Desgoffe, Blaise-Alexandre. (Fr.) Born at Paris. Two Salon in medals. Pupil of Flandrin. This painter represents still-life, and reproduces works of art in a surprising manner. His representations of metals of different sorts is remarkable, and was especially well shown in his picture at the Salon of 1877, which represented “The Helmet and the Shield of Gold of Charles IX., the Spur of Charlemagne, a Carbine of the Fifteenth Century, a Missal and a Gate of the Gallery of Apollo at the Louvre.” At the Luxembourg is “A Vase of Amethyst, Sixteenth Century” (1859) ; “A Vase of Rock Crystal, Sixteenth Century, a Purse of Henry II., and an Enamel of Jean Limousin” (1863) ; etc. In 1876 he exhibited at the Salon “Tea in the Room of an Artist” and “An Old Pear-Tree” ; in 1874, “An Engraved Rock Crystal (Sixteenth Century), Agates, and Enamels, Poignard of Philippe II., Collar of Louis XIII.”, etc., belonging to Miss Wolfe, also “Porcelains of Saxony, and other Porcelains, a Chalice, a Smyrna Carpet” (objects in the collection of the Count Welles de La Valette, to whom the picture belonged), and “A Frieze of Sculptured Wood, a Head of Bronze”, etc. Among his other works are, “Fruits and Jewels” (1868), “Flowers and Fruits at the Foot of a Venetian Glass” (1866), etc. Many of his pictures represent objects of art in the Louvre, and are very beautiful. At the Johnston sale, 1876, “Objects of Art” (33 by 24) sold for $1,300. At the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, is his “Souvenirs of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” (1874). One of his works, representing a Moorish Interior, is in the Walters Gallery, Baltimore. At the Salon of 1878 he exhibited “A Vase, Mirror, Book, and Flowers”. — Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, Artists of the Nineteenth Century and Their Works.

“Desgoffe, the painter of still-life, for thorough imitation of jewels, tapestries, objects of art, and precious things in general, — he never wastes time on vulgar things, — excels even Dutchmen. Perfect in design, truthful in color, finished to microscopic exactness of detail, he leaves the spectator nothing to desire in these respects […].” — James Jackson Jarves, Art Thoughts, the experiences and observations of an American amateur in Europe.

“One of Flandrin’s pupils, Blaise Desgoffe, has this claim to attention, that he is the most skillful imitator of near objects now alive in the world. Of course such art as his does not admit of invention ; and the highest artistic qualities, except the sense of color, are almost uncalled for here ; but there is a notable difference between Desgoffe’s choice of subject and that of vulgar painters of still-life. Instead of imitating two-penny beer-bottles, he copies fine vases of crystal and rare old enamels ; instead of representing kitchen utensils, he reproduces the most precious ivories and agates in the Louvre. His art is therefore noble in its way, being the best use of a sort of talent hitherto often thrown away upon work unworthy of it. Desgoffe’s pictures are precious copies of precious things. As to their finish, it goes even beyond our most perfect pre-Raphaelite work. As in all first-rate painting, there is no parade of detail, and a careless spectator might easily pass these pictures without suspecting that there was any extraordinary amount of it in them ; but, after studying them for half an hour, one’s astonishment grows and grows. Every vein in every agate is studied to the finest of its curves, every surface imitated to the most accurate expression of the exact degree of its convexity ; every reflection painted in its full detail. Take a single instance ; the principal object in one of his pictures is a splendid vase of rock-crystal, of the fourteenth century. On several of its facets is the reflection of an unseen window. Landseer would have represented those with spots of pure white ; Millais with spots of pale gray, with a touch of white for the highest light, the largest of them shaped to a rough expression of the window reflected, and others without form. But Desgoffe paints every one of them thoroughly ; the panes of glass in the window being quite perfectly reflected in the curving surface of the crystal over and over again, with all the modifications resulting from change of place. There is not the slightest attempt in any part of these works to substitute clever manipulations for fair study and imitation. […] Even Holland herself never produced so marvelous an imitator.” — Philip Gilbert Hamerton, Painting in France.

