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Sunrise with the Chariot of Apollo

Charles de La Fosse

(1636 - 1716) | 822.1.2

Date : Circa 1672 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Traditionally, this tiny masterpiece has been thought of as a preliminary sketch for the painted ceiling in the Salon of Apollo in the King's apartments at Versailles. But, strictly speaking, this painting is not a modello. And it is amazing to note here the absence of the double figure of the Magnificence and Magnanimity of France that was present at Versailles. Instead, this Apollo in his chariot surrounded by the four Seasons could well be the painter's first project when he was accepted into the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1671, the same year that he began to receive payment for his decorative work at Versailles. If Charles de La Fosse chose to reuse this work, then it was because he felt particularly proud of it.

Figures that are both sensual and natural are arranged in a bold but clear composition based on a large diagonal line that marks the separation of day from night. The light of the sun at the break of day emanates from the figure of Apollo, while a second natural light shines on the Seasons. A novel appeal is created by the subtle play of chiaroscuro and colours, simultaneously light, warm and nacreous, from this green, this blue and this orange, clearly delineating and at the same time uniting the groups of the Seasons. It was his use of light – a subject on which he addressed the Académie in 1673 – and his Rubenesque science of colour that really made the reputation of this painter during the 1670s, a time when ‘Rubenists’ and ‘Poussinists’ were at each other's throats.