Madame Charlotte du Val d’Ognes | Constance Marie Charpentier | 1801
The painting Madame Charlotte du Val d’Ognes is not signed and it always have been a mystery who authored it, which traditionally was attributed to Jacques-Louis David. Like so, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased the canvas of this art student, betting that belonged to the French artist. But in 1950s, the art curator Charles Sterling, who looked at the painting with “admiration and skepticism”, performed a detailed analysis of it and, with an incredibly subtle artistic eye, details for us some characteristics that lead him to think that was another person who painted it: the complex background, and the light coming from behind, for Sterling, weren’t typical of David. He even mentions the lack of correctness in the articulation of the wrist and shoulder of the Madame Charlotte.
That’s why Sterling looks through the catalogue of the Salon de Paris and notices that an unknown disciple of David, named Constance Marie Charpentier exposed there. He keeps with his detective work and discovers a clipping of that time which describes that a canvas with a “a young lady almost entirely in shadow” caused Charpentier to win a gold medal. And for that, he concludes that, without any doubt, the painting does not belong to David, but to his disciple.
Despite Sterling’s comments, and the fact that only few works by Charpentier survived until today, the painting Madame Charlotte du Val d’Ognes has an incomparable technique. The interior scene, the coming from the window in harmony with the pleats of the dress, create a relaxed and pure atmosphere. Charlotte has a level of details that could only result from David’s art school; and they are the ones that contrast with the flat and monotonous of the background, and provide us with a superb painting.
However, no matter the quality of the work, to confirm that David wasn’t the author, devaluated the value of the painting in USD 100.000. Still, from this humble blog, we vindicate Charpentier’s work and thank her for the magic.
Ps. I really cannot decipher what the couple we see from the window in a balcony is doing. I suspect semi voyeuristic tendencies in the portrayed art student.