JEAN-MICHEL MOREAU, called MOREAU LE JEUNE (1741-1814)
AN AUDIENCE WATCHING A NAUTICAL PERFORMANCE,
POSSIBLY A FÊTE ORGANISED BY THE DUC D'ORLEANS
Bears dealer's stamp l.l. (L.4461)
Watercolour with pen & ink and black chalk on paper
17.5 x 24.5 cm
With Jean de Cayeux, Galerie Cailleux, Paris (Lugt 4461)
Galerie Cailleux, Paris & Geneva, Des Monts et des Eaux, 1980-81, no. 20;
Galerie Cailleux, Paris, Le Dessin en Couleurs 1720 - 1830, 5 June - 13 July 1984, no. 35
Jean de Cayeux wrote in the catalogue note for the present work, when it was exhibited in 1984, that the subject is believed to be a Fête which took place in Saint-Ouen in 1784, organised by the Duc d'Orléans. There exists a study for this work in black chalk, which was once attributed to Augustin de Saint-Aubin, which is a preliminary study for our sheet (location presently unknown).
Moreau le Jeune drew at least one further nautical-themed celebration, La Fête de la Fédération, le 14 juillet 1790, on a much larger scale but in just pen & black ink, with that work offered at Artcurial, Paris, 09.06.2021, Lot 45.
Jean-Michel Moreau, known as Moreau Le Jeune to distinguish him from his older brother Louis-Gabriel, was born in Paris. He studied first as a pupil of Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain, a French painter and engraver who produced Italianate capricci in much the same manner as the other followers of Hubert Robert, who was appointed as the first director of the Saint Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts in 1757. Moreau accompanied his teacher to the Russian capital, assisting him by teaching drawing at the Academy there for a brief period, returning to Paris just two years later following the unexpected death of Le Lorrain in 1759.
Despite this early setback, Moreau quickly found work for the engraver Jacques-Philippe Lebas, for whom he produced reproductive drawings of both contemporary paintings and Old Master drawings for engravers to work from and study etching. During this period, Moreau also provided drawings for the Comte de Caylus' Recueil d’antiquités, an important and ambitious multi-volume series which was one of the most widely-read texts on antiquities of the 18th century. The majority of his work for Lebas was illustrating books, including the works of Ovid, Boccaccio, Molière, and Rousseau. He initially received his first commissions from the publisher Laurent François Prault. In 1760 alone, he created the frontispieces for several works including Prault's editions of Pastor fido, Rime di Petrarca, the Decameron, and Dante's Divine Comedy. In addition, Moreau produced vignettes for Hérault's Histoire de France.
In 1770, Moreau succeeded Charles-Nicholas Cochin as the chief Dessinateur des Menus Plaisirs du Roi, having been recommended to the post by Cochin, which led to his creating a series of engravings celebrating the marriage of the Dauphin and his later coronation as Louis XVI. The King was evidently impressed by Moreau, appointing him Dessinateur et Graveur du Cabinet du Roi in 1781, which brought with it lodgings in the Palais de Louvre. It was in this role that Moreau came both to design the court's plethora of festivities and record them in presentation drawings (the present work being of a comparable theme).
Moreau was received as a full member of the Académie Royale surprisingly late in his career, in 1789; however, unlike many of his peers, the Revolution did not hinder his career (it should be mentioned that he in fact supported it, despite his position within the court). He continued to produce illustrations for books, and was appointed a professor at the newly reformed écoles centrales in 1797. Clearly a remarkably diplomatic person, Moreau even thrived under the Bourbon restoration, taking up his former Royal post once more, shortly before his death.