The First Frost: an Animated Village Scene in Autumn

Oil on canvas, in a carved and giltwood frame

60 by 68.5 cm.

The Parisian painter Etienne Allegrain was the founder of a dynasty of painters
and sculptors; for example his son Christophe?Gabriel Allegrain became
a famous sculptor. Etienne Allegrain was formally admitted to the Acad?mie
Royale in 1676. He received numerous royal commissions, providing pictures
for the Trianon palace and for the menagerie at Versailles. Allegrain?s works
were much appreciated by the general public and were greatly in demand.
Allegrain was a follower of the two great classical landscape painters of 17th
century France: Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin (1594?1665). Lacking the
intellectual and philosophical content of the heroic, classical style of Poussin,
Allegrain?s ?tableaux champ?tre? or rural scenes such as the present were
painted in a light and free manner. They were meant to be decorative, not
moralistic. They were perfectly suited for decorating Parisian hotels and the
country houses of the aristocracy.

The foreground of our carefully constructed composition is animated with
everyday activities of several figures in a French small town of South-East
France. The composition then follows the winding perspective of the river,
which is then blocked in several layers into the distance: first by a bridge
and several buildings, further by a bucolic hillside landscape. The scene here
announces winter: the first frost has arrived, giving the painting a touch of
magic. It was probably painted in the early 1690s.

Sale, Vienna, Dorotheum, 18 April 2012, lot 553.

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