British 19th C, except portraits, Dress and Textiles 67 Who can clarify the literary or theatrical reference to Callaco in this painting?

MER_SEC_408
Topic: Subject or sitter

This is presumably a scene from a literary or theatrical work, given the artist's typical subject matter, but can anyone clarify the reference to 'Callaco'?

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

67 comments

Martin Hopkinson,

The Leslie papers in the Harvey Kreitman [ Tate Britain Library ]might throw some light on this

Scott Thomas Buckle,

There might not be a reference to a particular literary or theatrical work, as the composition resembles so many other fête champêtre paintings. I did consider that the scene might relate Boccaccio's 'Decameron', but there should be seven women and three men present - not the eleven figures depicted here. Tom Taylor's 'Autobiographical Recollections of Charles Robert Leslie RA' includes a list of the principal pictures painted by Leslie, as well as all of the pictures that he exhibited, but nothing relating to the above, or 'Callaco' is amongst those listed.

Jacinto Regalado,

The "Scene from" in the title, assuming it is the original one, implies the picture is drawn from a literary or theatrical source. It is of the fête champêtre type, but the dress looks pre-18th century. Also, "Callaco" sound more or less Italian, suggesting an Italian source.

Jacinto Regalado,

Does the collection have anything relevant or potentially useful in its records about this picture?

Stephen Whittle from the Collection, email, 13/04/21 'The title is as given on the catalogue card. There are no clues on the back of the painting or in the accessions register unfortunately.'

Jacinto Regalado,

The picture does not seem to match any of those Leslie exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Jacinto Regalado,

It seems plausible as a work by Leslie, but the title remains odd.

Jacinto Regalado,

I don't suppose there are Leslie specialists about, or a catalogue raisonné. Perhaps the title has been corrupted somehow.

Martin Hopkinson,

as soon as the Tate Library is open [ mid May] TGA 9613 should be consulted - the papers of Charles Robert Leslie and his family

Glad to see that Scott has already checked Leslie's Recollections. Leslie's Comus, 1844, is in the Tate and is quite different.

I go back to my questions: Is this picture by Leslie? Is it correctly titled?

Scott Thomas Buckle,

There's nothing to distinguish it as a work by Leslie, but I haven't ruled him out completely. He's one of those artists who often gets named when art dealers are confronted with an unattributed literary or theatrical scene from the 1830s. There are a number of other artists from the same period who worked in this manner. Francis Philip Stephanoff came to mind, and the composition (though not the style) reminded me of works by Stothard.

John Henry Bell (c.1841-1929), born Halifax, Yorkshire, woollen manufacturer, single, living in Southport in the 1911 census, bequeathed a large group of British and continental 19th century genre paintings to the Atkinson. There should be documentation from 1929.

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, Jacob, as I asked yesterday, the collection should check its records for any relevant information. Since this picture does not match anything in Leslie's Recollections, the possibility of a misattribution must be considered.

Jacinto Regalado,

"Callaco" turns up nothing in a search of Royal Academy catalogues.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

Just a thought - the title could be a misreading of an old label: "Scene from [Boc]caccio".

S. Elin Jones,

As mentioned in the attached article from 1929, John Henry Bell left 150 paintings of the Corporation’s choice from his collection to Southport Council. A committee and art curator were given access to choose a considerable number paintings from his collection of 400.

These artworks would have had to have been listed, recorded, put before, and officially accepted by the Council, before being transported to the museum. There were also a number of stipulations within the will that had to be met, in order to be able to keep the items from the bequest. According to the will, the paintings had to be chosen within two months of the death of Mr Bell (Jan, 1929) and hung in a building with access from the public.

In a very similar scenario, George Preston, gifted 22 paintings, some statues and porcelain to Southport Town Council in 1939.
This was mentioned in the discussion of the

‘Portrait of a Lady - Unknown Artist’
https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/portrait-of-a-lady-66325/view_as/grid/search/keyword:george-preston-1939--collectionx:atkinson-art-gallery-collection-1221/page/1

The Corporation’s art advisors were given the opportunity to personally choose the paintings they wished to acquire for the collection. This procedure, was to be officially put before both the Libraries and Arts Committee and the Town Council.

“The matter would not come formally before the Arts Committee until next week and nor officially before the Town Council for another month so he had taken that, the first opportunity of expressing their gratitude.”

As was mentioned in the other discussion, and also as above, could there be useful information in the archives of Sefton Council within the records of various appropriate committees of the time, or of the official procedures that had to be undertaken pertaining to these items?

1 attachment
Jacinto Regalado,

In 1844, J. J. Chalon showed "A Scene taken from the Decameron of Boccaccio" at the Royal Academy (No. 203 in the RA catalogue). The same artist painted this:

https://bit.ly/3sNEkIY

Hardly conclusive, but worth a thought.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

It's a possibility. As I said earlier, there were lots of artists painting this kind of subject in a similar style. This includes the Chalons, the Stephanoffs and Edmund Thomas Parris. It may not be so easy to pin it down to a particular artist stylistically, but if the picture was exhibited, then there is the possibility of a contemporary review, or more helpfully an engraving after it to help secure an attribution.

