Quotations: ST. FRANCIS DE SALES, BISHOP OF GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (1567-1622). (42 Quotes).

FEATURE Image: Saint Francis de Sales sitting in front of a copy of his work, “Introduction to the Devout Life,” oil on canvas, c.1790s, 77 cm x 99.5 cm, unknown artist. Hovering above the 17th century French Catholic bishop, saint, and Doctor of the Church are two cherubs who regard him with kindness. Public Domain. Francis de Sales became one of the most respected theologians in Christianity. A great preacher and writer, Francis de Sales ascended the seat of Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, and, with widowed Baroness Jeanne de Chantal (1571-1641), founded the religious order of the Visitation. As a diplomat and man of prayer, Francis de Sales exerted a significant influence within the Catholic Church and among the temporal powers of the day.  https://www.antiques-delaval.com/en/paintings/7068-hst-large-portrait-saint-francois-dirty-life-devote-cherubs-xviiieme.html -retrieved January 24, 2023. Public Domain.

INTRODUCTION.

By all accounts, St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) was a gracious and holy man. His writings were, similar to the Jesuits of whom Francis was a student, admirer and close friend, directed to society’s well-to-do and concerned with how they, as society’s current elites can practice, most basically, Christian “noblesse oblige” within their privileged social station.

Also like the Jesuits at that time, St. Francis de Sales’ writing defended and explained Catholic doctrine to a Europe which, in an age of Renaissance and Reformation, was very much in revolt against it. To preserve and endorse a social order as well as to perfect belief in doctrine, St. Francis de Sales communicated in everything he did and said that both were attainable.

Like the sons of St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis de Sales was also active in the direction of souls. In one of the bishop’s most famous writings, the Introduction to the Devout Life, it was a Jesuit father (Jean Fourier, S.J.), who strongly encouraged a noble lady around 1607 to prevail upon the local bishop to have his personal writings of spiritual direction to her and others printed to reach a wider audience of contacts and friends at court and others among the ruling class. St. Francis de Sales was equally eager to have his personal instructions for the advancement and perfection of individual souls printed as soon as due diligence allowed. The decision to publish the book in 1608 was auspicious – Introduction to the Devout Life became an instant international bestseller and, over four centuries, remains a spiritual classic. As John K. Ryan observed, “Its greatness lies in many things: in its originality, its completeness, its sincerity, its balance, its penetration and its style…(and) as such it is beyond adverse criticism in any important way.”1

Born Francis Bonaventure in August 1567 at the Sales castle in Savoy, France, Francis de Sales, like Ignatius of Loyola in Spain 75 years earlier, was born to nobility. His father was a lord of multiple localities and Francis was destined to inherit his life of wealth and power. As a boy and young man, Francis was naturally spiritual and as he pretended to be just another one of the fellows, class-mates in Annecy recognized Francis was devout. Despite his attraction to being a priest there were tremendous social pressures to marry a beautiful woman and inherit his father’s lordly mantle.

His family sent Francis to Paris to round out these social expectations as well as continue his education. They wanted Francis to attend the select, prestigious, and venerable (founded in 1305) College of Navarre with its renowned library, but Francis chose to attend the new (founded 1562) Jesuit College of Clermont, which was known for its academic rigor and religious and moral vision.2 At the Jesuit school St. Francis de Sales came into contact with the post-Tridentine humanism taught by its dedicated Jesuit directors and faculty such as Father Possevin, S.J. 3 In Paris St. Francis de Sales was exposed to the classical learning of the modern renaissance and which was applied in the service of the Christian mind and spirit. Francis took to humanism better than any of his class-mates and knowingly expressed its intellectual tenets the rest of his life.

Although away from the distractions of the fine hôtel de Navarre in rue Saint André des Arts which housed the College of Navarre, St. Francis de Sales could be seen working out his spiritual life often in prayer in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès in the Latin Quarter. The church (now demolished) on Rue Saint-Jacques was at the time a center for Christianity among the students. A later saintly Frenchman who often frequented Saint-Étienne-des-Grès was St. Vincent de Paul (1581-1660). The young college-age layman finding he had serious religious scruples and temptations to lust4, it was in Saint-Étienne-des-Grès that St. Francis de Sales ultimately took a personal vow of chastity before a statue of the Virgin Mary which allowed him to pursue his spiritual desires.

After studying for another 5 years at the University of Padua in Italy, the young nobleman, St. Francis de Sales, emerged in 1591 with the equivalent of today’s J.D.- Ph.D. In those years the young nobleman was surrounded by the Renaissance writings of philosophers and poets such as Marsiglio Ficino (1433-1499), Giovanni della Casa (1503-1556) and contemporary French theologian Pierre Charron (1541-1603).5 Francis was not yet a priest but set on its course – and continued onwards to ordination after he told his family of his decision. In May 1593, at 25 years old, now-Dr. Francis de Sales, Esquire, was ordained a Catholic priest and joined the staff at the chapter of Geneva. Then-bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, Claude Grenier (1548-1602), gave the young, freshly well-educated St. Francis de Sales the virtually impossible task to reconvert to Catholicism the citizens of Geneva, the seat of John Calvin (1509-1564), French Protestant and author of the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Despite his charitable and positive efforts at persuasion, the die was mostly cast for Geneva and the young priest’s efforts were unsuccessful, including the disappointment of having to deal solely on the promises of princes whether temporal or ecclesial. 6

The Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion  (1562-1598)  made for impassioned attitudes and complicating factors in European and Church politics and the individual practice of one’s faith in the larger, fragmented, society at the start of the 17th century.

