Théodore Géricault, d'après Titien
La Mise au tombeau (The Entombment), vers 1810 - 1812
Although Théodore Géricault was no admirer of his art teachers Carle Vernet and Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, feeling his creativity stifled in their studios, he nonetheless followed the traditional path of copying old masters, as was then common practice in art academies. What set him apart from his peers was his highly individual choice of paintings and sculptures to copy and his free interpretation of the originals.
At the Musée Napoléon, later the Musée du Louvre, Géricault studied works from Antiquity and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Rubens, the French school and the Italian masters. The works that caught his eye all shared a powerful use of colour, like Titian’s Entombment of c. 1520. In giving his own interpretation of the Venetian master’s painting in his own, much smaller copy, he experimented with the relationship between shades of colour, testing how to apply paint in various textures and mastering the art of composition. He built the painting on colour rather than on lines, replacing Titian’s warm hues with colder ones. He studied the effects of thick paint and broad brushstrokes. In tightening the focus, monumentalising the figures and heightening the contrasts of light and shadow, he sought to imbue the scene with drama.
More than a simple copy, this is a remarkable reworking of the Italian master’s oeuvre, already showing the vigorous brushwork, sensitive, tactile paint, and powerful framing typical of Géricault’s Romantic masterpieces and showcasing his genius for colour.
Géricault rarely parted with his copies, indicating how important he saw them for his development as an artist. This painting hung in his bedroom until he died.
Frédéric Elsig (ed.), De la Renaissance au Romantisme. Peintures françaises et anglaises du Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne, Les Cahiers du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lausanne 18, 2013: n. 32.
Jean-Pierre Cuzin, in collaboration with Marie-Anne Dupuy, Copie créer. De Turner à Picasso, 300 œuvres inspirées par les maîtres du Louvre, exh. cat. Paris, Musée du Louvre, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1993: n. 144.
Sylvain Laveissière, Régis Michel et al., Géricault, exh. cat. Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1991: n. 11.