THOMAS COUTURE (Oise 1815 - 1879 Seine-et-Oise)

Don Pietro Nardi

Oil on canvas 26 × 30 inches (66 × 76.2 cm)
Inscribed upper left and monogrammed center left
Circa 1856

Family of the artist 1880;
Sales room, Geneva, Galerie Fischer May 1985 as Feuerbach (student of Couture);
P. Hamm, Zurich;
Private Collection, Zurich

Thomas Couture, Paris 1880, no. 80 (as Don Pietro Nardi),
See letter Fevrier 1988, Jacques Foucart

Thomas Couture was born in Senlis in 1815, and entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts at the age of sixteen where he studied under Baron Gros and Paul Delaroche.  He achieved early success with the Romans of the Decadence in 1847 and was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 1848. During the 1850s, he was recognized as an extremely gifted teacher—his students included Puvis de Chavannes, Frederick Leighton, Anselm Feuerbach and Edouard Manet. From around 1860, he lived a rather withdrawn existence in Senlis.

This oil sketch is a study for Baptism of the Prince Imperial, circa 1856, the son of Napoléon III and Queen Eugénie, which is in the collection of the musée national du Château de Compiegne. Don Pietro Nardi was a member of the Papal Legation to the baptism and is located behind Cardinal Patrizzi and Monsignor Sibour in the painting. According to Albert Boime in a letter dated December 27, 1989: “the head is sensitively depicted with the expression of absorption that marks the artist’s best works, and the scumbling technique in his best manner. I am astonished that a work of this quality by Couture escaped my attention when I was preparing my monograph.”  Ironically, this work “escaped” Professor Boime’s attention because it was in a private Swiss collection as a work of Couture’s student Anselm Feuerbach until the late 1980s.

Thomas Couture, The Baptism of the Prince Imperial, Musée national du Château de Compiègne.

Thomas Couture, The Baptism of the Prince Imperial, Musée national du Château de Compiègne.