Victor Jean Nicolle

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Victor Jean Nicolle
View of the Porch of a Church
9 3/16 x 7 1/16 inches (234 x 180 mm)
Gift of Patricia and Henry Tang.

Victor-Jean Nicolle was a painter, engraver, draughtsman, and watercolorist who specialized in topographically accurate landscapes, urban scenes, and architectural views. His work, thus, forms an important historical record of Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century. Born in Paris, he attended the Royal School of Drawing (École Royale Gratuite de Dessin), where he won in 1771 the Perspective Prize (grand prix de perspective) before completing his training in the studio of the architect Louis Charles Petit-Radel. Fascinated by Italy, Nicolle made two trips there - in 1787-89 and 1806-11- and drew and engraved many views, especially of Rome. He painted his watercolors in the workshop after pen and brown ink sketches made en plein air. Louis XVI commissioned many drawings of Rome from the artist, and although Nicolle never exhibited at the Salon, his reputation as a topographical artist was such that in 1810 he received a commission from Napoleon for fifty watercolor views of the principal monuments of Paris. While in Italy, Nicolle drew a number of similar scenes of peasants in prayer before simple shrines, a motif which the artist seems to have favored. He may have been planning to publish a series of such shrines or chapels, as suggested by the nearly identical dimensions of his watercolors of oratories and by a drawing for a Frontispiece pour une suite d'oratories. The present drawing shows a shrine under an arch, with a church in the background. Nicolle captures a quiet, charming moment of a woman who has come into the shade to speak to one of the monks, presumably before stopping at the shrine to pray. Behind her, another woman brings a flowering pot to the wall of the garden, and a seated monk to the right of the shrine continues to read, paying no mind to his visitor. The viewer stands in as the artist, taking in the anecdotal detail captured after the scene in watercolor with a lively line and careful study of light, while in the background three onlookers on the porch of the church similarly watch with interest from above.

Patricia and Henry Tang.
Associated names: 

Tang, Henry, former owner.
Tang, Patricia P., former owner.

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