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Thomas Blanchet (Paris 1614-Lyon 1689), The Finding of Moses. The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

Thomas Blanchet (Paris 1614-Lyon 1689)

The Finding of Moses

Traces of black chalk, pen and brown ink, brush and grey wash, heightened with white on buff paper, 233 x 316 mm., layed down. Inscribed on the recto of the old mount at lower left in graphite: “pousin,” at the right: “Z,” and above this, in ink: “P 131.” On the verso of the old mount, in different inks” “N. Pousin,” “BP 38;” in graphite: “N. 15, 125, 205/308 [?],” Thomas Blanchet P.D. [=Peter Dreyer];” in blue pencil, “14.”

The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

The nervous pen line and the abstract description of figures and drapery, and, above all, the concentration on the figures’ ponderation and gesture, are characteristic of Blanchet. One could compare the drawing for the Abbaye de Dames de St. Pierre in Lyon (Galactéros-de Boissier, no. D. 12), or D. 35 for a funeral monument, and D 96, The Death of Dido, all in Stockholm. The placement of small figures arranged in a tight group within an expansive classical landscape is also typical, particularly of the work he did during his years in Rome (1647-53). One may compare his Time and Truth or Christ and the Woman of Canaan, versions of which are in the collections of Alfred S. Karlsen, Beverly Hills, and of Michel Descours, Lyon (Galactéros-de Boissier,  no. P. 154; P 72 and 73).

The present drawing is close to another drawing of the subject, signed (?) “Thomas Blanchet in. et fecit Lugduni” in the Louvre (Inv. 23 792, Galactéros-de Boissier no. D. 48). This is a preparatory study for a painting, also in the Louvre, representing The Finding of Moses (P. 56), which “pourrait appartenir à la période charnière entre Rome et Lyon” (Galactéros-de Boissier, p. 340). The project should have  been executed in Lyon according to the inscription on the drawing. The composition of both the drawing and the painting differ from this sheet in the reversal of the figure group and the larger scale of the figures in relation to the landscape. Galactéros-de Boissier has observed that Blanchet abandoned the diminutive scale of figures in relation to a grand landscape, just when he went to Lyon from Rome. The present drawing, then, is likely to be an earlier treatment of the Finding of Moses, in which he still retained his earlier manner. The basic grouping of the figures is sufficiently close to the Louvre version, however, so that it remains plausible that the present drawing was part of the same project.

This drawing is particularly close to Poussin and reveals knowledge of his painting of the same subject, now in the Louvre (Inv. 7275; A. Blunt, The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin: a Critical Catalogue, London, 1967, no. 12) or drawings preparatory for it, such as the sheet in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, KdZ 24128 (see M. Winner in Vom späten Mittelalter bis zu Jacques Louis David: Neuerworbene und neubestimmte Zeichnungen in Berliner Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin 1973, p. 90, no. 154).

Provenance:  Nikos Dhikéos, Lyon, stamped at lower right (not in Lugt)

Related bibliography: Jennifer Montagu, “Thomas Blanchet: some Drawings in the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm,” GB-A LXVI, 1158-1159 (1965), pp. 105-114; Lucie Galactéros-de Boissier, “Dessins de Thomas Blanchet dans les collections publiques françaises,” La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France XXV, 5-6, (1975), pp. 323-331; Lucie Galactéros-de Boissier, Thomas Blanchet (1614-1689), Paris, 1991.


Isidoro Bianchi: Painter, Stuccatore, and Architect