as La Crescenza).
Marcel Röthlisberger. "Aggiunte a Claude." Paragone 20 (July 1969), pp. 55–56, fig. 52, publishes the painting for the first time, as in the Kincaid-Lennox collection, and dates it 1648–50; surmises this time that the "masso" in the inscription may refer to a member of the ducal household of Massa Carrara.
Doretta Cecchi inL'opera completa di Claude Lorrain. Milan, 1975, p. 110, no. 186, ill., dates it 1648 or later and reverts to Röthlisberger's original connection of the "masso" in the inscription with Cardinal Massimo.
Marcel Röthlisberger. "Guillerot." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 85 (April 1975), pp. 123–24, 128 n. 11, states that this is the only painting by Claude to represent a private building.
Michael Kitson. Claude Lorrain: Liber Veritatis. London, 1978, pp. 107, 126–27, publishes the related drawing, LV 118; erroneously lists our picture as still belonging to the Kincaid-Lennox collection and prefers to see its original owner as "Monsignore Massa"; notes that the painting gives the impression of having been done from nature, but adds that this is "perhaps unlikely"; mentions the coincidence of the resemblance between the building represented here and Downton Castle, built in the 1770s by Richard Payne Knight.
Art Journal 38 (Winter 1978–79), p. 138, announces its acquisition by the MMA.
Dean Walker inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1975–1979. New York, 1979, pp. 51–52, ill.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 326, 328, figs. 544 (color detail), 590.
A Dealer's Record: Agnew's, 1967–81. London, 1981, ill. p. 108.
H. Diane Russell. Claude Lorrain, 1600–1682. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1982, pp. 161–62, 183, 189, 459, no. 38, ill. pp. 21, 161 (color and black and white) [French ed., Claude Gellée dit Le Lorrain, 1600–1682, Paris, 1983, pp. 177, 427, no. 38, ill. (color)], believes that the patron, "monsieur di masso," referred to on the reverse of the Liber Veritatis drawing almost certainly refers to Camillo Massimi, but adds that it is not clear, and is perhaps unlikely, that Massimi actually commissioned this painting; remarks that Claude signed his name on the verso of the Liber drawing, but added Massimi's name at another time; notes that this picture is not listed in the published portion of Massimmi's posthumous inventory; suggests that this and other small works on panel made by Claude around 1647 were experimental and made by the artist for himself.
Michael Clarke and Nicholas Penny, ed. The Arrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight, 1751–1824. Manchester, 1982, pp. 94, 117 n. 7.
Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, p. 360, no. 6, ill. [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines, Paris, 1982].
Marcel Roethlisberger. Im Licht von Claude Lorrain: Landschaftsmalerei aus drei Jahrhunderten. Exh. cat., Haus der Kunst München. Munich, 1983, pp. 164, 207, 286.
Katharine Baetjer. "Claude Lorrain: A Tercentenary Exhibition." Apollo 117 (March 1983), p. 255.
Juan J. Luna. Claudio de Lorena y el ideal clásico de paisaje en el siglo XVII. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado. [Madrid], 1984, p. 35 n. 28, ill.
Christopher Wright. The French Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Boston, 1985, p. 163.
Robert C. Cafritz et al. inPlaces of Delight: The Pastoral Landscape. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection and National Gallery of Art. New York, 1988, pp. 108, 111 n. 72, pp. 201, 262, no. 81, fig. 102 (color).
Peter Galassi. Corot in Italy: Open-Air Painting and the Classical-Landscape Tradition. New Haven, 1991, pp. 148–49, ill., notes that Corot painted two views of La Crescenza, one of which he illustrates (pl. 175).
Sergei Daniel and Natalia Serebriannaya. Claude Lorrain: Painter of Light. Bournemouth, 1995, pp. 154–55, ill. (color).
Claude Lorrain: Paintings and Drawings. Ed. Werner Schade. English ed. Munich, 1998, pl. 63 (color), dates it about 1647.
Humphrey Wine. "Tokyo: Claude Lorrain." Burlington Magazine 140 (December 1998), p. 859.
Jean-Claude Boyer. Claude le Lorrain et le monde des dieux. Exh. cat.Paris, 2001, p. 60, ill.
Richard Rand. Claude Lorrain—The Painter as Draftsmsan: Drawings from the British Museum. Exh. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco. New Haven, 2006, pp. 77–78, 81, 202 n. 43, p. 218, fig. 38 (color).
Anna Ottani Cavina. "Poussin and the Roman Campagna: In Search of the Absolute." Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, p. 48 n. 4 [Spanish ed., "Poussin y la naturaleza," Bilbao, 2007], mentions Michallon's drawing from life of the castle and illustrates Corot's painting of it [see Notes].
Keith Christiansen inPhilippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 34.
Patrizia Cavazzini inNature et idéal: le paysage à Rome, 1600–1650. Exh. cat., Grand Palais, Galeries nationales. Paris, 2011, p. 230, no. 84, ill. (color).
Richard Rand. "'Landscape with Erminia' and Claude's Paintings from Nature." Studying Nature: Oil Sketches from the Thaw Collection. Ed. Jennifer Tonkovich. New York, 2011, pp. 57–59, 62–63 n. 30, fig. 45 (color).
Old Master & British Paintings. Christie's, London. July 8, 2016, p. 48, under no. 146.
Inscribed in ink on the frame formerly on this painting (replaced by a new frame in 1978): CASTELLUM GENSANUM COLONNENSIUM VILLA MABITIMA a Claudis Gillee Lotharingensi depicta / ex corum AEDISUS ROME.