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The Muse: History

Camille Corot (French, Paris 1796–1875 Paris )

Date:
ca. 1865
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
18 1/8 x 13 7/8 in. (46 x 35.2 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
29.100.193
  • Gallery Label

    The model for this work may have been Emma Dobigny, who often sat for Corot at the end of his career. Corot painted four other Muses in the 1860s. All of them evoke a mood of melancholy.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Signed (lower left): COROT

  • Provenance

    the artist, Paris (until d. 1875; his estate sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, première partie, May 26–28, 1875, no. 176, as "La Comédie," for Fr 1,005 to M. Lévy); Léon Michel-Lévy, Paris (1875–99; sold on January 25, 1899, for Fr 9,000 through Brame fils to Durand-Ruel); [Durand-Ruel, Paris, 1899; stock no. 4995; sold on March 8 to Durand-Ruel, New York]; [Durand-Ruel, New York, 1899; stock no. 2162; sold on April 6 to Havemeyer]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1899–his d. 1907); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929; cat., 1931, pp. 62–63, as "Figure Piece–La Muse, Comédie"; 2nd ed., 1958, no. 74)

  • Exhibition History

    Musée des Beaux-Arts, Pau. "Exposition de la Société des amis des arts de Pau," December 1871, no catalogue [see Robaut 1905].

    Paris. Palais Galliéra. "Centenaire de Corot," May–June 1895, no. 109 (as "La Messe" [sic], lent by M. Léon Michel-Lévy, Paris).

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 15 (as "The Muse—Comedy") [2nd ed., 1958, no. 74].

    Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Corot, 1796–1875," May 11–June 16, 1946, no. 45 (as "La Comédie").

    Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Figures de Corot," June–September 1962, no. 53 (as "La Muse [comédie]").

    New York. Shepherd Gallery. "The Forest of Fontainbleau [sic], Refuge of Reality: French Landscape 1800 to 1870," April 22–June 10, 1972, no. 16 (as "The Muse—Comedy").

    Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit," August 15–November 15, 1979, no. 99 (as "The Muse, Comedy").

    Cincinnati. Taft Museum. "Small Paintings from Famous Collections," April 4–June 7, 1981, unnumbered cat. (as "The Muse—Comedy").

    Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 79 (as "Muse").

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Barbizon: French Landscapes of the Nineteenth Century," February 4–May 10, 1992, no catalogue.

    New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection," March 27–June 20, 1993, no. A104 (as "The Muse: History").

    Tokyo. National Museum of Western Art. "Corot: Souvenirs et variations," June 14–August 31, 2008, no. 84.

    Kobe City Museum. "Corot: Souvenirs et variations," September 13–December 7, 2008, no. 84.

  • References

    [Adolphe-]Étienne Moreau-Nélaton in Alfred Robaut. L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré. [reprint 1965]. Paris, 1905, vol. 1, p. 244 n. 3 [reprinted in Ref. Moreau-Nélaton 1924].

    Alfred Robaut. L'Œuvre de Corot: Catalogue raisonné et illustré. [reprint 1965]. Paris, 1905, vol. 3, pp. 52–53, no. 1388, ill.; vol. 4, pp. 212, 292, calls it "La Comédie" and dates it about 1865.

    August F. Jaccaci. "Figure Pieces of Corot in America: II." Art in America 2 (December 1913), pp. 1–2, calls it "La Comédie" and dates it 1865–70; notes that it is "less monochromatic, more colorful" than previous canvases.

    Julius Meier-Graefe. Camille Corot. 3rd ed. Munich, 1913, ill. p. 145, calls it "Die Muse" and dates it about 1865.

    Arsène Alexandre. "La Collection Havemeyer: Courbet et Corot." La Renaissance 12 (June 1929), ill. p. 280, as "La Muse".

    "Havemeyer Collection at Metropolitan Museum: Havemeyers Paid Small Sums for Masterpieces." Art News 28 (March 15, 1930), ill. p. 41, as "The Muse—Comedy".

    C. Bernheim de Villers. Corot: Peintre de figures. Paris, 1930, p. 58, no. 223, ill., calls it "La Comédie" and dates it about 1865, noting that it is one of three allegorical figures from that year, the others being "Tragedy" (R1386; private collection) and "Poetry" (R1391; Wallraf Richartz Museum, Cologne).

    Frank Jewett Mather Jr. "The Havemeyer Pictures." The Arts 16 (March 1930), p. 471, compares it to Vermeer's "Woman Reading a Letter" (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

    Julius Meier-Graefe. Corot. Berlin, 1930, pl. XCVII.

