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Mantes, View of the Cathedral and Town through the Trees, Evening

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Reims, France © RMN-Grand Palais / Jacques L'Hoir / Jean Popovitch

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot

(1796 - 1875)

| Medium : Oil on canvas

 Corot returned many times to the theme of the old church. It sometimes dominates the entire composition, as in the famous Chartres Cathedral at the Louvre, which was painted in 1830; however, it is more commonly part of a landscape, suggesting a harmonious union between nature and a human presence imbued with historical importance. The artist often worked in Mantes and the surrounding area.

Corot positioned himself on the Ile de Limay, behind the monument's chevet, separated from the town by a branch of the Seine; the willow trees in the foreground help to create a sense of depth, without concealing the great Gothic shrine from view. Although its 12th century nave is almost as tall as that of Notre Dame de Paris, this building is not actually a cathedral, as Mantes was never the seat of an Archbishopric. However, Corot called the building a cathedral rather than using its correct name of collegiate church. He was only able to paint this work after 1860, as between 1851 and 1855 the architect Adolphe Durand was working on the north tower, on the right, before rebuilding the south tower as it is seen here, on the same model as the first. Carot's presence in Mantes has been documented in 1865, 1866, 1868 and 1869. This canvas must have been painted during one of these stays.


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