“ The Probably First Representation
of the Porus Subject in the History of Art ”
( Donald Posner , Charles LeBrun’s Triumphs of Alexander , 1959 )
Le Brun, Charles (1619 Paris 1690). Poros blessé amené devant Alexandre. Poros wounded in gigantic equestrian battle on the Hydáspes (Dschelam/Jhelam) in the Indian Punjab in May 326 B.C. and transported to Alexander amidst a rich landscape. Engraving and etching from 4 plates by Girard Audran (Lyon 1640 – Paris 1703). Inscribed in the image below right: Ger. Audran sculp. 1678. And in the platemark in French-Latin parallel text, as the further caption, too: Graué par Gir. Audran, sur le tableau de Mr. le Brun premier Peintre du Roy … 27¾ × 62⅜ in (70.5 × 158.4 cm).
Allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon V (1992), 602; Thieme-Becker II (1908), 239 f.; Nagler I (1835), 189 ff. – Watermarked typographically and with a little figure.
Royal Library Berlin
its reddish brown round stamp “Ex / Biblioth. Regia / Berolinensi” (not in Lugt) verso.
(“hence ‘Ex Bibliotheca Regia Berolinensi’ is not a proprietary stamp of our house, but the old stamp of the Königliche Bibliothek”; letter of the Printroom of Staatliche Museen Berlin PK of Dec. 17, 1998 in reply to an inquiry regarding this copy.)
Final chord of Lebrun’s five-piece picture cycle of the “Triomphes d’Alexandre” worked for The Sun King and “rising him to the zenith of his fame”. Wishing Audran may engrave four parts of it he asked Colbert for assistance, who summoned the famous engraver to Paris. “Not a little Audran himself contributed to Lebrun’s fame because often he corrected the drawing of the original” (Nagler II, 164 in respect of le Brun).
“ Indisputably A.s main works (since 1670 on 14 plates, completed in 1672, 1674, 1675 – 1678). The accuracy of drawing, the richness of tones achieved by a new, subtle combination of etching and engraving, but also the imperial size of the works make them to
monuments of history of print .
They brought him in eligible fame and more than 12000 livres … ”
“ Gérard is the most famous member of this family of engravers,
possibly one of the greatest of all engravers
who reproduced paintings. Before his departure for Rome 1666 only a few of Gérard’s works are noteworthy (in opposite hereto see below) … (These are) broad, but yet far-away from
the pictorial and grandiose effect of the ‘Batailles d’Alexandre’
… one can hardly imagine more beautiful engravings
(as the latters). Not only, that the painter’s drawing has been rendered correctly, but also
the effects are created wonderfully exactly.
The works are differently produced in respect of the given sujet. Etching and engraving are used simultaneously … Here (another) piece will be mentioned especially because by that one makes out clearly that
in the 18th century
the whole art of engraving will be derived from A. ”
Corresponding to Fürstenberg, Das französische Buch, pp. 133 f.:
“ This great master of engraving called to Paris by Colbert can be looked as
the father of the French school of the 18th century .
Not only that he has produced the technical and artistic basis, but also the later publishing and trading activity goes back to him. ”
Thieme-Becker’s “unworthy of note” for the early works of the ’60s corrected by research of today. So AKL qualifying several of them as “early main works … Thanks to their success subsequently he could go to Italy”. That’s also quite logically. Because it accounts for Lebrun’s desire no one else but this young master should engrave the “Triomphes”. That Lebrun in this connection had been thrown on the assistance of Colbert as the mightiest minister is remarkably. For finally Lebrun himself, ennobled in and 1st court painter since 1662, was “the absolute ruler in the field of the fine arts and all talents must pay homage to him or had to fear his might” (Nagler).
The cycle composed as follows :
The Passage of the Granicus – The Family of Darius before Alexander – The Battle of Gaugamela/Arbella – Alexander’s Entry into Babylon – Alexander and Porus .
On the latter offered here the large title-figures dominate the foreground followed by camp and battle-field. The latter filled with Poros’ fallen and wounded war elephants, but also with Alexander’s fighting carriages and cavalry echeloned far into the background which has been formed by ranges of hills and river slopes – on the water itself some boats – to a pictorial great landscape. This all reflected by the whole richness of contrast of a splendid impression. For the first state Nagler mentions the address of Goydon and Boerner CIX, 35 “Pintre du Roy” instead of “Peintre …” within the caption outside left. The impression here without any address and correctly with “Peintre …”.