An interesting anachronistic detail - from the appearance of the costumes - is the use of Falconet's Amour menaçant from 1757. Did many British artists feature it?

We haven't found any further information about the bequest at The Atkinson but the painting does appear in a 1929 exhibition catalogue of the collection which gives the title with a slightly different spelling i.e. A Scene from "Collacco" by Charles Robert Leslie.

Louis Musgrove,

If Colloco is Latin- it roughly means " to find a place for oneself"

Jacinto Regalado,

It seems quite possible if not downright probable that "Collacco" is a corruption of Boccaccio. It was likely mistranscribed from some handwritten document which may now be lost, but should be sought if and when that is feasible.

The connection with Boccaccio, although attractive, does not hold up under scrutiny. The scene seems very unlikely to be intended to be an illustration of one of the tales in the Decameron; neither is it a depiction of the participants, who were seven women and three men, sharing their tales. Here the they are engaged in distinctly private pursuits, reading, playing music and flirting, more an illustration of the role of cupid overlooking their activities.

Falconet's sculpture was reproduced in porcelain by Sevres at the time and in many materials and scales ever since. Its presence confirms the scene's origins in the tradition of 18th century French fêtes champêtres, a good comparable example of which is
https://art.thewalters.org/detail/25820/fte-champtre/
Athough the date probably is around the 1830s, it is I think unlikely to be by Leslie, or the other names so far suggested; is it even necessarily British?

The given title is so far meaningless. The painting is surely a decorative imitation of a fête champêtre, rather than a specific literary illustration.

Jacinto Regalado,

I suppose it is possible that this picture may be loosely based on Boccaccio or inspired by some other depiction/s of the Decameron without being precise, as Turner did with Stothard's illustrations.

Toying with the unusual name ...

Collaço and Colaço are both names in Portuguese.

The port of Callaco near Lima in Peru was apparently destroyed by a tsunami in 1746 as a result of the great earthquake of that year, according to Charles Buck's 'Practical Expositor' (1815). This looks nothing like South America, or a natural disaster, but the word exists.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

I still think that the title could be a misreading of "Scene from Boccaccio" - not necessarily that it was the painting's original title, but it could have been the title given to it by an auction house, along with the attribution to Leslie.

To understand this painting and comment on it effectively, I think we need to see a photo of the picture in its frame and a photo of the reverse showing the canvas in its frame. In my experience as a curator, this could help date the picture and understand its origins. No certainties in this but it would be an obvious step in a case where the attribution and titling of a work is uncertain.

Martin Hopkinson,

where does 'Callaco' come from? Is it from a nearly illegible inscription on the back? Could it refer to a previous owner rather than the subject or artist?

There are no inscriptions on the back - the only information we have is the accessions register and the catalogue sheet on the archive file.

Alistair Brown's question (25/04/2021) is pertinent: Did many British artists feature Falconet's 1757 statue, Amour menaçant, in their paintings? Not to my knowledge.

Frits Scholten's publication, L'amour menaçant or menacing love : a statue by Falconet, would be worth consulting.

It may be that like several other works in the Bell bequest this painting is by a Continental artist. That is where a photo of the picture in its frame and a photo of the reverse showing both the canvas reverse and the frame reverse would be instructive.

Jacinto Regalado,

It could, obviously, be French, and yes, if seeing the frame and the reverse of the picture could prove useful, I do hope the collection will provide suitable photos, which need hardly be professional ones.

Martin Hopkinson,

There may be a French publication on the influence of Watteau in the first half of the 19th century which could be consulted

Martin Hopkinson,

Could the title be a bastardised form of Colloque?

Martin Hopkinson,

Could be provincial - I would look at Valenciennes and Bordeaux - and the date 1830s-1840s

During lockdown Martin suggested that the Leslie papers at Tate Library might throw some light on this.

There's the Charles Robert Leslie Collection at YCBA.
https://bit.ly/2TAyS0r

Now that lockdown is ending I'll try to find out what the collection has on the John Henry Bell bequest of British and continental 19th-century genre paintings, and ask for photos of the frame and reverse.

L'Amour menaçant in paintings on 'Le Forum de Marie-Antoinette'. https://bit.ly/3jJtGBY

Marcie Doran,

I believe that it is a reference to a place - Callac, France. Callac is in Brittany, in north-western France.

One man is pointing to the church. Wikipedia has a photo of the Church of Saint-Laurent that has the same shape.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Callac

Jacinto Regalado,

This is not a scene I would associated with Brittany. it is much too worldly and sophisticated.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, perhaps it is a trick of the light, or just a depiction of grasses, but is there an inscription in the exact bottom centre of the painting, between the right edge of the carpet and the left edge of the pond? Also, could you please post a hi-res of the statue and its entire plinth?

Marcie Doran,

In my opinion, the statue of the putto on the plinth is based on the one in “The Swing” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806). I believe it was added in order to reinforce the fact that the group is in France.

