“ Le Moineau de Lesbie ”
Painting exposed at the Salon of 1861
Signed C. Brun and dated 1860
Oil on canvas
Dimensions with frame : Height : 116 cm (45.7 in.) ; Width : 144 cm (56.7 in.)
Dimensions without frame : Height : 85 cm (33.5 in.) ; Width : 118 cm (46.5 in.)
Atrium with a rich Pompeian decor in which a young woman lying on a bed is playing with a sparrow, not paying attention to the man sat at her feet.
This painting is a major work of art of C. G. Brun, well-know for the precision of his technic, by the elegance of its composition, the pureness of the colors, the refinement of the touch and the expressivity of the characters.
This rare intimist scene in a interior decorated in the Pompeian style perfectly illustrates the taste of the time for the discovery of the villas of Pompei, thanks to the archeological excavations of the 18th century and the books published about them. To arrange its interiors based on the models of the Pompeian villas is then a trend that the most important people of that time will follow, as the Prince Napoléon, cousin of the Emperor Napoléon III, who orders the construction of a splendid Pompeian villa on the Avenue Montaigne, of which nothing remains but a few pictures and a painting by Gustave Boulanger, dated 1861 and called Répétition du « Joueur de flûte » et de la « Femme de Diomède » chez le Prince Napoléon.
This painting illustrates the poem « Fletus passeris Lesbiae » from the collection « Carmina » written by Catulle (87-54 av. J.-C.) : in his work, the author, in love with Lesbie, a married woman living in Rome, puts on a show a sparrow as the main center of interest of its mistress who neglects her suitor.
This theme has been represented many times in painting, like the version by Raphaël Poggi exposed at the Salon of 1865, or Lawrence Alma-Tadema in 1866 or Edward Poynter in 1907.
Painting exposed, as reference number 467, at the Salon of 1861 on the picture rail of the Palais des Champs-Elysées
Charles Guillaume Brun, born in Montpellier in 1825 and died in Paris in 1908, was registered in 1847 at the Paris Beaux-Arts school, where he studied under the direction of François- Edouard Picot (1786-1868) and of Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889). His participation in the Paris Salon began in 1851 with genre subjects (Young girl doing her morning prayer), but as soon as 1853, he regularly sent Orientalist scenes, located in Algeria (Prayer in 1859, Rendez-vous in Constantine in 1861, Moorish woman in 1867), strongly architecturally designed, animated with sharp contrasts in lighting effects and showing a fine sensitivity while modulating his grays. In addition to numerous landscapes of Algeria, he was also known as military portraitist, painting accurately uniforms, and he naturally became official painter to the Ministry of War, where he worked with Alexandre Cabanel. He was also the author of decoration of churches, including that of Villemomble (Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, 1857). Brun became a member of the French Artists society from 1883.
– 1820-1920 – Les Petits Maitres De La Peinture, G. Schurr, Les Editions de l’amateur, Paris, 1975, t.V, p.32.
– Dictionnaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs, Bénézit, éd. Gründ, 1976, vol. II, p.887.
– Hall des sculptures et cimaises du salon de 1861/Photographies par Richebourg, Pierre-Ambroise Richebourg, 1861, vue 17
– Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, gravure, lithographie et architecture des artistes vivants exposés au palais des Champs-Elysées le 1er mai 1861, Charles de Mourgues Frères, Imprimeurs des musées impériaux, 1861