In 1602 St. Francis de Sales was sent to Paris to negotiate the condition of Catholics in reconverted territories in France. He met and discussed these matters, particularly exploring its approach for the reintegration of the Catholic faithful at each stratum of society that was peaceful, positive, charitable and temperate. At meetings taking place at the worldly façade of the court of Henry IV ( (1553-1610), St. Francis de Sales met some of the great figures of the religious and mystical revival taking place in France in that time, including Henri, Duc de Joyeuse (1563–1608), a General commander in the Wars of Religion and member of the Catholic League who became a Capuchin Franciscan after the death of his wife, Catherine de La Valette; Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), one of the most important mystics of the 17th century in France and, later, a Catholic cardinal; and Madame Acarie (1566-1618), mother of seven children, and foundress and lay sister of the Discalced Carmelites in France. Born Barbara Avrillot (and called “Barbe”), Madame Acarie was widely respected in Paris as the person to whom the wealthy, whenever they desired to help the poor, made sure their alms went through her hands. St. Francis de Sales, a respected theologian, also influenced the temporal powers – the dukes of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel I (1562-1630) and Victor Amadeus I (1587-1637), the regent of Savoy Christine de France and kings Henry IV and Louis XIII of France.

Charles Emmanuel I. Duke of Savoy (1562-1630) by Jan Kraeck. Public Domain.
Victor Amadeus I (1587-1637), artist unknown. Public Domain.

In July 1602 following the death of Bishop Grenier, St. Francis de Sales became Bishop of Geneva. Francis de Sales traveled ceaselessly around the diocese and beyond, preaching and hearing confessions, and the people quickly realized they had a holy bishop. It was by way of one of his penitents, St. Jeanne-Françoise de Chantal (1572-1641), that St. Francis de Sales worked his vision of the foundation of a new order, the Visitation, whose charism was to serve the sick and the poor with “the charity and gentleness of Jesus Christ.”7

St. Francis de Sales with Sisters of the Visitation, Francisco Bayeu y Subias (1734-1795), c. 1760, oil on canvas, , 56 x 34 cm, Prado, Madrid, Spain. https://www.museodelprado.es/coleccion/obra-de-arte/san-francisco-de-sales/540cb0b9-ca15-4c43-b011-d2d71f7c5820?searchMeta=san%20francis The 18th century painting, once in the Royal Collection, is today housed in a regional art museum in Salamanca. Public Domain.

It was in this first decade of the 17th century amidst this flurry of evangelizing and other activity that the 40-something bishop wrote the Introduction to the Devout Life (1608). The book, written in short chapters with titles on topical challenges, problems, and opportunities in the Christian life in the world, provides its responses based on practical counsels. The Introduction to the Devout Life much as his later work, On Love of God, are very reliant on the Bible for its teaching and sprang directly from the bishops’ care of souls that he was doing actively and sacramentally from his diocese in southeastern France. Francis’s generous range of literary sources reflected his education in Renaissance humanism and included classical authors, Montaigne, contemporary poets as well as medieval saints and spiritual writers such as Sts. Anselm, Bonaventure and Bernard. Francis was also familiar with the writings and religious vision of the 16th century Spanish mystics and saints such as Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola.8

The exceedingly practical St. Vincent de Paul observed about St. Francis de Sales’ On the Love of God: “A truly admirable book, which has as many admirers of the sweetness of its author as it has readers. I have carefully arranged that it shall be read throughout our Society [the Vincentians], as the universal remedy for all feeble ones, the good of slothful ones, the stimulus of love, and the ladder of those who are tending to perfection. Oh! that all would study it as it deserves! There should be no one to escape its heat.”9

St. Francis de Sales by J. J. Owens. c. 1905, based on the Turin portrait. Public Domain.

St. Francis de Sales, now in his early 50s, visited Paris in 1618 where he preached sometimes twice each day. His great work was to show how ordinary daily life, particularly a busy and successful life, could be a path of holiness. No issue was too large or small for the saint to address – from parties, clothes, flirtations, daily life among marrieds – but all directed to the purpose of imitation of Christ and the love of God. St. Francis takes for granted one’s daily life in French society and proposes no maxim which involves any violent upheavals from it. Part of the saint’s genius is to see that there can be no dispute between the social order and the Christian life. At the same time, St. Francis is no easy teacher or grader – he asks that the Christian virtues be upheld and practiced. That insistence on Christian virtue informing one’s daily life is also the genius of his doctrine. While highly educated and imbued with the grace of mind of the Renaissance, St. Francis carried naturally within himself and conveyed the wisdom of the French soil of Savoy, its terroir. As Francis took one’s daily life in French society for granted, he took Catholic doctrine as if for granted. He then explained it with a highly cultivated mind and gracious spirit that expressed itself with a sweetness and gentleness of style that expounded it as “the universal remedy…the stimulus of love…the ladder …to perfection” as St. Vincent de Paul recognized to those with faith or not, or in trouble in day-to-day life.

