The Courtyard of an Italian Guesthouse
  • Jean Antoine Constantin (called CONSTANTIN d’AIX)
  • Marseille 1756 - 1844 Aix-en-Provence
  • The Courtyard of an Italian Guesthouse
  • Pen with grey and brown ink, grey wash,
    on beige paper,
  • signed with pen and ink on the verso:
    Fait par Constantin
  • 287 × 408 mm
Thierry and Christine de Chirée, Avignon

As his sobriquet d’Aix indicates, Jean Antoine Constantin found his artistic home in Provence. He began his education under Joseph A. David at the academy of his native city of Marseille, but soon obtained his first commissions in Aix-en- Provence. From there he moved in 1773 to Rome on a scholarship, but returned three years later to take on the directorship of the city’s well-regarded drawing school, which the Duc de Villars had founded. Among his students there were François Marius Granet and Auguste de Forbin, who would later greatly promote Constantin’s work as the director of the royal museums in Paris. But even without this support, his landscapes, both drawn and painted, aroused general acclaim and were honoured with a gold medal at the Salon of 1817.

The drawing shown here dates to the productive years in Italy at the beginning of his career. The tumult of everyday life in the courtyard of an Italian inn serves the function of lively padding for the dominating architecture, whose scale establishes a feeling of depth despite the blocked view. Differences in shading support this impression, which is spectacularly framed by the view through the imposing arcade. The brown ink of the group of figures at the rear enlivens the scene with an additional nuance of colour, rather unusual for Constantin d’Aix.