Louis Gaston Amédée Charpentier Bosio

1858 - 1923

Oedipus curses his son Polynices with his daughters Ismene and Antigone by his side

Oil on canvas

Dimensions : 145 cm x 113,5 cm / 57.09 inch x 44.49 inch
Artwork description

This impressive painting is an esquisse peinte for the prestigious Grand Prix de Rome competition of 1883. The Grand Prix de Rome in History Painting was a scholarship awarded by the French government to enable young painters to study during three years at the Villa Medici in Rome. The rediscovery of Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio's painting allows us to appreciate both the rigorous composition of a subject taken from Greek mythology, Oedipus Cursing His Son, Polynices, and the high quality of its execution. The painting sheds new light on the promising start of Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio's career.Read more

The attribution to Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio is based on the examination of preparatory drawings on tracing papers executed for the Grand Prix de Rome and held in the collection of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (Paris). Indeed, the drawing number 7 by Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio corresponds to the composition of the painting. The painter was at that time twenty-five years old and had studied in the studio of William Bouguereau (1825-1905) for six years.

The Grand Prix de Rome competition consisted of three exams. The first test was a painted sketch. The second test was a live model sketch. For the third test, the last ten contestants had to draw on a tracing paper the main composition of the final painting which they would execute thereafter, without leaving the studio. The studio was given to them according to the rank of their admission after the second test. At this stage of the competition, in 1883, Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio was one place ahead of André-Marcel Baschet (1862-1941) future winner of the Grand Prix de Rome. The students could make some slight changes from the preparatory drawings. All the drawings carry the signature A. Lenoir, after the name of the professor who collected them. To carry out the preparatory drawings and the paintings, the competitors worked every day, except on Sundays, for two months. At the end of the test, the paintings were sealed, then submitted to the jury and exhibited publicly.

Five attempts of Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio to win the Grand Prix de Rome are recorded in the archives of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts that demonstrates the determination of the young painter. In 1882, Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio was one of the ten finalists. In 1883, he submitted Oedipus Cursing His Son, Polynices. For the 1886 Prix de Rome, the live model sketch and the tracing paper of the History Painting remain in the collection of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Charpentier-Bosio succeeded, during the contest of 1887, in obtaining the Deuxième Second Grand Prix with the Death of Thémistocle bought by the French State and now at the museum Charles de Bruyères in Remiremont. Concerning the 1888 contest, the expressive head painting and the tracing paper still exist.

From the preparatory drawing to the painting, the figures of blind Oedipus assisted by his daughter Ismene have grown to the detriment of Antigone, standing in the shadow. She was subsequently sentenced to death after defying Creon’s decree that her brother Polynices shall not be buried. The perfect drawing and the rich chromatic harmony of cold colors are admirable. The foreshortening of Polynices’ body underlines the ability of the painter to describe the human figures. The pyramidal composition reflects the theatricality of each characters’ gestures: standing, sitting and on the ground. Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio painted exquisitely a mythological subject respecting the artistic principles taught at the École des Beaux-Arts.

The dynamism of the composition, inspired by Sophocles' verses in Oedipus at Colonus, evokes the theater. The painting plays with cultural references known to Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio's contemporaries. Antigone's pose is reminiscent of the inverted pose, arms outstretched, and hands joined of the actress Rachel, represented as a muse of tragedy by Jean-Léon Gérôme (c. 1859, Musée Carnavalet). Antigone is contemplating an inexorable death. She looks like Mademoiselle Sophie Croizette (1847-1901), a successful member of the Comédie-Française since 1869. Her oval face, her pointed nose and her fleshy mouth are visible on a portrait painted by her brother-in-law Carolus Duran (Portrait in Amazon, 1873, Tourcoing, Musée Eugène Leroy) and on numerous photographs from Felix and Paul Nadar's studio. Two artworks by Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio attest to his relationship with actors. In 1902, he exhibited the portrait of Mademoiselle du Minil member of the Comédie-Française at the Salon des Artistes Français and in 1905 the one of Mademoiselle Kesly member of the Théâtre de l'Odéon.

At the 1892 Salon des Artistes Français, Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio received a distinction (mention honorable). The highlight of his career was the exhibition at the 1895 Salon of Retour de pèlerinage; Croatie (Autriche), for which he won a third-class medal and a bronze medal during its display at the 1900 Universal exhibition. The painting was purchased in 1924 by Alexander I of Serbia to decorate his Royal Palace in Belgrade.

The discovery of Oedipus Cursing His Son, Polynices by Louis-Gaston-Amédée Charpentier-Bosio, that disappeared many years ago, perfectly illustrates the virtuosity of the painter and the rigorous apprenticeship at the École des Beaux-Arts during the 19th century.

Receive information on our exhibitions, news and events
The field is empty Please enter a valid address

By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy. You can unsubscribe or change your preferences at any time by clicking the link in all emails.

Send us an email
Marché Biron - Allée 1, Galeries 17 & 18 - 83-85 Rue des Rosiers
93400 Saint-Ouen sur Seine