St. Francis de Sales perhaps speaks to the 21st century most clearly by way of his theology that is presented without sentimentality or melodrama and is clearly explained and lived to be particularly possible and desirable. Francis said: “He who lives for God, frequently thinks of Him during all the occupations of life.”12

January 24 is the memorial feast day of St. Francis de Sales on the General Roman Calendar of 1969. St. Francis de Sales is the patron of writers, journalists, the Catholic press, confessors, the deaf and educators. He was proclaimed a saint and doctor of the Catholic Church. The following quotes are taken from his many published works of spiritual edification, counsel, exhortation, and solace.

NOTES:

  1. Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales, trans. and edited by John K. Ryan, Image books (Doubleday) Garden City New York, 1955, p.11.
  2. Francis de Sales and Jane de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction, trans. by Péronne Marie Thibert, V.H.M. and selected and introduced by Wendy M. Wright and Joseph F. Power, O.S.F.S. Paulist Press New York, 1988 p.19.
  3. CF. Elisabeth Stopp, “St. Francis de Sales at Clermont College,” in Salesian Studies, 6 (Winter 1969). pp. 42-43.
  4. Wright & Power, p. 20.
  5. Wright & Power, p. 22.
  6. The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957, p. 305.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Wright & Power, p. 28.
  9. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/love.all.html – retrieved January 23, 2023.
  10. The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957, p. 305.
  11. On the Love of Godhttps://www.ccel.org/ccel/desales/love.all.html – retrieved January 23, 2023.
  12. Maxims and counsels of St. Francis de Sales for every day in the year, Ella McMahon, M.H. Gill & Son, Dublin, 1884, p. 12.

QUOTATIONS.

Keep yourself faithfully in the presence of God. Avoid hurry and anxiety, for there are no greater obstacles to our progress in perfection.
Cast your heart gently, not violently, into the wounds of our Savior and have an unlimited confidence in his mercy and goodness.
To make good progress we must devote ourselves to getting over that portion of the path which lies close before us, and not amuse ourselves with the desire to attain the last step before we have accomplished the first.
We must make our imperfections die with us from day to day. Dear imperfections, which cause us to recognize our misery, which exercise us in contempt of self, and the practice of virtue, and notwithstanding which God accepts the preparation of our hearts which is perfect.
I recommend simplicity to you; look before you, and not at the dangers which you behold in the distance. Keep your will firmly bent upon serving God with your whole heart. While you are thus occupied in forecasting the future you expose yourself to some false step.
Have no care for tomorrow. Think only of doing well today. And when tomorrow shall have become today, then we shall think about it.
We must make a provision of manna for each day only. Let us not be afraid that God will fail to send down more upon us tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, and every day of our pilgrimage.
Since the Heart of our Lord has no more loving law than meekness, humility, and charity, we must firmly maintain these dear virtues in us.
True sanctity lies in love of God, and not in foolish imaginings, raptures, &c. Let us devote ourselves to the practice of true meekness and submission, to renouncement of self, to docility of heart, to love of abjection, to consideration for the wishes of others : this is true sanctity and the most amiable ecstasy of the children of God.
May you belong to God forever in this mortal life, serving Him faithfully through its trials, bearing the cross after Him, and may you be His forever in life eternal with the whole celestial court!

https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_letters/documents/20221228-totum-amoris-est.html – APOSTOLIC LETTER TOTUM AMORIS EST (it’s all about love)
OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON THE FOURTH CENTENARY OF THE DEATH
OF SAINT FRANCIS DE SALES
, dated December 28, 2022 – retrieved January 28, 2023.

