Lebrun Liquidates a Second Time

Catalogue d’Objets rares et curieux, Provenant du Cabinet & Fond de Marchandises de M. Lebrun; par Cessation de Commerce…Par J.B.P Lebrun…La vente s’en fera le lundi 29…

2 p.l., 112 pp. 8vo (220 x 140 mm.), cont. green paper wrappers bound in late 19th-cent. red sheep-backed marbled boards, spine gilt, t.e.g. Paris: Lebrun & Balbastre; London: Christi [sic]; Brussels: de Roy; Amsterdam: Coquelers, 1806.

The uncommon catalogue of this momentous liquidation sale marking the “autumn” of the preeminent Parisian art dealer of the time. It provides invaluable insight into the stock of one of the most important dealers in Europe. A contemporary annotator has added the names of buyers and the prices throughout. Due to the escalation of the Napoleonic Wars, Lebrun (1748-1813) found it increasingly onerous to conduct an international business as he had in decades past. “The impact of the growing crisis in the Napoleonic art market fully hit Lebrun in 1806. It was not only the year of the Continental Blockade, but also the moment when most of Europe had become engulfed in the Napoleonic wars. In Paris, there were simply too few buyers left in the market to sustain Lebrun’s business. For the first time in memorable history, the problems were on the demand side of the business, not on that of supply.”– Darius A. Spieth, Revolutionary Paris and the Market for Netherlandish Art, p. 237.

In the preface, Lebrun reluctantly announces his intention to downsize (in trans.): “After forty years of many works and much activity, I arrive at the moment where everyone has to reckon with oneself. Perhaps I could have chosen a more proper time for the sale of so many rare and curious things; however, unusual circumstances did not allow me to wait…I give up the pleasure of my Cabinet but not without surrendering the desire to write on painting and to compile the Catalogues of amateurs who requested of me, since it is impossible for the man conditioned to work, to remain in idleness. I recommend, to the rest, this Collection to those who love and cultivate the arts; I hope that here they will find, each in their own way, pieces of taste and of great curiosity, proportionate to their capabilities, and that their name inscribed in my Catalogue will be for them an expression of my gratitude.”

The catalogue then describes 440 lots in total: lots 1-158 paintings (by Carracci, Correggio, Guido Reni, L. Giordano, Canaletto, Teniers, Rubens, Jordaens, Porbus, Mieris, Berchem, Wijnants, Lairesse, Breenbergh, Hals, Ruysdael, J. Steen, Vermeer, Le Nain, E. Le Sueur, S. Bourdon, C. Lebrun, Coypel, Watteau, Chardin, C. Vanloo, J. Vernet, Greuze, Lagrenée, H. Fragonard, Vallayer-Coster, etc.); lots 159-253 drawings (by Titian, Raphael, A. & L. Carracci, Panini, A. van Dyck, L. van Leyden, N. Poussin, Bouchardon, H. Robert, Vigée-Lebrun, etc.); lots 254-279 prints; lots 280-440 include sculptures in terra cotta, ivory, marble, and bronze, Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman antiquities, minerals, cameos, porcelain from China and Japan, shells, various pieces of furniture, etc. Lebrun dealt in just about everything and his competitors were clearly keen to pick apart the remains of his once dominant dealership.

It is entirely possible that Lebrun himself or one of his associates marked up this copy. In a number of instances, they have written “Payé” to acknowledge that a bidder had paid for the lot. Elsewhere, lots are noted as “Retiré” (bought-in) and “Non vendu.” Lebrun’s competitors, such as Guillaume Jean Constantin, Paillet, Lenglier, Regnault, and Perignon, are mentioned frequently in the marginal notes. Other successful bidders include Didot, Bonnemaison, Dufourny, Lerouge, Potrelle, Giroux, Robert, “Le Breton,” Badouin, etc. Even Lebrun’s ex-wife, the painter Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, participated in the auction, purchasing a Le Nain portrait of a cardinal (lot 103).

Fine copy, with incredibly valuable annotations establishing provenance and prices. With the rare schedule of sale at end. Ownership inscription on the upper wrapper of Marcel Nicolle (1871-1934), curator at the Louvre and art historian, and stamp of the Bibliothèque Heim on verso of title.

❧ Lugt 7152. Oxford Art online–“Le Brun became one of the leading art dealers in Paris responsible for at least 172 auctions both before and after the French Revolution. He purchased the hôtel Lubert in 1778 and added a second building designed by Jean-Arnaud Raymond in 1784–5, which became the hub of his business activities and served as the site of Mme Vigée Le Brun’s artistic and literary salon. There he built a skylit saleroom (which became the model of the new Grande Galerie in the Louvre), a separate long gallery for his library and painting collection, and a private showroom upstairs. Between 1771 and 1813 Le Brun conducted some of the pre-eminent auctions.”.

Price: $4,500.00

Item ID: 6646