2. Jean-Achille Benouville

Paris 1815 – 1891 Paris

Landscape in Italy with a Perched Village, c. 1845-1860

Jean Achille Benouville trained with Léon Cogniet (1794-1880) and visited Italy in 1838 and 1840, then again in 1843 with Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796-1875). Winner of the Prix de Rome in 1845, he resided in the Eternal City until 1870,1 and as such, this view may have been completed during the artist’s prolonged stay in Rome. The Fondation Custodia began collecting Benouville’s work in 1977, and this is the eleventh drawing in his hand that the institute currently holds. The artist also has a special place in the collection, as a sketchbook containing twenty-five drawings after the antique by Benouville was auctioned in Paris, on March 19, 2004, to sponsor the creation of the collectors’ marks database, and was then generously offered to the Fondation.2

This Italian landscape is based largely on a highly controlled drawing, done with a careful pen by the artist, who resorts only to a cursory underdrawing in pencil. Wide flat tints of brown wash and white gouache heightening were added to fill this outline, compensating its severity with the intense light imbuing the composition. The buildings of this small town are treated like pure forms, mere geometric volumes, firmly delineated. On the other hand, the artist appears more inspired by the verticality of the rock formations supporting them. The low-angle view, which magnifies the subject, is present in other drawings of Tivoli by Benouville.3 What is more, the specific theme of a village perched on a rocky spur appears again in another undated sheet, in black chalk heightened with white gouache, preserved at the Petit Palais in Paris.4 In terms of the topography, however, our sheet shows a more striking resemblance to a pen drawing in the Louvre, inscribed by the artist “ROCCA GIOVANE”.5 The view, obviously schematised, and in smaller dimensions, appears to be taken from the same road leading to this eminence, but from a greater distance. If the village described in our drawing was indeed Rocca Giovane (a locality in the Lazio, today known as Roccagiovine), Benouville may have discovered it by walking along the road starting from Tivoli, the old Via Valeria, which leads to the valley of Licenza, and then on to the fortified town of Civitella, two remarkable sites that he also immortalised on paper.6 But with the lack of an inscription or even a dating on the drawing, it remains difficult to irrefutably identify this view. MNG

1Marie-Madeleine Aubrun, Achille Benouville 1815-1891. Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre, Nantes 1986, pp. 13-14, 43, 46.

2Paris, Fondation Custodia, inv. no. 2004-T.7 (in-8°, oblong, 38 fol.).

3Ibid., nos. D. 56, D. 71-73.

4Paris, Petit Palais, inv. no. PPD3400 (graphite; 290 × 433 mm); see ibid., no. D 317; and http://parismuseescollections.paris.fr/fr/node/231450.

5Paris, Musée du Louvre, inv. no. RF 34625 recto, fol. 11 of the album Benouville Achille -3- (pen and blue ink, over a sketch in pencil; 189 × 269 mm); see ibid., no. D. 358; and http://arts-graphiques.louvre.fr/recherche/oeuvres.

6For a view of Civitella, see for example the drawing in a private collection, Paris (pen and grey ink, with grey wash, over black chalk; 233 × 483 mm); see ibid., no. D. 8.