Monday, May 14, 2012

The Missing Lecomte

I have a question for the Group Mind. Does anyone know what became of this painting? 



What I know so far is that it was painted by the French orientalist Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ and was exhibited at the Salon of 1872.

The title of the painting is "Les Porteurs de Mauvaises Nouvelles," translated as “Bearers of Ill Tidings.” It has also been called ""The Slaying of the Unpropitious Messengers." 


The scene is set in Egypt at night. It is based on an episode from Le Roman de la momie by Théophile Gautier. A 1908 gallery guide from the Musée du Luxembourg describes the scene this way: "This Pharoah, defiant of fate, has slain the messengers of misfortune; his autocratic mind cannot acknowledge failure of his plans. His hopes are all fixed on the distant horizon towards which he looks so intently."

I wonder if the original is lost or in a private collection, because it doesn't seem to show up on the internet in anything but old reproductions. 


Craig Elliott has pointed out that Frank Frazetta was inspired by one of the fallen figures when he painted "Conan the Destroyer."

Frazetta would have learned about such academic painters from his friend Roy Krenkel, who was an ardent collector at a time when such reproductions were hard to find. 
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23 comments:

Torbjörn Källström said...

Ok. So what are we to make of this? Homage or just filthy plagiarism? :P

James Gurney said...

Torb: I can't judge him for this because I've done the same, especially when I was just starting out. It does point out that in the age of the internet, nothing goes unnoticed.

I did a blog post reflecting on borrowing/ swiping / homages: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2007/09/borrowing-part-2.html

Tom Hart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Hart said...

I deleted my earlier comment on this, because it sounded a bit too snipey.

I generally like and admire Frazetta. I am surprised, though, that his appropriation was so direct. It is, in my mind, a bit of a different situation (i.e. less of an issue), than if this figure had been the primary figure, or a more prominant part of the composition.

etc, etc said...

According to this article, "is actually still kept at the Tunisian Ministry of Cultural Affairs."

http://www.latribunedelart.com/le-musee-cache-de-la-republique-article002100.html

etc, etc said...

Torb,
"Quoting" a single figure was a perfectly acceptable practice of the classical tradition that Lecomte was a part of, provided it was part of an original "invention" and "disposition", as clearly it was in this case (i.e the overall compositions are very different). I think it's safe to assume Lecomte would be flattered.

lyon said...

I think "etc, etc" found it. Here is link to the article in english, towards the bottom of the page:

http://www.thearttribune.com/France-s-hidden-museum.html

It says:

"This painting, long thought to have disappeared (and noted as such in Roger Diederen’s study on Lecomte de Nouÿ – see article in French) is in fact still held at the Tunisian Ministry of Cultural Affairs."

=shane white= said...

I'm not sure why people are surprised by Frazetta's "inspired" approach. He reproduced and in many cases improved interpretations of Burroughs passages illustrated by J.Allen St. John and Roy Krenkel himself.

I think it speaks more to our desire to believe genius comes from within. That it can be pure but that's really impossible. We are the sum of our experiences.

He's as fallible as anyone else, but he did wonderful stuff to make us believe different.

=s=

Craig Elliott said...

As you probably remember too, Shane, Frank was pretty touchy about this sort of thing. I would never have brought it up with him, having discovered it, but I never thought any less of him for it. Now that he is gone, I figure he can't get mad at me for showing people... :)

J. R. Stremikis said...

jim --
as others have suggested above, why not contact the Ministry of Cultural Affairs directly, and ask them?
--
online contact form is here:
http://www.diplomatie.gov.tn/index.php?id=353&L=2

Bill M. said...

The painting used to hang in the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, when the Luxembourg existed as a separate museum with a permanent collection. Author Julien Green writes about it in volume 1 of his autobiography ("Green Paradise"; first published in French as "Partir avant le jour" in 1963). The painting made a huge impression on him.

James Gurney said...

Etc, Bill, Lyon, and J.R. -- Thanks for tracking it down the Lecomte. My interest in its whereabouts is only idle curiosity (and also I'd love to see a better reproduction of it). Maybe a scholar or someone preparing an art book will pick up the thread you've given here.

etc, etc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
etc, etc said...

The article says the painting is "linked to the history of decolonization", so I'd bet there is some political machinations and stonewalling involved, and that explains the dearth of recent images. Looks like the Tunisians may have learned a thing or two from the French about art acquisition...sacre bleu!

Craig Banholzer said...

Thanks for another remarkable post. Lecomte's painting has haunted me ever since I encountered it in Henry Rankin Poore's book on pictorial composition, where the name of the painting's creator is not mentioned. Frazetta's painting was hanging recently at the Society of Illustrators, side-by-side with a photo of the painting in its original state. As was his habit, he re-worked and improved it, years after it had served its original function as a piece of cover art.

David J Teter said...

Frazetta has always been one of my favorites and no less now. This is one of his best paintings.
I don't see it any different than a singer or band doing the occasional cover song. Their work still stands as their own.
Inspiration can come from many sources.

parisdreamtime.com said...

Dear James, always appreciating your skillful art and posts. La peinture de Lecomte est au Musée d'Orsay à Paris :)
http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/index-of-works/notice.html?no_cache=1&nnumid=078173&cHash=3537b635ed
bonjour de Paris
Andrea

Anonymous said...

Huh, Andrea, it isn't: "Lieu de conservation:
ministère des Affaires culturelles, Tunis, Tunisie"
The Lecomte is still in Tunis! It never came back ...
Read this: http://www.latribunedelart.com/le-musee-cache-de-la-republique-article002100.html

here is a *better* pic: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/index-of-works/resultat-collection.html?no_cache=1&zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1%5Bzoom%5D=0&tx_damzoom_pi1%5BxmlId%5D=078173&tx_damzoom_pi1%5Bback%5D=en%2Fcollections%2Findex-of-works%2Fresultat-collection.html%3Fno_cache%3D1%26zsz%3D9

Rafael Kayanan said...

A similar figure based on the second fallen male on the Lecomte can be found at the bottom left of Frazetta's kneeling Kublai Khan plate. http://tinyurl.com/czudoxl

mrussoart said...

In the Frazetta's documentary he didn't say with all letters that he never, ever used photography as reference? That he loved photography but it had nothing to do with his painting job?

Virginia Llorca said...

Let us agree to call it homage out of respect. Done in Disney movies, it is a great source of additional entertainment.

Mark Nunes said...

Frazetta would probably say he did it subconsciously. He claimed he never swiped except if he did it as a homage or something. It could be one of few exceptions but everyone has a different kind of memory and he probably had more of a photographic type. People have noticed other instances of almost perfect copies he's done of other works which he really wouldn't need to do if you think about it. He could have easily changed the angle if he were swiping.

Mark Nunes said...

It's a horrible pain to find an image at the angle I need for a given picture. Art students are almost always encouraged to draw from life or reference since really makes the artwork much more beautiful. However when you draw from imagination it helps unify the picture since it's easy to leave out of the picture what you haven't thought of.