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Verdier, Wedding Banquet with Alexander the Great and Attalus

Alexander
Mixing up Father Philip’s New Wedding

Verdier, François (1651 Paris 1730). Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) mixing up father Philip’s new wedding in 339. Black chalk with grey wash, heightened in white on blue paper. C. 9⅞ × 19⅜ in (252 × 493 mm).

Provenance

English private collection
about 1770

mounted by this onto sheet of beige-colored paper (15 × 23⅞ in [38 × 60.5 cm])

watermarked D & C Blauw

(Heawood 3268; “England c. 1769”,
if accompanied by the secondary marks Coat of Arms & IV has to be left undecided).

The Amity between Father & Son is blurred when 339 the former repudiates Alexander’s mother Olympias or, probably more correctly, additionally weds Cleopatra, the niece of his general Attalus (c. 390-336), whom to regard as his mortal enemy Alexander has reason. Flushed with wine, that proposes a toast during the wedding banquet, calling on

“ the Macedonian nobles, ‘To offer libations to the gods, and implore, that the happy fruits to the king of the present nuptials might be legitimate heirs to his throne’”.

Thereupon “cried Alexander, his eyes sparkling with fury and vexation, which he had till now restrained:

Verdier, Alexander + Attalus

‘ Wretch ! Dost thou call me bastard ? ’

and  instantly  darted  his  goblet  at  Attalus ,

who returned the outrage with double violence. Clamour and confusion spread through the company; and the king, who sat at another table, unsheathed his sword, in a sudden tempest of rage, and flew towards his son …”

( Quintus Curtius Rufus , Alexander the Great [about 50 AD] ,
London 1809, vol. I, pages 99 f. ) .

Drawing fraught with tension with the two opponents at common table, Alexander center front right, raising the goblet for the toss, limited nonetheless to the first great confusion and the general endeavor towards preventing the worst. Alexander quits the court with his mother the same day. 336 he shall follow his father onto the throne and the same year Attalus and Cleopatra together with both her two sons born in the meantime shall meet their death.

Verdier, Wedding Banquet with Alexander the Great and Attalus
Erroneous attribution: GB Corneille / Early School / Fonntainebleau / at … each

On the back erroneous attribution by the provenance above in pencil to GB Corneille / Early School / Fontainebleau / at … (trace of eraser) each, that is Jean (Italian Giovanni) Baptiste Corneille (called the Younger; 1649 Paris 1695). The Italian-dominated early or first school of F. already dates about 1530-1570, the Netherlandic-influenced later or second from about 1590-1620.

As decisively the famous first school has influenced the development of French painting, so different a background present work – just as three homogeneous further Alexander drawings available here, too – has thematically, being immediately related to

Charles  Le Brun’s

Grand  Peintre  du  Grand  Siècle

First  Painter  to  Louis XIV

Gigantic  Alexander  Cycle

on five canvasses of 117⅜-185 × 178⅜-498 in (2.98-4.7 × 4.53-12.65 m) from the years 1661-1668 – adequate engraved versions from 1671/78 available here in a designer copy beyond good and evil – as one of those of Louis XIV’s immortalizations for which for his premier minister Colbert “no expense was too great when the king’s fame, la gloire, was in consideration”. Here then le Roi Soleil in the conceived character of “Alexander the Great as Master of the Battle”. Whose personal aura could inspire the artists indeed. So 1665, creating the portrait bust, the great Bernini – “Especially as portraitist (this) has been the most admired master of his time for the extraordinary ability to represent the individual of the person” (Thieme-Becker) – said on the spot “the king has Alexander’s head”. With the result that “The magnificent bust of the young king … represents the self-assured character of the sovereign in an incomparable manner: it is something like Jupiter which shows from the monarch’s serene features” (each Weigand, Der Hof Ludwigs XIV., 3rd ed., Insel-Verlag 1925, pp. 59, 152, 43). And so then also in the present case

“ Final  consensus  was

that  no  one  other  than  Le Brun

could  have  created  (Alexander’s Histories/Triumphs) ”.

Those culminations of acting by a man whose name just is program by its own. “Alexandros … the ‘men protecting’, Greek male name”. Here then “the Great” (356-323 B.C.),

“ the greatest conqueror of all times, son of king Philip and Olympias … His first tutor was Leonidas … then from his 13th year on the famous philosopher Aristotle. To this the honor is due of having awakened in the impulsive boy the idea of greatness, that sublimity and rigor of thinking which ennobled his passions and gave his power moderation and consciousness. A. always showed his teacher the sincerest reverence; frequently he said to his father he only owes his life, to his teacher that he lives decently … Already in his lifetime A. was glorified by the fine arts as no hero of antiquity before him ”

(Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th ed., I [1889], 316 ff.).

Picking the highlights Crossing the Granicus May 334 – The Morning after the Battle at Issus in Darius’ Tent, paying a visit to his family, November 333 – Decisive Battle of Gaugamela/Arbela 1 October 331 – Entry into Babylon Autumn 331 – At the Hydaspes or Porus before Alexander May 326 . To which grandeur

François  Verdier

was committed to even more so as from the beginning and ultimately also personally close to Le Brun. So first as pupil at the Académie royale with a first prize each in 1668 & 1671, then as assistant in Versailles and finally since 1685 by marriage to a niece of Madame Le Brun. Whereas from a present-day perspective with him, too, the depth of the familiarity with ancient history surprises, here then

Alexander’s  breathtakingly  eventful  life

based on Curtius Rufus’ description, whose inevitable stringing together of fascinating events had

Verdier  mutate  to  the  artistic  Alexander  specialist

par excellence.

1668 appointed Agréé and 1678 active member of the Académie royale, François Verdier, son of court clockmaker Louis V., continued his studies 1679/80 at the Académie de France in Rome, where he was appointed professeur-adjoint in 1681 and tenured professor 1684/99. “Numerous engravers, including (Le Brun’s legendary Alexander engraver) Girard Audran … have engraved after (his) drawings” (Thieme-Becker XXXIV [1940], 233).

Signing his drawings – frequently of the same dimensions as here – supposedly rather occasionally only, he generally used beige-colored and brown papers, of which

the  one  here  on  its  blue  paper  stands  out  clearly

as such at all times have been especially precious to the collector of old master drawings and prints, not least as suggesting a special purpose. Stylistically and technically adducible here in this respect for instance Verdier’s 6-sheet set to the Old Testament on blue paper in London (British Museum 1872,0113,763-768), which previously indeed had been attributed to Charles Le Brun and of which sheet 767 was part of the 6-month Japan Exhibition French Drawings from the British Museum Tokyo & Nagoya 2002.

By the provenance above mounted and bordered by antique gilt paper edge and two double pipes in black, one of the homogeneous three further Alexander drawings available here, too, bears as detailed mounting and framing instruction in pencil on the back 4 w(ash)|es / … 2/26 / gold & w(ash)|lined / mounts & gilt frames / to suit / ask R.

The gilt paper border top right & below left each omitting 1.5-6.5 cm across the corners. An old tidemark starting out from the 7 cm wide lower mounting paper margin tapering off 4-7 cm into the floor drawing of the picture, yet barely perceptible due to color and paper tinge. Ignorable faint fold trace fairly far right. – The glue strip at the upper edge on the back still tapering off laterally for 15 cm.

Offer no. 16,120 / price on application


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