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The Bouillon Claudes

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Two paintings by Claude, Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba and Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca, are known as the ‘Bouillon Claudes’ because they were made for Frédéric-Maurice, Duc de Bouillon (1605–1652), a French general in the papal army in Rome. They were completed in 1648 and remained in the Bouillon family throughout the eighteenth century. They even escaped seizure during the French Revolution, despite Bouillon’s successor being imprisoned in 1794 and his property confiscated.

Although documents survive to tell us these paintings were commissioned as a pair, the scenes belong to different biblical stories. They are, however, harmonious in the subjects they depict. Each explores the relationship between men and women, whether during a wedding celebration or because of a journey that brings friendship. There is a contrast between the bustling urban seaport and the peaceful countryside. The central activity of each painting is framed by either buildings or trees, with the sea or a substantial river in the background.

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