Thematically belonging to the cycle Gerard Edelinck’s 2-sheet engraving “The Tent of Darios”. All these of great rarity and highly paid (so Nagler in 1835) of old times. But already in 1762 (!) Christian Ludwig Hagedorn thinks of them in his “Reflections on Painting” as
“ Masterpieces of engraving
extremely rare in all states ” .
And Joh. Gg. Wille in Paris in letters to Joh. Martin Usteri of 28th December, 1762 + 24th July, 1763 :
“ The great Battles of Alexander … are always expensive; when the impressions are excellent … Now I have the pleasure to announce to you
that after all I was so fortunate
to rustle up the great Battles of Alexander ”
(Wille, Correspondence, 1999, pp. 283 + 303).
On “Poros blessé” the battle already had been brought to its end. No doubt, still there are galloping riders and racing carriages especially in the background, but of more importance the breaking up of the pachyderms in the middle. And really essential alone the large scenery right in front, the big deal between Alexander and Poros:
“ Poros … had been encamped with a large army on the other side of the Hydáspes. In May 326 after hard battle he had been conquered irrespective of his war elephants and captured on the run by Alexander’s riders. Filled with admiration for the heroic aged enemy the conqueror confirms him not only his rule, but even he enlarged his territory and in this way earning a second loyal ally. Thirty days Alexander still staid by the Hydáspes under offerings and plays, founded … Bukephala (to be looked for in or not far off the modern Dschalalpur on the right bank) … and Nikäa … ”
(Meyer’s Konvers.-Lex., 4th ed., vols. I , 319 + III , 612).
The last forward major battle ,
after Arbella – see above – the second one of the two dedicated to the conquest of Asia as
“ the probably first representation
of the Porus subject in the history of art ”
( Donald Posner, op. cit., in The Art Bulletin XLI, no. 3, 237 ff. )
as Ridinger for his part has delivered by his 1723 snapshot drawing of fall 326 at the Hyphasis in India not published in engraving probably the art-historically first depiction of the world-historic decision to turn back.
Bukephala in memory of the favorite horse from his early years Bukephalos fallen in the battle. This loss Alexander had seen as a bad hint of gods playing its part when in fall of the year by the Hyphasis adverse smoke signals and mutiny joined and Alexander decided to turn back. At this momentum an empire passed over its zenith. In which less than a half century after Lebrun/Audran the 25-year-old Ridinger had seen the unheard-of civilizing moment par excellence recorded in a large-sized drawing à clef discovered and thematically related to only in last time hereself.
Surrounded by margins of ¼-⅜ in (0.5-1 cm) above, ¾-1⅛ (2-3) below, 1⅝-1⅞ (4-4.8) left & 1¾-2⅛ in (4.5-5.5 cm) right – After a presumably earlier preservation the paper has been restored by the Landschaftsverband Rheinland in the early ’80s in respect of some tears and losses especially within the two outer parts. The losses as follows: four small on the left, one of them extending ⅝ × ¾ in (1.5 × 2 cm) into the upper image field, another of ½ × ¾ in (1.3 × 1.8 cm) in the middle, and two of ⅝-1 × ⅜-3/4 in (1.5-2.5 × 1-2 cm) in the lower part; additionally a larger one below affecting with 2 × 2⅜ in (5 × 6 cm) white space within the caption. On the lower right a slender stripe of 1⅛ in (3 cm) between joint and a fold leads through margin and white field within the caption still 4 in (10 cm) into the image. All losses affect unessential places of the scenery only making it easy to re-draw the traces with a skilful hand. All the four parts composed as good as seamlessly though the two outer plates measure a little more in the height. And so
the wallfilling panorama par excellence
of a world historic event
and an artistic monument, too .
After all not to be confounded with the smaller engravings of the nephew Jean Audran (1667-1756) mentioned by Thieme-Becker: “The paintings his uncle Girard reproduced in large dimensions as engravings Jean A. had done in a small way; e.g. les Batailles d’Alexandre, by Lebrun.”
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