The great good of our souls is to live for God, and the greatest good to live for God alone. He who lives but for God is never sad, save at having offended God.
He who lives for God, frequently thinks of Him during all the occupations of life.
Saint Francis gives the rule to Saint Jeanne de Chantal (Study for the Chapel of the Visitation at Nantes), 19th century, Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Louvre. Public Domain.
The reason persons are in the world is to receive and carry the gentle Jesus: on our tongue by proclaiming him and in our arms by doing good works.
I am as human as anyone could possibly be.
See the divine lover at the gate. He does not simply knock once. He continues to knock. He calls the soul: come, arise my beloved, hurry!…In short, this divine Savior forgets nothing to show that his mercies are above all his works, are greater than his judgment.
Solitude has its assaults, the world its busyness – in either place we must be courageous since in either place divine help is available to those who trust God and humbly and gently ask for his fatherly assistance.
Since this congregation does not have as many austerities or indissoluble bonds as formal orders, the fervor of charity and force of a deep personal resolution must supply for all that…so that might be realized the saying of the Apostle which affirms that charity is the perfect bond.
Saint François de Sales blesses Saint Jeanne de Chantal, Chapelle de la Visitation at Nantes n° 61
XIXe siècle. Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Public Domain.
It is the height of holy disinterestedness to be content with naked, dry, and insensible acts carried out by the superior will alone….In the end, the savior wants us to be His so perfectly that nothing else remains for us, and to abandon ourselves to His providence without reservation.
Since the heart is the source of all our actions, as the heart is, so are they.
For myself, I cannot approve the methods of those who try to reform a person by beginning with external things, such as bearings, dress or hair. On the contrary, it seems to me that we should begin inside.
I beg you, my dear Sister, govern your community with a great expansiveness of heart…The more solicitous, open, and supportive you are with them, the more you will win their hearts.
I had the courage to my give [my own dying mother] the last blessing, to close her eyes and mouth and to give her the last kiss of peace at the moment she passed away; after which my heart swelled and I wept….
Saint Francis de Sales healing a lame man, Chapelle de la Visitation at Nantes n° 61
XIXe siècle. Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Public Domain.
Then let us belong wholly to Him, and live but for Him, desiring only to please Him, and for his creatures in Him, through Him, and for Him. Make your little efforts sweetly, peacefully, and amiably to please this Sovereign Goodness, and do not be astonished at difficulties.
We must be constant in aspiring to the perfection of holy love, in order that love may be perfect. For the love which seeks anything less than perfection cannot fail to be imperfect.
Never permit your soul to be sad and live in bitterness of spirit or scrupulous fear, since He who loved it and died to give it life is so good, so sweet, so amiable.
God, who calls us to Him, sees how we are approaching, and will never permit anything to happen but what is for our greater good. God knows what we are, and will hold out his paternal hand to us in a difficult step, in order that nothing may stop us.
God has preserved you so far. Only keep yourself faithful to the law of his providence and He will assist you at all times. And where you cannot walk, He will carry you.
Saint Francis de Sales healing a lame man, Chapelle de la Visitation at Nantes n° 61
XIXe siècle. Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), Musée d’Arts de Nantes. Public Domain.
An over-sensitive mind can neither receive nor endure anything without telling of it, and it is always a little astonished at the lowly places which humility and simplicity choose.
I see you with your vigorous heart which loves and wills powerfully. I like it, for what are those half -dead hearts good for? We must make a particular exercise once every week of willing to love the will of God more tenderly, more affectionately than anything in the world, and that, too, not only in bearable but in the most unbearable events.
Plant in your heart Jesus Christ Crucified, and all the crosses of this world will seem to you like roses.
Lord Jesus, without reserve, without an if, or a but, without exception or limitation, may you holy will be done in all things and at all times.
Regard not the appearance of the things you are to do, but Him who commands them, and who, when He pleases, can accomplish his glory and our perfection through the most imperfect and trifling things.
 
Painting of St. Francis de Sales in Don Bosco’s rooms at the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales in Turin.
Behold this great Artisan of mercy. He converts our miseries into graces and our iniquities into salutary remedies for our souls. Tell me, I pray, what will He not do with the afflictions, the labors, the persecutions which assail us?
Never think you have attained the purity of heart which you owe to God until your will is freely and joyfully resigned to his holy will in all things, even in the most repugnant.
Daily strengthen yourself more and more in the resolution, which you formed with so much affection, of serving God according to his good pleasure. Regard Him who commands them and, when He pleases, can accomplish his glory and our perfection through the most imperfect and trifling things.
A true servant of God has no care for tomorrow, but performs faithfully what is required today, and tomorrow will do what is required without a word.
The meek Savior would have us meek, so that, though surrounded by the world and the flesh, we may live by the Spirit that, amidst the vanities of earth, we may live in heaven; that, living among men, we may praise Him with the angels.
St. Francis de Sales, 18th c, Besançon, 96 x 131 cm.
Here is the great lesson – we must discover God’s will, and, recognizing it, endeavor to do it joyfully, or at least courageously.
The sight alone of our dear Jesus crucified can speedily soften all sorrows, which are but flowers compared with his thorns.
Our great rendezvous is an eternal heaven and compared with the price of eternity, what are the things which end with time?
Continue to unite yourself more and more with our Lord. Plunge your heart into the charity of His, and say always with your whole soul: May I die and may Jesus live !” Our death will be a happy one if we have died daily.
Lord Jesus, what true happiness for a soul consecrated to God to be strongly exercised in tribulation before leaving this life!

MONTFORT L’AMAURY, France. Thirty miles west of Paris, the 1000-year-old fortified royal town showcases its 11th century crusaders’ castle, 16th century flamboyant Gothic church with 37 intact Renaissance stained-glass windows and the homes of 20th century playwright Jean Anouilh and music composer Maurice Ravel.

FEATURED image: Manuscript 16th century (detail): Queen consort Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) receiving a Book of Hours from her Dominican confessor, Antoine Dufour (d.1509). Montfort L’Amaury returned to the crown of France after Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII “the Affable” (1470-1498) in 1491.

Started in the 11th century, L’Église St. Pierre anchors part of the centre ville of Montfort L’Amaury, a town in France about 30 miles west of Paris. The photograph is taken from the ruins of the chateau on the town’s heights. The late 10th century Frankish king Robert II built a castle in the hills of Montfort. From the start of the 11th century, Montfort-l’Amaury was the stronghold of the Montfort family. Author’s photograph.

