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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Louis de Caullery

Colosso di Rodi, after 1570, Louis de Caullery (cropped slightly).
Although artists today often spend exorbitant amounts of time applying final touches to their work, forever (it seems) trying to achieve perfection; very few would even consider starting over on a fresh canvas attempting to perfect the same scene. However, artists some five-hundred years ago quite often, if not routinely, did just that. Of course, we'll never know if their doing so was a search for perfection causing them to paint several different versions of the same scene, or simply an economic factor in the art market back then that has since largely faded away. Few artists today paint copies of their earlier works. I've done so two or three times but that was several decades ago. Most artists turn to Giclee prints when a particular painting becomes particularly popular. One artist who seems to have made something of a habit of painting several versions of the same scene was the Flemish painter Louis de Caullery.
A firework display at the Castel San' Angelo, Rome,
Louis de Caullery. Here you see how the term,
"Roman Candles" derived.
So far as I can tell, de Caullery's Colosso di Rodi (top), now in the Louvre, is his only attempt at that subject. It probably wasn't all that popular, or the artist decided he could do no better in creating a second version. Whatever the case, when it came to crucifixions (below) and Roman fireworks displays (above), I've had to check carefully to make sure I didn't post the same painting twice. It's especially interesting to note in his crucifixions where figures are similar (sometimes identical) and where he experimented with different poses and compositional arrangements.
It would be interesting to know in what order these
paintings were completed, but unfortunately,
there are virtually no dates associated with any
de Caullery's paintings.
Louis de Caullery was born in Caulery, which is a small town near Cambrai in what is now northern France. He was born "around" 1580. I was amused at one of my sources dating de Caullery's Colosso de Rodi (top) as being done "after 1570" which would indicated the art historian was sure it was done sometime after the artist was born. I guess I should be thankful for that modest tidbit; it was the only date listed for any of de Caullery's works. For an artist of his importance and stature in Flemish painting, we know surprisingly little about the man. We do know, thanks to Rembrandt, what he looked like, though (below).

Portrait of Louis de Caullery, 1632, Rembrandt van Rijn
What little we do know about de Caullery boils down to the fact that he once lived in Antwerp and that he once visited Italy (or at least Rome and Venice). Virtually everything else we know about Louis de Caullery derives from studying his paintings. His time in Rome is chronicled in his paintings of fireworks over the Castle San Angelo, while his time in Venice can be seen in his Carnival and Bull Fighting at Piazza San Marco (below). I've been to both locales, and his architectural renderings are reasonably accurate for their time.

Carnival and Bull Fighting at Piazza San Marco, Louis de Caullery
Quite a number of de Caullery's paintings contain the words "elegant company" in their titles. When we think of genre painting of any nationality we tend to think of middle-class or peasant depictions. De Caullery's painting are some of the earliest Flemish genre paintings, indicating that genre did not originate with rural peasantry but with royal pleasantry. De Caullery also seems to have been in love with monumental architecture such as his Tower of Babel (bottom), and grand palaces as seen in his fictional The Gardens and Courtyard of a Renaissance Palace (below). I should note that the title of the latter work is questionable since the term "Renaissance" did not come into become common usage until the 19th century.

The Gardens and Courtyard of a Renaissance Palace, Louis de Caullery
The Tower of Babel, Louis de Caullery


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