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Paris 1794–1880 Paris

Une Femme de brigand italien

Une Femme de brigand italien

Inscribed with the initials, lower left, L C

Oil on canvas

13 ⅞ x 10 ⅝ inches

35.2 x 27 cm


Probably, Louis-Joseph-August Coutan (1779-1830), Paris (his sale: Paris, Petit & Schroth, 19 April 1830, lot 13 [“La Femme d’un Brigand contemple avec plaisir une écharpe qu’elle vient de tirer d’une malle enlevée à des voyageurs. Ce tableau a été fail pour server de pendant au Brigand de Michallon, et ne lui cede en rien par le beauté de son execution.”])

Monsieur Mainnemare, Paris (his sale: 18 rue de Courcelles, 21 February 1843 (“La Femme d’ un Brigand admire une écharpe […]”)

Galerie Terrades, Paris, 1996

Neal Fiertag, Paris, 1996, from whom acquired by

Matthew Rutenberg (1956-2019), New York

By descent


L. D. Ambrosini, Peasants in French Painting, 1815-1848 : The Romantic Roots of the Realist Mode, Ph.D dissertation, New York University, 1989, pp. XXV, 434, n. 335, fig. 292 (engraving after the picture)

V. Pomerède, B. Lesage, and C. Stefani, Achille-Etna Michallon, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1994, p. 125, under no. 80, (as whereabouts unknown, known by means of a reproductive print)

B. Lesage, « Achille-Etna Michallon (1796-1822), catalogue de l’oeuvre peint, » in Gazette des Beaux-Arts, October 1997, p. 137, under no. 80

M. Korchane, in Le Temps des passions :  Collections romantiques des musées d’Orléans, exhibition catalogue, Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1997, p. 295, nn. 4-5, under no. 278

B. Lesage in O. Bonfair, ed., Maestà di Roma : d’Ingres à Degas, les artistes français à Rome, exhibition catalogue, Rome, Villa Medici, 2003, pp. 253, fig. 103a, p. 523, nn. 2-3¹

M. Korchane, in Entre Lumiéres & romantisme :  dessins du musée des beaux-arts d’Orléans, Paris, 2006, p. 180, under nos. 87-88

S. Bann, « Léopold Robert and the Afterlife of Antiquity, » in R. Wrigley, ed., Regarding Romantic Rome, Berne, 2007, p. 76, n. 12 (reference to the engraving)


By George Maile (1800-1842) after Léon Cogniet, Femme de brigand napolitain, published by Giraldon-Bovinet, (dépôt légal, 25 March 1826) (fig. X)

Painted in 1825

In 1825, Léon Cogniet painted two versions of this scene of the wife of a brigand admiring a silk scarf just pillaged from ambushed travellers. Bands of brigands who populated the hills of southern Italy were steady fodder for the Romantic imagination, and their exploits were reported both factually and sometimes fancifully, as in the present picture. The Rutenberg picture is likely the prime version of this subject commissioned from Cogniet by the distinguished amateur and modern art collector, L.-J.-A. Coutan (1779-1830), as a pendant to a prized painting in his collection of an actual brigand, Mazzocchi (fig. X), by Achille-Etna Michallon (1796-1822),² Cogniet’s late friend.  Identical in format and scale to the Michallon portrait of the brigand, both were engraved by the English engraver George Maile, and published as a pair on 15 March 1826.

The second version³ of the composition (fig. X) was made more or less at the same moment.  Identical in scale, signed and dated 1825, this painting is more elaborately worked than the Coutan canvas, and was first owned by the Parisian collector, the baron de Jassaud, who lent it to the important exhibition Ouvrages de peinture exposés au profit des Grecs at the Galerie Lebrun in Paris from May 17 to July 3, 1826, only six weeks after the Maile engravings of the Coutan paintings had been published.  This variant notably does not include the black cloth lying in the open trunk and the metal label-bracket on the face of the trunk, both of which feature in the prime Coutan painting and the related engraving.

A third version, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,⁴ was made at a later date than the Coutan and Jassaud versions. Smaller in scale to the earlier variants, this picture is more conventional in aspect, with some additional objects included in the composition while the rather ominous booted leg is omitted entirely. Very finished in its details, this version may have been intended for general sale on the art market as an independent, less provocative work.

After Coutan’s death, both the Michallon Mazzocchi and the Cogniet pendant were sold in his estate sale in 1830.  Both pictures later re-appeared together in the Mainnemare sale of 1843.  Cogniet, either at the Mainnemare sale or shortly thereafter, purchased Michallon’s painting of Mazzocchi.  The painting remained with him until his death and was eventually given to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Orléans, by his widow.

In 1817, both Michallon and Cogniet won the Prix de Rome, Michallon for Historic Landscape and Cogniet for History painting.  They spent four years together as pensionnaires at the Villa Medici and became fast friends.  This friendship lasted until Michallon’s premature death in 1822. It is unsurprising that the well-informed and discerning collector Coutan would turn to Cogniet, Michallon’s intimate companion, to commission a pendant to Michallon’s superb Mazzocchi. Further, it is just and fitting that Cogniet himself would eventually acquire this souvenir of the close friend of his youth.

  1. Fig. 103a correctly illustrates our painting, but footnote 2 erroneously cites the second version formerly in the collection of David Daniels, New York, and now in a private collection, New York.

  2. Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts, inv. 1049; oil on canvas, 35 x 27 cm.

  3. Signed and dated, lower left, Léon Cogniet. 1825., oil on canvas, 35 x 27.3 cm; ex-collection David Daniels; private collection, New York.

  4. Inv. 2003.42.10; signed, lower right, L. Cogniet, oil on canvas mounted to panel, 25.1 x 20.6 cm.

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