(1775 Aix-en-Provence 1849)
The Neptune Grotto in Tivoli
Oil on canvas
74 x 62 cm
Signed and dated: GRANET A TIVOLI 1810
Inscribed: SEXTIUS MIOLLIS BONARUM ARTIUM COMMONITATI VIAM FACIUNDAM CURAVIT ANNO. MDCCCIX
Provenance: Probably commissioned by Sextius-Alexandre-François Miollis (1759-1828); Private collection, Aix-en-Provence
Granet joined the studio of the painter Jean-Antoine Constantin and there met Comte Auguste de Forbin, two years older than he. . On the invitation of Forbin, sometime in the summer of 1802, Granet arrived in Rome, at the same time as Pierre-Athanase Chauvin with whom he apparently shared a studio in the Capuchin convent. Granet painted after nature and enthusiastically recommended doing studies and sketches from life. Among his favorite subjects were the landscapes, ruins, cloisters, and grottoes of Rome and its outskirts.
The present painting, The Neptune Grotto in Tivoli, painted in Tivoli in 1810 has, until the present, remained in the possession of the heirs of General Miollis. Son of an advisor to the parliament in Provence, Sextius-Alexandre-François was born on 18 September 1759 in Aix-en-Provence, like Granet.
A great art lover, Miollis was given advice by Boguet and Granet.
He became friends with the Aix painter, as evidenced by the letter from Miollis in all likelihood written in August 1812:
“My dear Granet, I see with pleasure that you are seriously thinking of coming to visit Rome, which you don’t seem quite as fond of as before, because of your duties with H[er] M[ajesty] the Queen of Naples. […] The lights of Aix will burn three times brighter because of Granet, Forbin and Duqueylard in the history of painting. Remarkable paintings have already come from the paleto on [illegible]. I embrace you with equal parts of attachment and esteem.”
Probably as a reminder of this project, Miollis asked Granet paint a picture with the Grotto of Neptune as its subject. The painter set himself up down below the waterfalls of Tivoli, where the spectacle of water falling ends and the Anienne River goes back to its normal course. At the top of the composition a building bathed in sunshine on the hillside can be seen. Granet used all his talent to transmit the atmosphere of the place. The reflection of the light on the leaves and the rocks, intensified by zones of shadow, gives a real feeling of peace. All is treated here with great economy of means, a technique often used by the artist to intensify transparent effects.