Anthelme Trimolet
(Lyon 1798 - 1866 Lyon)

Interior of the workshop of Professor Ennemond Eynard (1749-1837)

oil on canvas,
57 x 45.5 cm,
signed and dated (lower left):
"Trimolet / 1836".

Collection of Professor Ennemond Eynard (1749-1837).
Professor Ennemond Eynard’s gift to the Lycée de La Martinière in Lyon.
Lyon, private collection.
Haute-Loire, art market.


Anthelme Claude Honoré Trimolet, born and raised in Lyon, was the son of a former draughtsman and embroidery designer who worked prominently as silk merchant. He trained with Pierre Révoil at the École Impériale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon since 1807. Trimolet won the silver medal in 1812 and received the Laurier d’Or in 1815. He taught drawing at the Lyon Collège Royal from 1820 until 1830.
Other than to oil painting, the artist devoted himself to lithography and sculpture. He was behind the creation of a profusion of portraits and historical genre scenes, which he painted in the Troubadour style of Révoil, an eminent exponent of the young Lyonnais school of painting. Similarly to many Lyonnais artists of this period, he cultivated a distinct taste for the trade of second-hand objects, and particularly for the Haute époque. He shared this passion with his wife, Louise Agathe Edma Saunier, who belonged to a rich Burgundian family of landowners.
In 1817, soon after having been awarded the Laurier d’Or, and upon his return from a trip to Paris, Trimolet endeavoured in the creation of a painting displaying the Interior of the workshop of Professor Eynard (ill. 1). The subject matter of the painting perfectly reflects Trimolet’s interests. Indeed, as the artist himself stated:  “My interests led me to manual and mechanical crafts; I have never been happier than when I saw, for example, some carpenters, locksmiths, tinsmiths, silk winders etc. in action. I would have liked to be allowed to use their tools and work as they did”.

Our painting was commissioned by Monsieur Brun, a restorer of art objects, who is portrayed standing on the left and wearing a leather apron and a white vest. He stands with his left arm resting on a lathe while listening attentively to the explanations of his master, Professor Eynard, who expressed his desire to be included in the composition. Dressed according to the fashion of the 'Ancien Régime' and seated on a Louis XIII armchair, the scholar, portrayed in profile, wears glasses on his headband and holds a book in his hand. Trimolet painted with the utmost precision the scholar’s collection, which, according to a description offered in an 1826 travel guide, included “all the necessary tools for lathing work and for carpentry, cabinet-making and metalworking, as well as the most bizarre devices for the study of physics and mathematics”. Monsieur Dufournel wrote a glossary of all these tools (files, pincers, hammers, shears, compasses, set squares, pliers, vices, saws, etc.), whose depiction in the painting is clearly emphasised by the backlighting on the left hand side of the composition.
Révoil advised Trimolet to send his painting to Paris. The work achieved great success and earned the painter a gold medal at the 1819 Salon. Critics were full of praise for it: “There would be no point in trying to describe this prodigy of truth: anything we would say would only offer a weak idea to someone who has not seen it; and those who have in fact seen it would think that we have not said enough. How could we adequately praise a work in which we believe to see nature itself through a glass that reflects the objects?”. The Count of Forbin, director of the Musées Royaux, offered Trimolet to buy the painting on behalf of the Duke of Berry for approximately 10,000 francs. However, Professor Eynard, who was the owner of the artwork, being unwilling to sell the painting, offered Trimolet a remarkable sum of money for compensation, and promised him to later gift the work to the museum of Lyon.

Ennemond Eynard (1749-1837) belonged to a bourgeois family from Lyon. In his youth he attended the University of Montpellier, where he graduated in medicine before studying in Paris with a variety of very respectable scholars. He joined the professional order of Lyon physicians in 1779, where he taught courses in anatomy, surgery, obstetrics and pharmacy until 1785. He then abandoned medicine to dedicate himself to the physical sciences and industrial mathematics. He developed a profound interest in mechanics, which he hoped to use for the benefit of manufacturing industries and the working class. During the Revolution, he finalised and enhanced multiple inventions in collaboration with Mollet, Gensoul and Raymond, a former chemist at the Polytechnique. He tried to gather together a certain number of devices in the Abbaye des Dames de Saint Pierre, which was briefly transformed into a conservatory of science, arts and mechanics, and in doing so he created an authentic industrial arsenal. However, the Palais des Arts was reformed in 1812-1813 and Eynard recuperated the models by Philippe de Lasalle and the items in the collection of Grollier de Servières. He was appointed member of the Académie des Sciences in 1804 and president of the Académie in 1813, before becoming adjoint secretary in the science section between 1812 and 1820. All industrial issues seemed worthy of attention to him and he consequently published a profusion of scientific articles and dissertations. He also participated in the revolution inaugurated by Lavoisier, which laid the foundations of modern chemistry. When he was promoted to counsellor-administrator of the École de La Martinière in Lyon, which was founded by Claude Martin, Eynard remained amongst working class children. He also donated the rich industrial cabinet and its collection of tools and of bizarre devices to the school. Furthermore, he added to this collection one of the greatest resources that had ever existed within the field of mechanical arts, namely the cabinet of physics of Monsieur Tabareau, polytechnician and member of the Académie des Sciences de Lyon. In 1831, the Académie de Lyon obtained the Cross of the Legion of Honour for Eynard. He was very touched by this honour: “Today, in my eighties, I receive from you a favour that should make me forget all the struggles of my long life, that should delight me, that should make the plights of my old age sweeter” he affirmed. This highly knowledgeable man who thoroughly adopted the new ideas of the Enlightenment died in 1837, a few days after a fall, aged eighty-eight. Today, we are aware of his physiognomy thanks to Trimolet’s composition, which was exhibited again as L’Intérieur de l’atelier de feu M. Eynard at the Salon de Lyon when the scholar died, as well as thanks to a bust by the sculptor Legendre-Héral (1796-1851), which is currently in the Salon d’Honneur of the Foundation Claude-Martin (ill. 2).
The painting, also known as Interior of a mechanic’s workshop, is still in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. Our painting is a replica made and signed by Trimolet in 1836, eighteen years after the creation of the first version. At the end of his career, Eynard, who hoped to create a museum bearing his own name within the École de La Martinière, was offered to get a copy of his painting made so that his image would be displayed in two public institutions. In this regard Trimolet stated “I did not think I should refuse [to paint it] — despite the extreme boredom deriving from the act of copying — because I am worried that it would be copied in a ridiculous manner by a young, unskilled artist who would overlook the finesse of my execution and still get all the merit. I was very much willing to show that neither my eyes nor my hand had lost their skill, as someone claimed, after eighteen years, and I think I have given proof of this”.

