Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
Study for "Winter" or "Esau Returning from the Hunt". Verso: architectural plan
Black and red chalk on blue paper, altered to gray.
11 3/8 x 5 7/8 inches (289 x 149 mm)
Gift of De Courcey E. McIntosh.

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Liberated by his family's wealth to pursue his work with freedom and without the need to compete for admission or prizes, Puvis began his career as a painter educating himself through travel and a study of earlier painting. He chose to focus on decorative mural projects instead of easel painting. One of his first projects was the decoration of his brother's dining room at the family's country home outside of their native Lyon. Located at Brouchy, between Lyon and Dijon, in a rural area, the house lent itself well to the theme of the hunt. He executed five large oils on canvas, which were embedded in the paneled walls of the dining room between 1854-55. The decorations are united by several themes: an overall connection to food and dining told through biblical stories that also correspond to the seasons. Spring features the miraculous draught of fishes, summer Ruth and Boaz at the harvest, wine pressing and Noah's drunkenness for autumn, and the return from the hunt with Jacob and Esau for the winter. The fifth mural is devoted to the return of the prodigal son. In addition, there were four overdoors for the room with more general allegorical subjects: war, peace, the arts and the sciences. The Return from the Hunt exists in an oil sketch (unlocated), the in-situ painting, an enlarged version from 1859 (Musée des beaux-arts, Marseille), and a small panel in blue monochrome from ca. 1862 (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art).
The figures are lifesize since the dining room panels are over eight feet tall and between seven to ten feet wide. Such complex, large-scale compositions required extensive preparatory work. Drawings in chalk, and studies in oil, helped Puvis develop the arrangements and also reveal his personal, non-academic manner. This study is for two figures in the procession who help carry the dead deer. While in the oil studies and finished mural, the figures are clothed and their faces specific, here Puvis has studied the nude forms from the model, leaving out the deer that hangs on the pole between them. Their positions are less dynamic than in the final composition, suggesting this is an early study to determine the underlying structure and disposition of the bodies as the composition took shape.
The sheet bears an inscription on the verso indicating it was in the artist's studio at 11 rue Pigalle at the time of the posthumous inventory on 14 November 1898 conducted by the notary Maître Delapalme.
Price, Aimée Brown, and Puvis De Chavannes, Pierre. "Pierre Puvis De Chavannes / Aimée Brown Price." New Haven [Conn.]; London: Yale UP, 2010, II, 35, under cat. 51.


Estate stamp at lower right. Inscribed on verso, “Coté premiére pièce trente neuvième Delapalme” and marked with Delapalme's paraph; calculations, and the number “40” encircled at center; illegible words and a list of names, “Mr. Becy [?]; 3 Mr. Johan [?]; 3e Mr. Bernardin de St. Pierre.”

Eric Carlson (1940-2016), New York; De Courcey E. McIntosh, New York.
Associated names: 

Carlson, Eric G., 1940-2016, former owner.
McIntosh, De Courcey E., former owner.