“The Swing”
1767
The Wallace Collection
https://tinyurl.com/y24f2ru8

Kieran Owens,

In the 1857 "Exhibition of Art Treasures" show, Leslie's work entitled "Scene from 'Much Ado About Nothing'" was shown, as loaned by Edward Bullock, of Hawthorn House, Wandsworth, Warwickshire. Bullock also exhibited Leslie's "The Opera Box" and "Rape of the Lock". There are certainly enough characters in this painting to match the cast of the play, and as it is about love and its intrigues this might explain the presence of Falconet's 'Amour Menaçant' sculpture. And while it might not be the same painting, it might be the one of a number executed on the same theme.

Osmund, was Edward Bullock a relation?

Kieran Owens,

The above-mentioned "Rape of the Lock" is the same as the "Sir Plume demands the restoration of the lock", which was exhibited at the RA (No. 192) in 1854. The 1856 Bullock reference must be to a copy.

Leslie’s colouring is more forceful and his forms are harder edged. His compositions tend to be more frieze-like with the figures lined up against a backcloth of some kind. There is a tendency to prefer the two dimensional.

In the painting under discussion, the figures and forms are fluid and the figures more crowded. The setting has considerable depth, from the foreground figures lower left, through the row of figures in front of the low wall and, signaled by the pointing man, into the background. The use of foreground figures at left is a classic compositional device among artists but is not one that Leslie used.

I am no Leslie expert but, that said, this analysis makes me conclude that the work under discussion is not by this artist.

The answers to the questions that I posed on 23 April, Is this picture by Leslie? Is it correctly titled? No and No.

What then is the way forward on this discussion?

PROVENANCE
John Henry Bell (c.1841-1929), born Halifax, Yorkshire, woollen manufacturer, bequeathed his genre paintings including this one to the Atkinson. A slim chance but do records survive which would illuminate his collecting activities? See posts on 24 and 25 April.

EXPERTISE
It may be that someone looking at this discussion has sufficient experience to immediately recognise the artist (who is not necessarily British).

PHYSICAL EXAMINATION
We need to see photos of the picture in its frame and of the reverse showing the canvas including the frame. This could help date the picture and understand its origins, whether British or continental. No certainties in this but it would be an obvious step in a case where the attribution and titling of a work is uncertain.

Martin Hopkinson,

I think that you are right, having a few years back had to look at Leslie for a dictionary. It could be French of Flemish . There is a very prominent quotation from Watteau. The landscape is difficult to compare convincingly with any Leslie. His name is used as a bit of a rubbish bin for unfamiliar works - some like thisd one of decent quality.
It is certainly likely to have a literary source

Jacob Simon has nicely summarised what we need in order to progress this, but as far as Art Detective is concerned we need comparable works by other artists to compare it with.

I stick to my opinions of 26 April: "Falconet's sculpture was reproduced in porcelain by Sevres at the time and in many materials and scales ever since. Its presence confirms the scene's origins in the tradition of 18th century French fêtes champêtres, a good comparable example of which is
https://art.thewalters.org/detail/25820/fte-champtre/
Athough the date probably is around the 1830s, it is I think unlikely to be by Leslie, or the other names so far suggested; is it even necessarily British?

The given title is so far meaningless. The painting is surely a decorative imitation of a fête champêtre, rather than a specific literary illustration."

Bonaventure de Bar's painting in the Walters is a good example of an 18th c. source. He particularly liked sculptures on prominent plinths as part of the composition. See http://watteauandhiscircle.org/de bar 1.htm

Scott Thomas Buckle,

Back in April, I proposed Francis Philip Stephanoff as a possible artist. Here's an engraving after one of his works which includes similar elements, including garden statuary, a sprawling figure and a distant vista. Whilst he might not necessarily be the artist of the Atkinson Art Gallery painting, to me he seems to be a stronger candidate than C R Leslie. I still think that our best chance of identifying the artist is if the picture was engraved, in which case an image might turn up in one of the many illustrated anthologies published around 1830.

Martin Hopkinson,

Callicao is Spanish or Catalan should we be looking beyond Britain and France for a text

Jacinto Regalado,

Callicao is not a Spanish word, though I do not know Catalan.

Martin Hopkinson,

a place name like Callao mistranscribed [ see Tenerife and Peru]
the name of a piece of writing or a person?

Andrew Shore,

Depending on where the word 'Callaco' is recorded, could it simply be a mistranscription of 'Watteau'? Missing a crossed t or mistaking someone's W for a C is possible, perhaps?

Martin Hopkinson,

That is an interesting idea.
If we had no title at all, I would be tempted to look in Boiardo's Rinaldo Innamorato or Tasso's Geruslemme Liberata very popular sources for opera and the stage - and of course the early 18th century fetes galantes and their revival in the mid 19th century

Martin Hopkinson,

one should remember Verlaine's Watteauesque Fetes Galantes of 1869 and the flourishing in Paris of the Comedia del Arte in the mid 19th century

Frits Scholten's publication, "L'amour menaçant or menacing love : a statue by Falconet", does not help with our painting beyond illuminating the influence of the statue. It was widely reproduced and taken up. He illustrates and transcribes the inscription on the back of the statue, taken from Voltaire. See attachments.

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