Monks in the Cloister of the Church of Gesù e Maria, Rome

François Marius Granet (French, Aix-en-Provence 1775–1849 Aix-en-Provence)
Oil on canvas
19 1/2 x 15 3/8 in. (49.5 x 39.1 cm)
Credit Line:
The Whitney Collection, Promised Gift of Wheelock Whitney III, and Purchase, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. McVeigh, by exchange, 2003

Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 806
This painting was first exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1808. It combines an appreciation for seventeenth-century Dutch cabinet pictures, which had been fashionable among French collectors since the late eighteenth century, with a new interest in the everyday life of contemporary Italians. In many of Granet’s Roman scenes, iconic settings are passed over in favor of lovingly observed but overlooked ones such as this cloister, located on the Via del Corso near his studio. Among the earliest admirers of these genre paintings was Granet’s closest colleague in Rome, the history painter J. A. D. Ingres.
Granet’s first teacher was the landscape painter Jean Antoine Constantin (called Constantin d’Aix) but he is generally regarded as a pupil of Jacques Louis David, with whom he studied in Paris (1797–99), and in whose atelier he became a close friend of J. A. D. Ingres, with whom he would form a lifelong bond. In 1802 Granet traveled with his Aixois friend Forbin, later director of the Louvre, to Rome. There, he developed a strain of genre painting that combines Dutch seventeenth-century models (popular with aristocratic collectors in Paris since the prior century) with scenes from everyday Roman life.

Granet’s genre pictures are decidedly architectural in nature. They tend to take minor monuments and lesser-known interiors as settings, often in the vicinity of the artist’s rented rooms near the Spanish Steps, the center of the artists’ district in Rome. Among the earliest examples is this painting, which the artist sent to the Paris Salon in 1808, together with two similar subjects. The cloister belongs to the late seventeenth-century church of Gesù e Maria (entered through the door at left), which boasts a typically sumptuous Baroque sanctuary that is otherwise no more remarkable than any in Rome. It is situated on the Via del Corso, the thoroughfare that originates at nearby Piazza del Popolo, where travelers from the north of Rome spilled into the city, and ends at Piazza Venezia, near the foot of the Capitoline Hill.

Granet’s most famous work in this mode is The Choir of the Capuchin Church in Rome, completed in 1815 (The Met, 80.5.2), of which there are approximately a dozen variants.

[Asher Ethan Miller 2013]
Inscription: Signed (lower center, in flagstone): GRANET / ROME
Dr. Robert Ducroquet (until 1973; sale, Christie's, London, February 9, 1973, no. 61, as Granet, "In the Cloisters of the Convent of Jesus Maria in the Corso, Rome," for $9,072 to Eisenberg); Eisenberg (from 1973); sale, Sotheby's, Monaco, June 21, 1986, no. 288 as École française, début du XIXe siècle, "Intérieur de Clôitre", probably bought in; sale, Sotheby's, London, June 22, 1988, no. 582 as Granet, "Figures in the Cloister of the Jesus Maria Monastery, Rome," to Whitney; Wheelock Whitney III, New York (1988–2003)
Paris. Salon. 1808, no. 269 (as "Vue du cloître de Jesu et Marie, à Rome").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850," January 22–April 21, 2013, unnumbered cat. (fig. 26).

Paulin [Duqueylard]. Letter to Granet. September 8, 1808 [published in Ref. Néto 1995, p. 14, no. 17], states that he has seen Granet's paintings at the Salon and found them to be "très beaux"; see Ref. Néto 1995].

Christopher Wright. "Dipinti Neoclassici Nelle Collezioni Britanniche: Granet." Arté Illustrata 7 (July 1974), pp. 212–213 n. 12, fig. 7, identifies it as the picture that appeared at Christie's in 1973; notes the depiction of the complex architectural space.

Isabelle Néto. "Granet et son entourage." Archives de l'Art français 31 (1995), pp. 14, 252, notes that this painting was shown in the Salon of 1808; states that its location is unknown.

Denis Coutagne. François-Marius Granet, une vie pour la peinture, 1775–1849. Aix-en-Provence, 2005, pp. 91, 257 n. 230, gives the painting's location as unknown; discusses its subject in the context of the religious sentiment of the time, as showing the influence of Chateaubriand's "Génie du Christianisme" and the Concordat of 1801; notes that Granet lived next door to this church, which was located halfway between Piazza di Spagna and Porto del Popolo.

Denis Coutagne. François-Marius Granet, 1775–1849: Une vie pour la peinture. Exh. cat.Paris, 2008, pp. 122–23, n. 131 [revised version of Ref. Coutagne 2005].

Asher Ethan Miller. "The Path of Nature: French Paintings from the Wheelock Whitney Collection, 1785–1850." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 70 (Winter 2013), pp. 23–25, 46, fig. 26 (color).