Following the huge critical success of Corot's 1850 Salon entry, La danse des nymphes (fig. 1), which inspired critics hail Corot as the greatest landscape painter of the age, and claim that La Danse des nymphes was the most beautiful landscape of 1850, (Philippe de Chennevières, Lettres sur l'art francais en 1850, Paris, 1850, p. 75), it is not surprising that Corot's choice for the Exposition Universelle of 1855 was a painting titled Ronde D'Amours: Lever du Soleil, which depicted a similar mythological theme. Corot's earliest biographer, Alfred Robaut, thought the two paintings so similar that he chose to illustrate them side-by-side in his catalogue raisonné (nos. 1061 and 1062), and featured each with larger than usual illustrations.
Seen together, these two works represent an important shift in Corot's painting technique from his more classically inspired Salon entries of the 1830s and 1840s, works that have their origins in Poussin and Claude, to the rest of his career. In other words, it is in the 1850s that Corot's brushwork gradually becomes softer and more delicate; his palette more nuanced. This new style of painting would reach its culmination in the early 1870s in Corot's idyllic views of Ville d'Avray.
Even though there is a shift in Corot's painting style in the 1850s, his choice of mythological subject matter was not something new. Diana and Silenus had already appeared as central figures in his Salon entries of the 1830s; this is where the nine putti and young satyr in Ronde d'Amours can trace their ancestry. Now, several putti and one baby satyr dance, climb trees and play games in a sunlit sylvan setting dotted with wild flowers. Corot's brushwork is evident everywhere - from the graceful lines of the branches of the trees, to the silvery grey-green application of paint used for their leaves. This is Corot's poetic vision of an Elysian world at its best.
One of the earliest owners of Ronde d'Amours was the wealthy Pittsburgh industrialist, Andrew Mellon. Like his contemporary, Henry Clay Frick, Mellon assembled an extensive art collection during his lifetime. Mellon's collection was known for its important paintings from the Barbizon School and he was known to have expanded the collection between 1902 and 1904, with expensive works by Troyon and Daubigny and two paintings by Corot, including Ronde d'Amours.
We would like to thank Martin Deiterle and Claire Lebeau for kindly confirming the authenticity of this lot.
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