|Blind Man's Bluff, 1790, Jacques Henri Sablet.
Click on photos to enlarge.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
The Sablet Brothers, Francois and Jacques
For those who really are art experts (and whom seldom write blogs) nothing is more challenging than authenticating the work of obscure artists who happen to be blood relatives. Jacques Henri Sablet and Jean Francois Sablet were brothers, the latter being the older of the two. Now, here's where it gets tricky. They were born within four years of one another--1745 and 1749. The came from Lausanne, (western) Switzer-land. They both had the same father, Jacob Sablet, who was a gilder (as in gold leaf), and a picture dealer. He trained both his sons to be painters. Once he'd taught them all he knew about painting (which was probably precious little), he sent each one off to Paris to study at the Academie of Painting and Sculpture. There they both studied under the same instructor, Joseph-Marie Vien.
When Vien was named the director of the French Academy in Rome, both the Sablet brothers followed him there. They each hoped to become a history painters (the highest calling in art at the time). However, lacking the years of training many other French painters could boast, especially in competition with the likes of Jacques Louis David and Pierre Peyron, neither brother could land a single commission. So, both took up painting portraits, genre, and landscapes. Needless to say, this is the stuff that makes art experts go bald (from ripping out their hair). Some even resort to an attitude of "what the held difference does it make) and simply lump the paintings of both artists into one oeuvre.
That was not the case with the Sablet brothers. There are enough quite subtle differences in their work to tell them apart (though not without occasional errors down through the centuries). Jacques Sablet tended to paint more intellectual content such as Roman Elegy, (above), from 1791. Francois Sablet preferred to paint portraits of middle-class clients and their children as seen in the Crucy children (below). He was modestly more successful than his younger brother in that his prices were likely as middle-class as his clients.
Around 1793, both Sablet brothers left Rome to return to Paris where they became entwined in the political intricacies of the French Revolution. They wisely aligned themselves with the Bonaparte family. The younger brother, Jacques even managed to land the plum commission of painting Latizia Bonaparte, Napoleon's mother (left). The best Jean Francois could do was a portrait of an unknown (and much prettier) female art student (below, right).
The younger brother, Jacques, died in 1803 at the age of fifty-two. Jean Francois died in 1819 at the age of seventy-four. I guess that's one way to tell the two apart.
Posted by Jim Lane at 12:01 AM