Shepherd in the Roman Campagna
Nicolas Didier Boguet (1755-1839)

Shepherd in the Roman Campagna, 1810

Oil on canvas, H. 1.60 m; W. 1.12 m

Signed, located and dated lower center: F. Boguet. F. Roma. 1810.

Provenance: Private collection, France.

Alongside Valenciennes, Dunouy and Bidauld, Boguet is part of the first generation of neo-classic landscape painters. Among them, only Boguet spent his entire career in Italy. After training as a history painter in Paris, he arrived in Rome in 1783 and dedicated himself to landscape painting. He quickly built himself a strong reputation and was commissioned by the city’s well-established international aristocracy.

At the beginning of the 19th century, most painters travelling through Rome tried to meet Boguet. Michallon, Bodinier and Schnetz were among these travellers. Boguet made friends with intellectuals and writers, such as Thorvaldsen, Chateaubriand and Stendhal.

When Ingres was in Florence in 1820, he wrote to Granet who was among Boguet’s close friends: “I saw once again with great pleasure one of my preferences, the beautiful picture of the countess of Albany, by our forefather Mr Boguet. I ask you to express to him my pleasure, as well as my attachment and my best wishes for his health, that I hope to be good, in his castle of Albano.” (Unpublished letter quoted by Marie-Madeleine Aubrun, « Nicolas-Didier Boguet (1755-1839). ‘Un Emule du Lorrain’ », Gazette des Beaux-Arts, June 1974, p. 322.)

Having spent all his life in Italy, Boguet was, along with other European landscape painters – Fabre, Granet and Ingres, but also Gauffier, Hackert, Ducros, Chauvin, Wallis or Simon Denis – an essential link in landscape painters’ networks, assuring the transmission and the perpetuity of pictorial research and technique.

Boguet was commissioned for at least three large-scale decorations, two in Tuscany during the anti-French repression years after 1793, and one in Rome. In the loggia of Palazzo Poggio Imperiale near Florence, he painted four landscapes in tempera (The Four Seasons). In Pistoia, he decorated the dining room of the Palazzo Tolomei with nine mural paintings. In the years 1811-1813, at Napoleon’s request, Boguet painted twelve mythological landscapes in the Quirinal palace in Rome.

The present work was painted in 1810, when the French authorities dominated Rome. At that time, Boguet was contacted by several French personalities, such as the general Miollis, who commissioned him several paintings to decorate his Roman villa. However, our picture does not seem to be part of this series.

The Shepherd in the Roman Compagna is characteristic of Boguet’s style: its rigorous classic composition, the presence of big trees that contribute to the greatness of the landscape and the subtle treatment of the light. Boguet captured the fine and crystalline light on the grass, bushes and trunks of the trees in the centre. A shepherd wearing a Roman toga is sitting on a rock in the middle of the composition. This is a reference to the classical landscapes of the 17th century, Poussin, Dughet and Francisc Millet. This view could be inspired by the alluvial plain at the opening of the river Tiber near Ostia, 35 km southwest of Rome.

Basing himself on his plein air studies, done mostly in the Roman campagna, Boguet generally finds his inspiration in Claude Lorrain’s quiet rural landscapes, which he respectfully copies. However, the present painting seems closer to Gaspard Dughet than to Claude Lorrain, making it a very interesting piece of work. Boguet did a series of drawings based on the works of Dughet, particularly his frescoes in the Palazzo Colonna in Rome. In the example shown here, the general arrangement with the cliff to the left and the figure are quite similar.

The present painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné on the artist currently being prepared by Vincent Chenal, whom we would like thank for his kind help in writing this text.