OLD MASTER PAINTINGS

Charles Meynier

Book Cover

This is a lesser known painter, who is an excellent draughtsman, skilled at painted sketches and grand paintings. The figure figure which appears on the exhibition poster has been discussed thus by

This Justice (ill. 1), from a series of four Virtues originally hanging at the Tuileries and then placed over the doors of the château de Vincennes, is not just something of a miracle – it had been considered lost since WWII but resurfaced in the castle itself just a few years ago [1] — but also a masterpiece.
Justice by Charles Meynier(1763-1832)
The size of the rooms along with the cost of transporting and insuring the works has unfortunately prevented the display of the large formats many of which are at Versailles where they are not easily available for viewing. They would have confirmed the fact that the painter is partial to monumental compositions in which his skills are put to best advantage. A walk through the Louvre with eyes looking upward is enough proof that Meynier was above all a decorator.
The Peace of Presbourg
Starting in 1801, the painter’s status, among the highest ranking in the French school at the time, is revealed by an order for a décor in the Parisian palace, The Earth Receiving from the Emperors Adrian and Justinian the Code of Roman Laws Dictated by Nature, Justice and Wisdom, for the present Salon de la Reine (in the former apartments of Anne d’Autriche). In 1814, for a Salon in the Tuileries, Meynier executed another ceiling, an Allegory of the Birth of Louis XIV, fortunately removed before the destruction of the Palace thus escaping from a fire and now preserved in the Louvre without, alas, being displayed [2]. A preliminary study, formerly in the Ciechanowiecki collection, and not seen since the sale at Drouot in 2002, is still marked “whereabouts unknown”; rediscovered recently in a private collection, it is presented in Boulogne-Billancourt despite its rather weak quality. Nevertheless, this enables the exhibition to display, also thanks to modelli, all of the compositions painted for the Louvre and the Tuileries. Another three ceilings followed the first two commissions; the former are all preserved in situ [3]. In them the author deploys a real sense of spatial dimensions with compositions evoking the art of Le Brun, a compromise between Classicism and Baroque passion.
Milon by Charles Meynier(1763-1832)
...Strangely, but this only serves to underline Meynier’s problems with medium-sized formats, he painted very few portraits at a time when the genre was in fact a principal source of income for many artists. Most of the ones he produced are displayed here. Although honourable (ill. 4), they are nevertheless far from demonstrating the quality which might be expected. This is not the case however for one of the rare known religious compositions. Unfortunately, all that can be seen is a very beautiful study of this Saint Michael Crushing the Demon (private collection).
Source Didier Rykner for Art Tribune
Bonaparte by Charles Meynier(1763-1832)
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