French Oil Sketches Glossary

French Oil Sketches

Glossary for French Oil Sketches

Baruch: A nobleman educated in law and a close associate and disciple of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. Baruch was Jeremiah’s secretary and is sometimes considered the author of Jeremiah’s texts.

Benedictine Order: Founded by St. Benedict (c. 480-547), who is remembered for his many acts of healing, it is the oldest western monastic Order. Benedict’s Rule of Order, on which western monastic law is based, teaches basic monastic virtues of humility, silence, chastity, and obedience. It also includes directives for daily life, including prayer, meditation, and manual labor.

Bozetto: Italian term to describe a spontaneous sketch used by the artist to establish his ideas for a composition or to clarify it. The bozetto often provides interesting insight into the creative process and may display a brilliant lightness of touch. The bozetto may relate to a finished work or be an autonomous sketch.

Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple: According to the Bible (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:14-17), Christ responded with anger when he saw that the Temple in Jerusalem had been turned into a market place by money-changers and the traders in cattle, sheep and pigeons. Wielding a whip of cords he drove them from the Temple.

Crucifixion: The martyrdom of Christ on the cross, shown either alone or with other figures.

Decemvir: One of a board of ten Roman legislators (the Decemvirate) dating from the 5th century B.C.

Ébauche: French term to describe an unfinished painting, such as LACMA’s study for The 10th of August 1792 by Baron Gérard, which is an unfinished sketch, or an ebauche of an esquisse!

Esquisse: French term to describe a sketch executed as part of the process of preparing a large work, typically used by the artist to work out his ideas for a composition.

Étude: French term used to describe a study of& a particular element in a composition – the body, or just the head or hands of a figure, or part of a landscape – such as a tree trunk. The étude was usually executed directly from nature. It could be done for a specific work or simply as an exercise. The Academic exercise called the tête d’expression trained artists to express feelings and passions through a set of established facial features. This was considered an essential lesson for successfully telling a story through painting.

Gobelins: The Gobelins Manufacture was established by Louis XIV in Paris in 1662 for the production of paintings, tapestries and furnishings for the royal French household. The term “Gobelins” became synonymous with tapestries like those made at the factory.

Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique: French painter (1780-1867) active in Paris and Rome. A student of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) who also was inspired by Raphael, Ingres represents the continuation of the classical style characterized by clearly defined forms and compositions. He made history paintings and portraits.

Isaac: See Sacrifice of Isaac.

Jeremiah: One of the four great prophets in the Old Testament. Jeremiah lived in the sixth century B.C. and was the author of the Book of Jeremiah and Lamentations.

Lazarus: See Raising of Lazarus.

Livret: The livret, the catalogue published for each Salon, included the names of the exhibitors and the titles of their works.

Marat, Jean-Paul (1743-1793): A martyr of the French Revolution who trained as a doctor but instead gained fame for his inflammatory articles that helped bring about the August 10, 1793 uprising and September massacres in Paris. He was stabbed to death in his bath by the royalist sympathizer Charlotte Corday, an event immortalized by Jacques-Louis David in a famous painting now in the Musées Royaux, Brussels.

Modello: Italian term used to describe a finished sketch that could be presented to a patron to gain or confirm his approval for a project or could serve as a model for engravers or for workshop assistants involved in the completion of a finished work.

Marie Antoinette (1755-1793): Queen of France, wife of King Louis XVI, she was the daughter of Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Francis I. Marie Antoinette was married in 1770 to the dauphin, who became king in 1774. Unhappy in her marriage, she was the subject of many rumors concerning her relationships with members of the court. At the beginning of the Revolution in October 1789 she was brought with the king from Versailles to Paris and in 1791 seized at Varennes when the royal family tried to escape. After the storming of the Tuileries palace in August 1792, the king and queen were accused of treason. Louis XVI was executed in January 1793. Marie Antoinette was tried before the Revolutionary Tribunal in October 1793. Found guilty, she was executed by guillotine October 16.

The Miraculous Draft of Fishes: According to the Bible (Luke 5:1-11), Jesus had gone on the fishing boat of his disciple Peter to preach to the people on shore. Later he told Peter and the other fishermen to drop their nets. Despite their expectations, their nets came back overflowing. Christ reassured the fishermen that they should not be afraid, that they would soon be catching men.

Bernard de Montfaucon, Monuments de la monarchie française: Published between 1729 and 1733, the monumental five-volume history of France during the Middle Ages was a favorite source for history painters.

Napoleonic Empire: The period between 1804, when Napoleon declared himself emperor and was crowned by the pope in an elaborate ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, and the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1814. At its height, the Napoleonic Empire, France controlled most of Europe.

Nave: The nave is the main part of the church located between the side aisles and extending from the primary entrance to the choir.

Oil Sketch: Typically a work ranging in size from small to large executed in oil in preparation for a finished work, an oil sketch could also be an autonomous work. The different kinds of oil sketches are described by French and Italian terms defined separately in this glossary: bozetto, ébauche, esquisse, etude, modello, and riccordo.

Plein-air: Plein-air painting refers to the practice of painting in oils, usually on paper, while the painter sits outdoors before the motif. Landscape artists, who traditionally had sketched only in pencil, began to make oil sketches and finished paintings directly from nature during the late 1770s. By about 1830 the practice was almost universally accepted by landscape artists.

Prix de Rome: An annual financial prize awarded between 1666 and 1968 by the French Académie Royale and its successor, the École des Beaux-Arts, to the most outstanding students of history painting and ideal sculpture. The prize enabled the winner to study antique and Renaissance masterpieces in Rome for three to five years while housed at the Académie Français in Rome.

Raising of Lazarus: According to the Bible (John 11:1-44), word was sent to Jesus that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary Magdalene, was dying. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus went to the cave where he was buried, ordered the stone to be removed from the mouth of the cave and called out for Lazarus to come forth. The dead man rose and came forward still wrapped in funeral cloths, which then fell off.

Reign of Terror (a.k.a. “the Terror”): The period following the abolition of the French monarchy in 1793 and leading to the establishment of the Directoire and a bicameral legislature under a new constitution in late 1795. During the Terror, a dictatorship established by the Convention operated through the Committee of Public Safety, the Committee of General Security, and numerous agencies such as the Revolutionary Tribunal to govern the country and wage war. During this time, great numbers of people were arrested and executed, including Marie Antoinette, the queen of France, wife of Louis XVI.

Riccordo: Italian term used to describe a reduced copy of a larger painting made by a painter as a visual record of his work. In at least one well-documented case, the painter Jean Restout made riccordi of his own paintings as guidelines for those who would be given the task of restoring them.

Sacrifice of Isaac: A story in the Old Testament (Genesis 22) considered a prefiguration of God’s sacrifice of Christ. As a test of faith, God commanded Abraham to slay his only son, Isaac. Abraham was about to perform the sacrifice when, at the last moment, an angel intervened and provided a lamb to take Isaac’s place.

Salon: A large, almost annual exhibition of contemporary painting and sculpture in Paris, the Salon was supported by the French government and reflected official taste. The Salon originated as an institution in the mid-eighteenth century when it was held in the Grand Salon of the Louvre and continued into the twentieth century. Originally only members of the French Academy were allowed to exhibit at the Salon, but after the French Revolution, the Salon was opened to all artists, French and foreign.

Scènes galantes (gallant subjects): Slightly risqué, teasing scenes that depict the intrigues and snares of the game of love.

The Terror: See Reign of Terror.

Typology: The practice, originating in the early Christian Church, of pairing stories from the New Testament with those from the Old Testament that are considered to be prefigurations.