The Waterfall
François Sablet (1745-1819)

The Waterfall, 1808

Oil on canvas, H. 0.57 m; W. 0.46 m

Signed and dated lower right on the rock: F Sablet 1808.

Provenance: Acquired by Mathurin Crucy from François Sablet.
Private collection, France.

The paintings of the brothers François and Jacques Sablet had been mixed up for a long time. Anne van de Sandt’s important research clearly distinguished the work of François, the “Sablet from Paris ” and the one of Jacques, the “Roman Sablet” (a name sometimes falsely attributed to François).

Like his younger brother, François Sablet was trained in Paris by Vien and specialized in portrait painting. But unlike Jacques he did not accompany Vien to Rome when he became director of the French Academy in 1775. François travelled to Italy only in 1791. “He left then the portrait and turned to landscape in oil, in which he succeeds admirably; he painted in the countryside, on the spot, and made a charming series of the neighborhood of Genzano …, adorned with figures which he makes with the biggest ease.” (see Journal littéraire de Lausanne, 1796, p. 394, cited by Anne van de Sandt, Les frères Sablet (…), 1985, p. 116). Two years later, the consequences of the revolutionary events forced both brothers to leave Italy.

On his return to Paris, François Sablet was admitted at the Société populaire et républicaine des Arts and participated in the competition of the year III and in the Salon of 1795. In 1799, he took up contact with Francesco Piranesi with whom he had already collaborated in Rome, and who then made him work for the Chalcographie Piranèse established in Paris, where engravings were painted in oil and in gouache. At the latest in 1805, François Sablet had moved to Nantes where he dedicated himself with big success to portrait painting and where he received the commission to decorate the stock exchange building of Nantes. In the same years, François Sablet also painted many landscapes, among which some souvenirs of Italy such as The Waterfall.

The theme of the waterfall contemplated by travellers as a curiosity of the nature was frequently depicted in the end of the 18th and in the first half of the 19th century.