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Les Quais marchands de Rouen or L’Avant-port de Rouen (The Merchant Quays of Rouen or The Outer Harbour of Rouen)

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

(1796 - 1875) | Rouen, Musée des Beaux-Arts (Inv. D.1951.2.1)

Date : 1834 | Medium : Oil on canvas

This painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1834 (No. 372: “Une Marine” - A Seascape). Towards the end of his life, Corot was to give it to his grand-niece, Anne Charmois, the future wife of Lemarinier, a child portrait of whom by Corot is held by the Louvre.

This early work shows the influence of historical Nordic artists such as Backhuysen, Ruysdael or Van de Velde, whom Corot himself cites in his correspondence. He also seems to have looked towards his immediate French predecessors, for example Garneray or Leprince.

The painting remained in the Lemarinier family until 15 June 1926 when, as a result of the termination of joint ownership, a group of thirteen Corot works, including Les Quais marchands de Rouen, was put up for sale at the Galerie Georges Petit, one of the major art galleries in Paris located at 8 Rue de Sèze in Paris, which also hosted auctions, together with the Galerie Charpentier or the Hôtel Drouot. At that time, the Galerie Georges Petit belonged to Bernheim-Jeune and Etienne Bignou. The painting was purchased for 162,000 francs by J. Dubourg, who acted on behalf of Camille Hodebert, the director of the Galerie Barbazanges. This gallery, located at 109 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, was to become the Galerie Barbazanges-Hodebert in 1926, then simply Hodebert and, finally, in 1928, Galerie Georges Bernheim (an eponymous gallery that is distinct from the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune).

The picture seems to have passed through the hands of several dealers in a very short space of time. The catalogue of an exhibition held in 1930 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York indicates that the work belonged to Georges Bernheim; however, it is not possible to know whether the Corot became the property of G. Bernheim specifically or whether it followed the fate of the Galerie Hodebert. It then appears to have been in the hands of Jos Hessel, another dealer whose gallery was located at 26 Rue La Boétie. A note on the back of a historical photograph suggests that at one time or another it may have been owned by a Mr Thomasson; however, it is not known who this man was or when he may have owned the painting. What we do know, however, is that it belonged to the dealer Etienne Bignou at the start of 1939, as it was he who lent it to an exhibition held at the Museum of Nantes.

On 28 February 1941, Bignou, who often worked with the Germans, sold the painting to the Folkwang Museum in Essen for 450,000 francs. However, the museum exchanged the work for a Sisley with the Kaiser-Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld.

At the time of the Allied bombings, the collections were probably safeguarded at Seebach Castle in Thuringia, where the Corot was discovered by the Allies at the end of the war, before being transferred to the Collecting Point in Wiesbaden on 26 June 1945 and subsequently sent on to France on 8 June 1946.

Retained by the 4th Selection Committee on 21 December 1949 (under the title Vieux quai de Rouen - Old Wharf of Rouen) and assigned to the Louvre, the painting was deposited in the Museum of Rouen by the decree of 17 February 1951.