“ The Triumphal Apotheosis …
Representing the Crowning Moment
of the Persian Campaign … ”
Verdier, François (1651 Paris 1730). Submission of Babylon without a Fight after the Battle of Arbela (1 Oct. 331 B.C.). After the defeat of the Persian king Darius his general Mazæus, who had sought refuge here, surrenders the city to the victorious Alexander the Great (356-323), who meets him most liberally. Richly figured scenario below palms in front of the walls of the city. Black chalk with grey wash, heightened in white on blue paper. Inscribed in the lower margin: maceo … … apres la Bataille darbel Vien ce Rendre a Alexandre. C. 10¼ × 19¾ in (261 × 503 mm).
English private collection
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).
“ As Alexander was proceeding toward Babylon, Mazæus, who had fled thither after the battle (near Gaugamela “not far from Arbela [in Assyria, today’s Arbil/Erbil as capital of Kurdistan, one of or even the oldest settled region of the world]”, Meyers, op. cit., I, 318), came with his adult offspring, and tendered the surrender of himself and the city.
His overture was gratifying: the siege of a place so strong were a tedious operation: his rank was illustrious, and his bravery acknowledged, and he had distinguished himself in the recent action: such an example might induce others to submit. Alexander, therefore, courteously received him with his children … ”
( Quintus Curtius Rufus , Alexander the Great [about 50 AD] ,
London 1809, vol. II, page 6 ) .
Thematically related to
Charles Le Brun’s
Grand Peintre du Grand Siècle
First Painter to Louis XIV
Gigantic Alexander Cycle
which, however, picks up only the subsequent situation, Alexander’s entry into the city, by Donald Posner (Charles LeBrun’s Triumphs of Alexander, in The Art Bulletin XLI , no. 3, 237 ff.) put into words summing up Curtius rendition
“ Representing the crowning moment of the Persian campaign, when the world conqueror received the homage of the ancient city,
the painting manifests
the inevitable elevation of virtuous royalty ,
the triumphal apotheosis .”
Le Brun’s cycle on its 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 , 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
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
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 , 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.
“ Especially in France there are graphic masterpieces on blue paper
in black and white chalk …
Many used blue paper to furnish the elaborate ink wash with lights, too ”
(Meder, Die Handzeichnung, 1919, pp. 356 & 359).
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 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. 16,121 / price on application
“ Thanks for shipping the print. It has arrived here in excellent shape. Happy holidays ”
(Mr. H. A. P., December 12, 2001)