At the north edge of the Rambouillet forest the city of Montfort L’Amaury spreads along the restored ruins of its ancient fortified castle. Founded under the Capetian kings, the city owes its fame to Simon de Montfort (1208-1265), Anne de Bretagne (1477-1514), the Valois royal dynasty, and Henry IV (1553-1610). Its monuments begin in the 11th century, stretch towards exceptional Renaissance stained-glass windows and half-timbered houses as its civilization has attracted writers, artists, and musicians to live there. This would include the house of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) called Le Belvédère where he lived from 1921 until his death and where we were invited to sit at, and play, the piano where Ravel composed Boléro. It was in March 2002 during a visit to Paris and the Île-de France that we ventured through Yvelines by train to Montfort-L’Amaury for a day trip which included a memorable déjeuner in a restaurant that has since disappeared.

Interior, L’Église Saint-Pierre (Church of St. Peter), late 15th century, Montfort L’Amaury, France. Author’s photograph.

The interior of Saint Pierre church is bright and intimate. Like other French monuments, today’s Saint-Pierre was completed over many centuries. Its origin is in the 11th century. A notable reconstruction of the edifice began in the late 15th century by initiative of Queen Consort, Anne of Bretagne. There is a vast ambulatory around both sides of the nave. Since 1840, the church has been an historic monument because of its unique ensemble of 37 stained glass windows. The oldest date from the 1540s and 1570s. The others were installed in the late16th century. That ecclesial project was started by Catherine de Medicis (1519-1589) in 1562. The windows were installed during the time of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) and some of the glass commemorates that event. As none of the glasswork is signed, it is not known whether its painters are from Montfort L’Amaury or elsewhere.

St. Peter Window. L’Église Saint-Pierre, Montfort L’Amaury, France. Throughout France starting in the 1540s there was a growing taste and demand for stained glass windows in their local churches. The experimentation in glasswork and painting by the middle of the 16th century allowed for the iconography in these stained glass windows to express numerous details and refined techniques. Fair use. Public Domain.
Detail. St. Peter Window. Fair use. Public Domain.
Detail. Nativity Window. Fair use. Public Domain.
The south exterior of L’Église Saint-Pierre along Rue de Dion in Montfort L’Amaury. The exterior wall shows flying buttresses designed in the French Renaissance style as well as gargoyles that were sculpted in the late 15th century. The building is constructed of calcified stone that came from towns to the north, precisely, Maule, and a more distant Vernon on the Seine. The interior ambulatory that surrounds the nave on both sides and ends at the chevet expresses the building’s gothic aspect. Street lamps and a narrow street with tight parking has room for a small tree next to the church. Author’s photograph.
Montfort L’Amaury has half-timbered houses dating to the 16th century. This is no. 16, Place de la Libération, just steps from the front entrance of Église St. Pierre. At the beginning of October 1825 young Victor Hugo (1802-1885) lived in Montfort L’Amaury for a few days. He wrote a letter to his father in Paris and described it as “a charming little town ten leagues from Paris, where there are ruins, woods, and one of my friends…” Author’s photograph.
Portrait de Victor Hugo sur fond de Notre-Dame de Reims, Jean Alaux, 1825, Maison de Victor Hugo – Hauteville House, oil on cardboard. Public Domain.
https://www.parismuseescollections.paris.fr/fr/maison-de-victor-hugo/oeuvres/portrait-de-victor-hugo-sur-fond-de-notre-dame-de-reims
View of the church from the east. The church of Saint Pierre is of late gothic origin. It was rebuilt and decorated in the 15th, 16th, and early 17th centuries. Following the French Revolution and its aftermath, the church building received an extensive restoration in the mid19th century, including a new steeple. Except for one stained glass window that was restored in situ, all the 16th-century stained glass windows were taken out, restored, and reinstalled by a master painter in Metz between 1851 and 1857.
Chevet. L’Église Saint-Pierre. Public Domain.
On Saint Pierre’s front stoop is busy Place de la Libération and with Rue de la Libération just beyond. At the end of the street is the rounded 16th century La Porte Bardoul, one of gateways to the chateau. It was named in the 16th century for the Captain who built the ramparts of Montfort L’Amaury in the 11th century (Hugues Bardoul). Author’s photograph.
Charles Aznavour – Disque D’Or” by Piano Piano! is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Charles Aznavour (1924-2018), dubbed France’s Frank Sinatra, never lived in Montfort L’Amaury. For 60 years, the singer lived in Galluis, a neighboring town just 5 minutes by car up the road. Yet, in those many years, Aznavour frequently came to Montfort L’Amaury, sometimes to go shopping or visit friends or eat at one of its excellent restaurants. In 2018 Aznavour was buried in the cemetery in Montfort L’Amaury and has become a pilgrimage site for his many fans.
The cemetery at Montfort L’Amaury dates from the sixteenth century and is an interesting site to visit for its history, architecture, and people buried within. As dead bodies were originally buried in the ground as they are today, over the many centuries the bones were later exhumed and deposited in ossuaries. This was essential during epidemics that occurred regularly when ground-space for burials was at a premium for the bodies of the newly dead. Built to give the appearance of a cloister, these galleries are actually a mass grave. Its architecture is charming and conveys the aspect of a Romantic bone-yard. Fair Use.  
Ruins of the castle of Montfort-l’Amaury. In the foreground is Le Belvédère, the house of Maurice Ravel. Montfort-l’Amaury Donjon by ℍenry Salomé (Jaser !) 08:12, 21 November 2006 (UTC) – Cliché personnel, own work is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The role of Montfort l’Amaury as a town began to develop in the High Middle Ages when Capetian king, Robert II (976-1031), built a castle there in the forest of Yvelines which was then a royal prerogative. William of Hainaut built the castle whose walls were finished around  1050. Hugues Bardoule was captain of the castle and thus a later 16th century gateway is named after him. It is in the 11th century that L’Église Saint-Pierre and L’Église Saint Laurent begin to be built. Robert II was married three times, and excommunicated by the Catholic Church – one of the early examples of French royals who married as they wished.

