Image collecting: casts and tracings from the antique in the Montagny Album

Delphine Burlot (translation Julie Leclert and Delphine Burlot)

Drawings in the Recueil d’Antiquités are for most part made by Montagny from nature.However, a third of them were copied from another reproduction, either a cast or an engraving from an antiquarian book. Montagny collected a great number of images from the antique in his album in order to better know classical iconography and use it in his future history paintings. This method reflects a practice learned in David's workshop (see manuscrit), followed by many of David's students, as shown in the portfolios left by Ingres (now in the Musée Ingres in Montauban, France).

The casts made from antiques copied by Montagny are scarce (Bassorilievo-Two Gutters in the shape of a lion's head + Bassorilievo - Victory ) and were probably on display at the Villa Medicis. Those casts are still preserved at the Villa, where some are displayed in one of the workshops situated above the Muro Torto.

The tracings were copied from ten or so antiquarian books, published between the xvith century and the first decade of the xixth century. Those books are richly illustrated and were familiar to scholars and artists of the modern period.

Montagny seemed to have prized Bartoli’s work in particular, as he reproduced nearly fifty engravings from his book on antique lamps (Le Antiche Lucerne sepolcrali figurate, 1691) and twenty-five engravings from his book on gems from the Odescalchi collection, a large part of which belonged to the queen Christine of Sweden (Museum Odescalchum, 1751).

The way Montagny proceeds in collecting images evidences his method: when it comes to antiques lamps, he traces only the subject represented on the medallion without documenting the form of the object, which doesn't seem to interest him. He notes Bartoli's comments on the iconography of the object without any translation or modification, which explains the several annotations in Latin and in Italian on the tracings.

Montagny’s interest for iconography is even more evident in his decision to copy engravings from De la Religion des Anciens Romains, by Guillaume Du Choul (1581), which allows him to extend his image collection to roman cult objects (folio 10 verso montagny_10v04).

Also, the tracing of a large number of objects drawn by Hubert Robert for l’Abbé de Saint-Non (published in his Recueil de Griffonnis) is probably driven by the desire to collect images from famous antiques that he never saw. For instance, two bronze tripods from Pompeii (Tripod with sphinxes et Tripod with Ithyphallic satyrs) were carried away to Palermo by the king of Naples during his exile to Sicily along with the major part of the antique bronzes from his collection.

It is difficult today to identify the sources used by Montagny for his reproductions. It is very likely that, for the casts, he simply copied the publications available at the Villa Medicis Library. Indeed, Bartoli’s books were commonly found in scholarly libraries and a copy of the rare publication of Saint-Non was owned at that time by Pierre-Adrien Pâris, director of the French Academy and patron of the young painter.


List of the publication used by Montagny

Cailleux 1963.

Picard-Cajan 2006.