    "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Parnassus 2 (March 1930), p. 7.

    Harry B. Wehle. "The Exhibition of the H. O. Havemeyer Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25 (March 1930), p. 56.

    H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, pp. 62–63, ill., as "Figure Piece–La Muse, Comédie".

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The H. O. Havemeyer Collection. 2nd ed. New York, 1958, p. 15, no. 74, ill.

    Sylvie Béguin in Figures de Corot. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1962, pp. 126, 128–29, no. 53, ill., calls it "La Muse (comédie)" and dates it about 1865; observes that no attribute characterizes this figure as Comedy; suggests that its resemblance to Vermeer may reflect Corot's trip to Holland in 1854; mentions four other figures of muses, "Tragedy" (R1386), "Poetry" (R1391), "The Pensive Muse" (R1392) and "Muse" (R1582).

    Denys Sutton. "The Significance of Corot." Apollo 77 (September 1962), p. 507, calls it "La Muse (Comédie)" and mentions the influence of Vermeer in this picture, noting that Vermeer's art was "in the process of rediscovery in the 1850s".

    Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. "XIX Century." French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2, New York, 1966, pp. 56–57, ill., call it "The Muse—Comedy" and date it about 1865; assert that Emma Dobigny posed for this figure.

    Victor Carlson in The Forest of Fontainbleau [sic], Refuge of Reality: French Landscape 1800 to 1870. Exh. cat., Shepherd Gallery. New York, 1972, unpaginated, no. 16, ill., remarks that although our picture has been traditionally identified as "Comedy" and considered a companion to Corot's "Tragedy" (R1386) and "Poetry" (R1391), based on their varied sizes, the three canvases were probably not conceived as an allegorical group.

    Madeleine Hours. Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. New York, [1972], p. 152, dates it 1868 and comments that it reflects Corot's love for the theater.

    Hélène Toussaint in Hommage à Corot: Peintures et dessins des collections françaises. Exh. cat., Orangerie des Tuileries. Paris, 1975, p. 119, under no. 107, calls it "La Comédie".

    Anthony F. Janson. "Corot: Tradition and the Muse." Art Quarterly, n.s., 1, no. 4 (1978), p. 305, calls it "The Muse of Comedy".

    Frances Weitzenhoffer. "The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection, 1875–1900." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1982, p. 312 n. 9, calls it "La Comédie"; states that the Havemeyers purchased this picture from Durand-Ruel in June 1899 [see Ref. Stein 1993].

    Antje Zimmermann. "Studien zum Figurenbild bei Corot." PhD diss., Universität Köln, 1986, p. 175, fig. 169.

    Denys Sutton in Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo?], 1989, p. 23, as "Muse".

    Gary Tinterow in Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. [Tokyo?], 1989, pp. 132–33, no. 79, ill. (color), calls it "Muse" and dates it about 1868–72 because its model, Emma Dobigny, posed primarily in the late 1860s; suggests that it represents Clio, the muse of history, because she wears a laurel wreath and holds a scroll, adding that "interpreting the figure as Clio better explains her pensive air and retrospective gaze".

    Susan Alyson Stein in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 226, 285, states that it was secured by Durand-Ruel, New York from the Paris branch on March 8, 1899 and sold to the Havemeyers on April 6 of that year.

    Gretchen Wold in Splendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 308, no. A104, ill., states that it was purchased by Durand-Ruel, New York from the Paris branch on June 7, 1899 and sold by them to the Havemeyers either on March 8 or April 6 of that year [see Ref. Stein 1993 and Ex-Colls].

    Michael Pantazzi in Corot: Souvenirs et variations. Exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art. Tokyo, 2008, pp. 153, 238, 268–69, no. 84, ill. (color).

    Vincent Pomarède in Corot. L'Armoire secrète: Eine Lesende im Kontext. Exh. cat., Sammlung Oskar Reinhart Am Römerholz, Winterthur. Munich, 2011, pp. 33–34, fig. 15 (color), as "La Comédie".



  • Notes

    Historically, although no attribute characterizes it as such, this painting was identified as Thalia, the muse of Comedy, and associated with several other allegorical figures of muses painted by Corot in the mid-1860s, particularly "Tragedy" (private collection, Paris; Robaut 1905, no. 1386) and "Poetry" (Wallraf Richartz Museum, Cologne; Robaut no. 1391). Tinterow (1989) proposes that our painting represents Clio, the muse of history, based on her laurel wreath, scroll, and pensive expression.

  • See also
435978

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