In the twelfth century, Bertrade de Montfort (1070-1117), after giving birth to a boy who would become King of Jerusalem, left her husband, the Duke of Anjou, Fulk IV (1043-1109) in 1092. She married the king of France, Philip I “the Amorous” whose spouse, Bertha of Holland, was also still living.

Philip was so in love with Bertrade that he refused to leave her even when threatened and finally excommunicated by Pope Urban II (1035-1099) in 1095. Because of his excommunication Philip was prevented from taking part in the First Crusade (1096-1099).

Bertrade de Montfort and King Philip I “the Amorous.” Chroniques de Saint-Denis (ou de France), British Library, Royal 16 G VI f. 271. 14th Century (1332-1350). https://www.bl.uk/IllImages/Kslides%5Cbig/K137/K137596.jpg
The ramparts and castle. Author’s photograph.

The ramparts and castle were destroyed by the English during the Hundred Years’ War in the 15th century. After the battle of Agincourt in 1419, the English occupied the French domain and it was during this time that the castle at Montfort was destroyed. The two rebuilt towers were named for Anne of Brittany after she assisted in the castle’s restoration. From this height, the fort overlooked the old Roman road from Beauvais to Chartres.

Also from this place, troops assembled at Montfort L’Amaury in the 12th century as Amaury III raised lords and knights to fight alongside Louis VI (1081-1137) against the Emperor of Germany. Simon IV fought alongside Philippe II Auguste (1165-1223) against the English as well as to the Crusades in the Middle East and the Albigensian Crusade in southern France. The Montforts distinguished themselves especially in this crusade against the Cathars.

At the beginning of the Third Crusade (1189-1192), not wanted by King Philippe Auguste (1165-1223), the future Louis VIII “the Lion” (1187-1226) was looking for companions. Simon IV, Lord of Montfort (1175-1218), embarked on the crusade where victory was equalled by its terror.

Stained glass (detail) Chartres cathedral: Simon de Montfort V (1208-1265). Simon was born in the chateau in 1208. Whereas his brother Amaury V (1191-1241) inherited his father’s French properties, including in the south of France owing to his father’s Cathar crusade, Simon V is known to history as having a major role in the constitutional development of England where he successfully led the barons’ opposition to the absolute rule of King Henry III (1207-1272) of England. During his rule of England Simon de Montfort V called two famous parliaments, one of which recognized the voices of ordinary town citizens in the affairs of government making him one of the progenitors of modern parliamentary democracy. Public Domain.

In January 1238, Montfort married  Eleanor of England, daughter of King John and Isabella of Angoulême and sister of English King Henry III. While this marriage took place with the king’s approval, the act itself was performed secretly and without consulting the great barons. Eleanor had previously been married and swore a vow of perpetual widowhood after her husband died. This vow was broken when she married Montfort and, for that reason, the Archbishop of Canterbury condemned it. The English nobles protested the marriage of the king’s sister to a foreigner who was only of modest rank. Most notably, Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwell, the king’s and Eleanor’s brother, rose up in revolt over the marriage. King Henry III eventually bought off his brother and peace was restored. The marriage brought property to Montfort and when a child was born of the union in late 1238, he was baptized Henry, in honor of his uncle, the king. In February 1239, Montfort was finally invested as Earl of Leicester where he acted as the king’s advisor and became godfather to Henry’s eldest son, Edward, who became King Edward I (“Longshanks”).

Eleanor of England who married Simon de Montfort V in 1238 in an early-fourteenth-century Genealogical Roll of the Kings of England. Public Domain.
The author at the ramparts. These fortifications were originally built over 1000 years ago in the early 11th century by Amaury I. The walls run from east to west creating a superficial size of Montfort at about 4 to 5 hectares (one hectare equals about two and a half acres). Portions of the wall were dismantled during the 100 Years War but rebuilt during the Wars of Religion (1562-1598) as well as Montfort’s reception of a royal charter by Charles IX in the mid16th century. The rebuilt wall had to expand to meet the development of Montfort under Anne de Bretagne a half a century before, though substantial portions of the original 11th century wall were incorporated into the construction. Author’s collection.
Manuscript 16th century (detail): Queen consort Anne of Brittany (1477-1514) receiving a Book of Hours from her Dominican confessor, Antoine Dufour (d.1509). Montfort L’Amaury returned to the crown of France after Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII “the Affable” (1470-1498) in 1491.

From Montfort L’Amaury, the lords continued to assist the French kings in the crusades. After John I, only a daughter allowed the continuity of the Montfort family. Beatrice d’Albidon married Robert, Count of Dreux. The Comté de Montfort was related to the Duchy of Brittany following the marriage of Yolande de Dreux-Montfort (1263-1330) with Arthur II of Brittany (1261-1312) in 1294. It was in the late 13th century that Monfort established a public school in 1298.

