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Marius Captured in Minturnae. Pen and brownish-black ink over chalk, red chalk, brown wash, white heightening. 23.9 x 33.7 cm.
Corneille’s style is marked by the strongly Italianate character of his draughtsmanship. His first teacher was his father, Michel l’Ancien (1603 Orléans – 1664 Paris), and later he received a sound academic training from Pierre Mignard and Charles Le Brun. In 1659 the young artist was awarded the Rome Prize of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture and he was to live and work in the Eternal City till 1663. His familiarity with the work of such great predecessors as Annibale Carracci and Domenichino had a lasting effect on his style. In 1663, after his return to Paris, Corneille was admitted to membership of the Academy. In the subsequent period he made a name for himself as a painter of religious compositions. In addition to these easel paintings Corneille also devoted himself to monumental painting and – together with such other Academy members as Charles de Lafosse, the brothers Bon and Louis de Boullogne and Jean Jouvenet – was charged by Louis XIV with the interior decoration of numerous châteaux. The special patronage of the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart was probably very helpful for his later career.
Corneille left behind a very extensive drawn and printed oeuvre. According to Mariette, he was a keen draughtsman and throughout his life busied himself with studies after the Italian masters. This depiction of an episode from the republican history of ancient Rome demonstrates all the merits of Corneille’s draughtsmanship. He has masterfully combined various artistic means of expression – pen, black and red chalk, brush washes and white heightening – to produce a convincing synthesis that gives the work considerable momentum and expressiveness. The artistic verve exhibited here would be inconceivable without the example set by Italian draughtsmen of the High Baroque.
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