Verdier, Sophites welcomes Alexander the Great

In India

“ This  District  produces  Excellent  Hunting-dogs:

They  mostly  unkennel  the  Lion ”

Verdier, François (1651 Paris 1730). The Indian Rajah Sophites sovereignly welcomes the victoriously advancing Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) before the Gates of the City about in summer 326. Richly clad with train-bearer, the scepter in the raised right for handing over. Set back on the left the city fortifications. Scenically painterly embedded figure-rich scenario with draped riding elephant far left turned to the goings-on, mounted by the governor only, the seat itself empty, on which Sophites without a doubt had come riding out, to dismount only immediately before Alexander. Quite so as appropriate to his grand entrance and in such a manner not specially mentioned by Curtius Rufus, see below. Black chalk with grey wash, heightened in white on blue paper. C. 10¼ × 20⅛ in (262 × 512 mm).


English private collection
about 1770

mounted by this onto sheet of beige-colored paper (38 x 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).

After the victory over Porus (May 326 at the Hydaspes) Alexander advances further into India and subdues various cities and people:

“ Hence he advanced into the kingdom of Sophites. This nation, considered as Barbarian, excels in wisdom, and is governed by salutary customs …

In the city to which Alexander had led his army, Sophites himself resided. The gates were closed, but no soldiers appeared on the walls or towers; and the Macedonians were in doubt, whether the inhabitants had evacuated the place, or lay there insidiously concealed. On a sudden, the gate opens,

and  the  rajah  approaches , with  his  two  adult  sons .

He far surpassed all the Barbarians in manly beauty .

Of  purple  and  embroidered  gold  was  his  vest ,

which covered even his legs: his golden sandals were studded with gems: from the shoulders to each wrist, he was ornamented with pearls: the pendants from his ears, were pearls of extraordinary whiteness and magnitude:

Verdier, Alexander + Sophites

he  carried  a  truncheon  of  gold  set  with  beryls .

Having delivered this to Alexander, he surrendered himself, his children, his country, prying that he would protect them.

This district produces excellent hunting-dogs: they are said to discontinue their cry when they see the game: they mostly unkennel the lion. To display their mettle to Alexander, the rajah caused a lion of uncommon size to be turned out before him, and four dogs, in all, to be set against it: they promptly fastened on the predatory beast …

Sophites left in his government,—

Alexander has arrived at the river Hypasis … ”

( Quintus Curtius Rufus , Alexander the Great [about 50 AD] ,
London 1809, vol. II, pages 306-308 ) .

Thematically related to

Charles  Le Brun’s

Grand  Peintre  du  Grand  Siècle

First  Painter  to  Louis XIV

Gigantic  Alexander  Cycle

on five canvasses of 2.98-4.7 x 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.

A possible inscription at the lower margin the less legible as if any mostly covered by the gilt paper border. – Faint fold trace right of the center. – The mounting sheet generally not free of its age and with a 2 cm brown glue strip on the upper edge of the back.

Offer no. 16,122 / price on application

„ Best her Niemeyer, De prenten zijn vanmiddag in goede staat gearriveerd. Alleen al het uitpakken is een genot! Ze zien er prachtig uit (vooral The Idel ’prentice is een juweel) … Wat dat betreft, zijn eigenlijk alle prenten die u mij hebt toegezonde, van uitstekende kwaliteit … “

(Mijnheer P. E., 1. Februar 2008)