Montfort returned to the crown of France after Anne of Brittany married Charles VIII “the Affable” (1470-1498) in 1491. The marriage contract stipulated a union of France and Brittany. If the queen were to die first and childless, the king would inherit all her property. Also in their pre-nuptial agreement, if Charles VIII died first Anne was to marry his successor. This was his cousin, the handsome and seductive Louis XII (1462-1515). By 1550, Brittany and the French Crown finally united under a single sovereign, Henry II (1519-1559).

This union of Brittany and France was beneficial to Montfort as the union with Brittany only was not particularly. In this period the castle ruins were restored and there was construction of a notable staircase to be seen today. The cemetery was relocated outside the city walls. Churches were rebuilt. Meanwhile, Montfort maintained a semi-autonomy from the crown of France.

Under the Valois the Yvelines region of which Montfort is a central part received royal favor. Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) was named the Lady of Montfort in 1561. When the Wars of Religion broke out (1562-1598), the king, Charles IX (1550-1574), offered to the city home-rule in exchange for the reconstruction of its medieval ramparts at his expense. At the end of these wars, the passage of the future king, Henry IV (1553-1610) on the road that led him to Paris to take power, allowed Montfort L’Amaury to prove its loyalty to the new king. Montfort provided Henry Navarre with weapons and later obtained special rights in exchange. During the reigns of the first two Bourbon kings of France, Henry IV and Louis XIII (1601-1643), there are frequent royal visits to Montfort L’Amaury.

A canonized Catholic saint among the Valois- Joan of Valois (1464 – 1505), sister of Charles VIII, and betrothed of Louis XII.

Portrait of Joan of Valois as abbess by Jean Perréal (1455-1530).

The second daughter of Louis XI (1423-1483) and Charlotte of Savoy (1411-1483), Joan of Valois was a fleeting Queen of France as the wife of King Louis XII following the death of her brother, King Charles VIII. Her marriage was soon annulled so that Louis could, as pre-arranged by contract, marry Charles VIII’s widow, Anne of Brittany.

Joan’s demeanor was characterized by an accepting and placid countenance. When she retired from court politics to become Duchess of Berry, the former Queen of France remarked: “If so it is to be, praised be the Lord.”

In Bourges, Joan of Valois founded a monastic order of sisters and served them as their abbess. In terms of her personality, Joan could be autocratic as an administrator of her nuns, which may have been a vestige of her former high-born role. Joan was canonized in May 1950, almost 450 years after her death.

Workshop of François Clouet. Catherine de’ Medici wears the black cap and veil of widow, after 1559. Upon seeing Catherine in the flesh, an Italian diplomat noted that “her mouth is too large and her eyes too prominent and colorless for beauty. But she is very distinguished-looking, has beautiful skin, a shapely figure, and exquisitely made hands.”
Portrait de Henri IV, roi de France et de Navarre (1553-1610) 1600 / 1700 (XVIIe siècle), Atelelier de Frans Pourbus II Louvre. Hung in Versailles chateau. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010057776
Marie de’ Medici, 1616, Frans Pourbus the Younger (Flemish, 1569-1622), oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago. Marie de Medici (1575-1642) married Henry IV of France in 1600. After the king was assassinated in Paris in 1610, Marie de Medici served as the regent for their young son, Louis XIII. Marie de Medici brought Frans Pourbus to the French court to make regal portraits of the royal family.
Louis XIII between the figures of two young women symbolizing France and Navarre. 1636/38, School of Simon Vouet (1590-1649). Louvre, Paris. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062003

Le Belvédère: the House of Maurice Ravel from 1921 to his death in 1937 at Montfort L’Amaury.

The author in front of Le Belvédère, the house of Maurice Ravel, and ready to go inside for a visit. Author’s collection.
Pianist Jacques Février with Maurice Ravel in 1925 in Le Belvédère, the house of the composer in Montfort-l’Amaury. Public Domain.
The salon of the Ravel house. Author’s photograph.
Ravel’s house sits on an ascent from the centre ville where Ravel could look out his garden-side window  to back towards town and south and east to the green countryside between Montfort and Paris. Author’s photograph.
George Maas” by Crossett Library Bennington College is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Jean Anouilh (1910-1987) was a French dramatist who lived in Montfort-L’Amaury in France. Anouilh’s 1944 play, Antigone, was an adaptation play of Sophocles’ play of the same name. The 34-year-old Anouilh’s work was seen as an attack on the Vichy government of Marshal Pétain (1856-1951) in World War II.

Anouiih also wrote Becket. The original French play is titled Becket ou l‘Honneur de Dieu. It was staged in Paris at the Théâtre Montparnasse-Gaston Baty in October 1959 and directed by Anouilh. The play dramatizes historical martyr and Catholic saint Thomas Becket (1120-1170), the Archbishop of Canterbury In England, whose feast day is December 29.

Becket was the best friend to younger King Henry II of England. Cunning and proud, vulnerable and lonely, pent-up King Henry is interested in hunting and women, and not necessarily in that order. Henry is bored with political affairs and as king has his one friend, Thomas Becket, who is his companion in vice and debauchery.

