- Thomas Couture and the Eclectic Vision by Albert Boime
Yale, 683 pp, £35.00, June 1980, ISBN 0 300 02158 5
With his talent for working on a large scale and with the good will which he enjoyed at court, Thomas Couture could easily have been the Rubens of the Second Empire. What he achieved during the Empire, however, was disappointing and fragmentary. He lived for ten years or so on the credit of his big, frozen orgy, ‘The Romans of the Decadence’, exhibited sensationally at the Salon of 1847, but he never painted another picture that equalled its success. The murals in the recently restored church of Saint-Eustache, the one official commission that he completed, were severely criticised and two other major works, The Enrolment of the Volunteers’ and ‘The Baptism of the Prince Imperial’, were left unfinished in a state which charms the modern taste for the ‘instinctual’ but fell short of what his patrons had expected.