Landscape of Ile de France with the aqueduct
Oil on paper laid down on canvas
22 x 26.5 cm
Signed lower left
Younger brother of the landscape painter Achille Bénouville, Léon trained at Les Beaux -Arts in Picot's studio and participated in his first Paris Salon at the age of only 18. Then turned to historical and mythological painting, in 1845 he won the Grand Prix de Rome for painting (with a Jesus in the praetorium) while his brother became the same year winner of the Grand Prix for Historic Landscape. The two brothers, already very close, left together for Rome to stay at the Villa Medicis. There and upon his return to Paris in 1851, Léon Bénouville definitively specialized in the religious genre. The State bought him his first painting in 1853 (Death of Saint Francis of Assisi) and granted him the Legion of Honor in 1855; at his death, struck down by typhoid fever, the critics of the time designated him as Ary Scheffer's successor.
If our painting was not signed, it would be difficult to guess the author. Leon's landscapes are indeed extremely rare, even if there is a lot (number 36) including various painted landscape studies in his after-death sale. Marie-Madeleine Aubrun's catalog raisonné lists a few drawings, mostly in pencil: one of them (D.671, black chalk on gray paper, 21.2 × 28 cm, workshop stamp) represents also a landscape with an aqueduct, very wooded, which could be related to our painting. The style is quite different from the neo-classical academicism, the vaporous luminosity and a form of synthetism borrowed from Corot, which characterized the landscapes of his brother in the years 1830/40/50; the work rather exudes a certain naturalism, quite close to that of an artist like François-Louis Français for example, or Louis Cabat.
The aqueduct represented could be that of Marly, with the silhouette of the Saint-Martin church in Louveciennes in the background.