Zacharie Felix Doumet
(Toulon 1761 - Draguignan 1818)
Pair of Italian River Landscapes with Shepherds
Gouache on paper, mounted on canvas
Both signed “Z. Felix Doumet”
37 x 45.5 cm each
Peasants and Shepherds in an Italian Landscape, two gouaches, signed “Z. F. Doumet” and “Felix Doumet,” Christie’s South Kensington, December 15, 2000, lot 148
Born in Toulon in 1761, Zacharie Félix Doumet initially trained at the sculpture workshop in the Arsenal of his home city, where his father Gaspard Doumet was foreman. Greatly marked by his experiences in the ateliers of this great naval base, he gradually oriented his activities toward painting marine subjects. When Toulon became the scene of revolutionary unrest at the end of 1793, Doumet left his home and moved to Corsica. The city, after having been handed over to the British by Girondists and royalists in September 1793, had been taken back after a six-week blockade by the army of the Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte. After three years in Corsica, Doumet spent ten years in Lisbon, where he earned his living as a draughtsman at the department of military engineering, but was also active as a landscape painter and stage costume designer. In 1806, he returned to Toulon but did not succeed in returning to employment in the Navy.
Doumet specialised in the gouache technique. The fact that only a small number of his marine paintings and landscape vedute are extant makes the present pair of Italian river landscapes with shepherds even more important. They are in a very good state of preservation and their colours are still remarkably fresh.
The two views are firmly in the tradition of the idealised (or downright fictitious) Italian Campagna landscape, which enjoyed its heyday in the eighteenth century as the very epitome of the Arcadian idyll, and was developed in the seventeenth century by the Bamboccianti, a group of painters from The Netherlands and Germany active in Rome. For painters of that time, the Roman Campagna was the highest expression of the Arcadia eulogised by the poet Virgil as the haven of peace and repose. Ekkehard Mai has summed it up as follows: “Seen before, the distant outlines of the Sabine hills and mountains, bathed in a gentle light in a secluded foreground planted with trees and bushes, these shepherds with their herds are an expression of a natural ideal projected onto Italy and attributed to rural life, particularly the life of the shepherds, which was seen as an idyllic combination of unspoiled purity and peaceful freedom,” (see exh. cat. Cologne 1991, p. 264).
Jean Pillement (1728–1808) who, in the years 1761/62 lived in Italy and spent a large part of his time in Rome, became one of France’s principal practitioners of the Arcadian landscape, the bucolic character particularly well brought out by the gouache technique he frequently used. Zacharie Félix Doumet probably became familiar with Campagna landscapes and drew upon them as a source of inner inspiration through Pillement’s works, in particular, as well as through the widely disseminated engravings of paintings. Pillement’s influence upon Doumet is unmistakable (cf. such works as Jean Pillement’s Landscape with Bridge, Montpellier, Musée Fabre, inv. no. D.66.1.6, exh. cat. Béziers 2003, p. 24, fig. 4; Jean Pillement, Morning: Hilly Landscape with a Milkmaid and a Shepherd and Evening: Landscape with a Milkmaid and a Castle Ruin on a Mountain Peak, Christie’s London, April 21, 2005, lot 45).
When one considers the small number of known works by Doumet, it is all the more interesting to find that another pair of gouaches from his hand, which appeared in the art trade in December 2000 (Peasants and Shepherds in an Italian Landscape, two gouaches, signed “Z.F. Doumet” and “Felix Doumet,” Christie’s, South Kensington, December 15, 2000, lot 148), have much in common with the present pair and, thus, provide evidence for the central significance of the motifs depicted. Almost square in format, the two gouaches sold at Christie’s almost appear to be “excerpts” from the larger, “big brother and sister” pair: one of the two shows, in a slightly modified form and from a lower-lying viewpoint, the left-hand section of one of the present gouaches in which a peasant woman is riding ahead of a shepherd and shepherdess, with their herd and a large country estate, is seen in the background at the foot of distant mountains. The second gouache, for its part, echoes the right-hand side of the other of the present two landscapes, adopting almost exactly the tree on the left, the humpback bridge in the middle ground, the staffage figure of the woman spinning, the shepherd playing his pipe, and the herd of sheep grazing on the banks of the river. The only features that were changed are certain staffage elements and the background architecture, which appears to have been taken from the other picture and, on account of the square format, has been moved over from the right into the middle.
Exh. cat. Béziers 2003
Jean Pillement. Paysagiste du XVIIIe siècle (1728–1808). Exh. cat. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Béziers, Hôtel Fabrégat, October 18 – December 21, 2003. Béziers, 2003.
Exh. cat. Cologne 1991
I Bamboccianti. Niederländische Malerrebellen im Rom des Barock. Exh. cat. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum Köln, Cologne, August 28–November 17, 1991. Milan, 1991.