Until today some scholars, amongst which Boitel (1850) and Martin-Daussigny (1877), have claimed that the work in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon was the late replica while others, amongst which Vingtrinier, have argued that the original was at the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the replica at the Musée de La Martinière. The discovery of our painting, signed and dated 1836, provides the answer to this diatribe, ultimately confirming Vingtrinier’s theory. The Musée Eynard at the Lycée de La Martinière in Lyon, which houses the books, devices and tools of the scholar’s collection, has been based from 1833 onwards on the first floor on the site of the Augustins, in the west aisle of the cloister. It was accessible to the heads of the studio exclusively and upon request. Some machines and technical devices are still on display in the building in Rue Hyppolite-Flandrin, and the remains of the collection of the Musée Eynard have been stored in the attic since the 1970s.. The most interesting pieces travelled to other locations in the 1930s. It was probably then that our work, which was originally meant to reside in the Musée Eynard, left the Lycée de La Martinière.

The analysis of the painting confirms Trimolet’s claims that he did not lose his skills over those eighteen years. He even tried to improve his work by avoiding, in this second version,“the exaggerated darkness of the first one”. The composition of our painting is rigorously identical to the first, except for two almost imperceptible variations: the painter omitted the inclusion of the tool located right on top of Mr Brun’s head — probably to improve the image’s readability — and added a little red ribbon on the collar of the scholar’s vest. This latter detail represents the Legion of Honour that the Professor received in 1831, and therefore five years before the creation of our painting.

The precise brushwork and lighting of the painting point to the artist’s interest in the Nordic tradition. Strongly influenced by the discovery of the “painters of reality” during his first trip to Paris in 1817, Trimolet became accustomed to restoring old paintings in his collection and often reproduced copies of works by Nordic masters. He tried to reach “the incredible finesse” of Mieris and Gérard Dou in order to satisfy his taste for the porcelain-like finish.

His academic training and the Lyonnais tradition of precise rendering, which was inspired by the cartoons produced from the middle of the 18th century at the École gratuite de dessin, convinced him that real art was above all ‘the finished, in good condition’. Even though, in 1836, he briefly changed his mind in regards to technique — as testified by his statement that “nature is not smooth, oiled, buttered, dark, violet, colourless” — he remained loyal throughout his career to the Flemish masters of the 17th century and disapproved of the modern school of painting. He himself emphasised the contradictions of his time, highlighting that connoisseurs of art required a porcelain-like rendering for their portraits even though that specific kind of rendering was already out of fashion when Romanticism appeared! Trimolet occasionally created ivory miniatures, and towards the end of his life he published some Reflections on the media employed by painters in which he advocated for the excellent rendering inherited from the Dutch masters. A large number of portraits by Trimolet seems to have been found with a perfect varnish, exactly like ours.

The solemn composition of The Interior of the workshop of Professor Ennemond Eynard is in sharp contrast to the picturesque representations of small workshops which could be found in the artistic Salons of the Restauration, such as Le Serrurier by Jean-Antoine Laurent (ill. 3). Trimolet, who perfectly translated in paint the studious and meditative atmosphere of the workshop, captures a meeting of two connaisseurs: the experienced professor, whose regal gesture resembles that of a benediction, engages in a philosophical dialogue with his attentive pupil. The tools, which are carefully classified and exhibited on the wall and rendered with a meticulous and silent realism, are dignified by their arrangement amongst precious materials, such as ivory and alabaster. This unusual choice of subject matter expressed in a virtuoso technique definitely contributed to the popular success of this composition, which could be considered to be the manifesto of the Lyonnais school of painting that stood out for the first time at the 1819 Salon.

Amélie du Closel


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