(Honfleur, 1812 – Nemours, 1854)
The knight of Bois-Guilbert going to the castle of Cedric the Saxon (father of Ivanhoe)
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated ‘1837’ lower right
67 x 100 cm
This Norman painter was a student of Paul Delaroche, which probably explains his taste for historical theme painting. He presented the Grand Prix de Rome for painting in 1840, and he came second behind Brisset, the subject is to illustrate Caius Gracchus; he persevered in 1841 and was the winner this time with The Joseph gown brought to Jacob. The painting (1.13 x 1.46 m) is exposed at the National School of Fine Arts of Paris, while the Musée Magnin in Dijon houses a painted study. Lebouys (or Lebouy, both spellings exist) exhibited at the Salon two paintings devoted to Marie Antoinette: Queen Marie Antoinette in the Conciergerie (No. 1225), and Kindness trait of Queen Marie-Antoinette (No. 1226) ; he also exhibited at the Salon of 1853 (3rd Medal) The harbor of Havre, taken from the place of Honfleur, while he was residing at 3, rue Mazarine in Paris. But Lebouys is especially famous in the religious painting: thus we find a painting in the town hall of Orleans, the death of St. Paul the Hermit, executed in Rome around 1842 to 1843 under the direction of Jean-Victor Schnetz, an Assumption realised in 1841 preserved in the town hall of Monteroux, two paintings (ordered in 1850) in the Calvary chapel in the church of Saint Nicolas du Chardonnet (Our Lady of sorrows), a painting in the sacristy of the church of Notre Dame des Champs in Montparnasse. In the mythological register, the Princeton Museum of Art keeps a Bacchus and Ariadne, whose composition approximates somewhat from our painting.
Lebouys had a daughter, Catherine, born in Rome around 1847, who made an interesting career as a violinist.
‘Ivanhoe’, the medieval historical novel by Walter Scott raised, soon after its release in 1820, the interest of the artists of the new generation of Romantics, who saw an alternative to traditional subjects. Leon Cogniet painted in 1828 Rebecca kidnapped by Bois-Guilbert, now preserved in the Wallace Collection in London, in a rather romantic vein; Edouard Pingret also realized a representative version of Rebecca in 1827, in a ‘troubadour’ style; about Eugène Delacroix, he had in 1823 produced a depiction of Rebecca and injured Ivanhoe before painting The kidnapping of Rebecca in 1846 (the Met in New York), or Rebecca kidnapped by Templars in 1856 (Louvre).
Our painting is one of the first episodes of the novel. A group of ten Norman knights cross the immense forest of central England between Doncaster and Sheffield; led by Aymer (the Prior rather ribald of the Abbey of Jorvaulx) and the Knight Brian de Bois-Guilbert (a monk soldier commander of the Templars), they go by road to the castle of Cedric de Rotherwood ( Cedric the Saxon), the father of Ivanhoe. They are preparing to ask directions to the two figures in the foreground, Saxons at the Cedric service. To the left is the swineherd said Gurth, while his companion Wamba, dressed in red, is the clown of Cedric. The weather is stormy, and the two men began to gather the herd of pigs.
Lebouys shows in this painting his belonging to the illustrators painters of historical literature. He demonstrated a real talent as a colourist, with very probable collaboration Jules Coignet (1798-1860) for the landscape, recognizable in the treatment of the tree and sky. The two men had perhaps met in Honfleur, where Coignet was for example in 1831.We know another painting done with four hands, Coignet signed with the date 1835 and Lebouys with the date 1837 passed on sale at Christie’s (26/09/1997) entitled European Travellers ambushed in a forest.