“Works in United States ; Objects of Art from Louvre, Miss C.L. Wolfe, New York ; Objects of Art — Two Subjects, W. Rockefeller, New York ; Objects of Art, T.R. Butler, New York ; Crown of Louis XIV, B. Wall, Providence ; Crystal Cup and Pansies, T. Wrigglesworth, Boston ; Flowers and Objects of Art, H.B. Huilbut Collection, Cleveland ; Vase of Flowers, C. Crocker, San Francisco ; Art in the Louvre, W.B. Bement, Philadelphia ; Articles of Vertu, A.J. Drexel, Philadelphia ; Objects of Art, J.T. Martin, Brooklyn ; Objects of Art, D.O. Mills, New York ; Still-life, C.P. Huntington, New York ; Still-life, C.S. Smith, New York ; Objects of Art, W.H. Vanderbilt, New York ; Flowers and Vase, L. Tuckerman, New York ; Objects of Vertu, H.C. Gibson, Philadelphia.” — Philip Gilbert Hamerton, Painting in France.

« Still life is seen in great abundance at every Salon. It does not, it is true, demand the highest spiritual traits in the artists, but it requires a sense of color and a sense of quality, and in the perfection reached in it by such different painters as Desgoffe and Vollon, becomes, in reality, high art. Desgoffe, a pupil of Flandrin and the nephew of A. Desgoffe, the landscape painter, makes “precious copies of precious things”. Unlike the marvellous painting by the Dutch masters of kettles, beer barrels and bottles, his subjects are the priceless onyxes, enamels, porcelains, crystals, rare and ancient stuffs, and jewels of the Louvre artistically grouped and copied with a finish of detail, beyond which finish can go no further. He has produced effects of great elegance, has, as it were, “added a perfume to the violet”, or, more literally, “gilded refined gold”. By patient, careful, sincere study and imitation, he has mastered all excellences of exact reproduction, chiefly those of technique. Thus, in rough surfaces, instead of reproducing that roughness by a texture of paint, he represents the texture in the object by a scheme of light and shade, such as is seen in photography. The reflection of an unseen window on the facets of a rock crystal, he paints not by a dash of white, but by a patient and truly Dutch reproduction of the panes of glass on the curving surface. “Desgoffe is the most skilful imitator of near objects alive”, says Hamerton, and he confines himself to this class of work. He has two pictures in the Luxembourg and many in America. » — C.H. Stranahan, A History of french painting.

« This painter, who died in 1902, was an incomparable copier of still life ; for indeed there exists a still and secret life in the productions of the artist’s hand, as an eye lovingly steeped in form and beauty of colour sees them. Desgoffes was great in little pictures, which rendered splendid things of gold and enamel, of rock crystal, jasper and chalcedony, trinkets and precious stones, lace and embroidery on velvet and silk, carved and polished ebony in insurpassable perfection. There is a school which very contemptuously calls these pictures bodegones. That is the disdainful Spanish expression both for a cookshop and for daubed representations of vulgar eatables such as sausages, smoked herrings, and cheese made from whey. Copying the productions of human hands should be unworthy of an artist. Only what is living, nay, only human life, should be justifiable. But that is too narrow a conception. Certainly the highest mission of all human art is the portrayal of men and women ; and what is not itself human becomes artistic in proportion as it gains relation to humanity by means of secret anthropomorphic animation and spiritualisation. But he who demands harshly and dogmatically that the human figure should be treated to the exclusion of everything else, relegates a Hondekoeter, a Landseer, a Rosa Bonheur to the second class, and denies a Desgoffes the title of artist, which is sheer nonsense. I do not know if there is a precedence in art, or any other precedence than that of the ability to express and transmit the life of emotion. Anyhow, a man stands very high who understood how to translate into painting the optical peculiarities of choice woods, metals, stones, and textures better than any painter before him. » — Max Simon Nordau, On art and artists.

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