Becket serves his king loyally, without compromise. Wanting to strengthen his power over the Church in England and believing his idea to be an excellent one, Henry appoints Becket as chancellor of England and he later becomes Archbishop of Canterbury. But nothing goes as planned. Becket, on his path to sainthood, finds he cannot serve both king and God.

For Henry the arrangement is one of disillusionment, resentment, hatred, and torn friendship – and, later, repentance. For Becket it is a tale of courage, renunciation, and honor as the archbishop  seeks to defend church freedom in England against an ambitious secular power. Such conflict provokes Becket’s murder by the king’s knights in the archbishop’s own cathedral.

Anouilh’s Becket became an international sensation. Successive productions in English translation were mounted in London (starring Christopher Plummer and Eric Porter) and in New York City (starring Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn). In 1964 Becket became a major motion picture starring Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole which won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

SOURCES:

Montfort L’Amaury de l’an mil à nos jours, Marie-Huguette Hadrot, Paris: Somogy Editions d’Art, 2002.

Montfort-L’Amaury, Le Syndicat d’Initiative des Fêtes et des Arts de Montfort-L’Amaury et ses Environs, 1972.

Montfort-L’Amaury Les Verrières de L’Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre(Yvelines), Laurence de Finance and Marie-Huguette Hadrot, Paris: Centre de Documentation du Patrimoine, 1994.

https://montjoye.net/chateau-de-montfort-lamaury

https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/medias-people/du-monde-a-montfort-l-amaury-pour-se-recueillir-sur-la-tombe-de-charles-aznavour-1541236036

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_de_Bretagne

http://www.montfortlamaury.free.fr/fr/index.php/Montfort-l-amaury-un-millenaire-d-histoire

The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957.

Through the ramparts, Montfort L’Amaury. Author’s photograph,

I Confess, a 1953 film noir by Alfred Hitchcock features Montgomery Clift as Fr. Logan who is framed for a murder committed by another man whose confession the Catholic priest heard and cannot reveal.

FEATURE image: Alfred Hitchcock Presents” by twm1340 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

In I Confess, a 1953 film noir by Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) from Warner Bros., a Catholic priest, Fr. Logan (played by Montgomery Clift) hears the confession of a man who works in the rectory and just killed another man.

That killer had been dressed as a priest and, among other circumstances, points to Fr. Logan as the primary suspect for the police Inspector (Karl Malden) and prosecutor (Brian Aherne) for the murder of Villette, a prominent lawyer.

Because of the seal of confession – that is, when a person confesses his sins to a priest in Confession, the priest must maintain absolute secrecy about anything that the person confesses – Fr. Logan does not and cannot under any circumstances divulge the identity of the confessed killer though he (and the audience) knows it.

Even after Fr. Logan is arrested for the crime and put on trial for murder for it, the priest does not reveal the identity of the killer but only protests for his own innocence.

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Hitchcock’s black-and-white film was shot by cinematographer Robert Burks (1909-1968) who would later shoot Hitchcock’s The Birds in 1964. It is edited by German-born Rudi Fehr (1911-1999) who in 1954 edited Hitchcock’s triumphant color feature, Dial M For Murder.

The story in I Confess was based on a 1902 play by Paul Anthelme Bourde (1851-1914), a French journalist who coined the term “decadent” for the avant-garde when he called indecipherable poets such as Symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) one in the late 19th century.

The film follows the play which is about a killer who confesses to a priest knowing his crime cannot be betrayed. To complicate matters further, the killer blackmails the priest for a long-ago love affair he had with Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter), the wife of a leading citizen, and who still loves him. For the priest, the love affair is in the past though for Mrs. Grandfort it is not.

This work is in the public domain in the U.S. because it was published in the U.S. between 1927 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice.

Clearly, for Hitchcock in I Confess, the priest in this situation is a highly curious figure. By the end of the film, it becomes clear that the seal of confession is a cross for the priest because of his priesthood – and though sins do not always deal with high crime – demonstrates the personified sacramental nature of self-sacrifice that is involved for the priest with each confession he hears. Throughout the film, Fr. Logan is a tragi-comic figure as he simply does not state the obvious of who the murderer is on behalf of social justice and his own innocence, but equally personifying the religious nature of living with and taking on another’s sin particularly when a person refuses their own responsibility and makes amends for it. In I Confess, the murderer has no intention of turning himself in and is content to let the priest under seal of confession take the rap in the courtroom of the law and public opinion.

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Fr. Logan never impedes law enforcement’s investigation. He continually states his own innocence for which a jury of his peers is brought in to decide what to believe.

The sin of omission – and in I Confess it is for the gravity of murder – remains with the impenitent Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse) although his loving wife, Alma (Dolly Hass), to whom Keller confessed the crime outside confession’s seal, cannot abide by his secret.

If, despite the seal of confession, crimes can be revealed to government investigators then the sanctuary of the law of the cross is extricated to get at evil – which is not contradiction nor improvement to the confessional box (the priest may ask the penitent for a release from the sacramental seal to discuss the confession) but its obligatory public replacement. As there is often no transparency and plenty of state secrets in and around various government agencies, this becomes no less problematical than breaking down a Catholic (and Lutheran) church’s confessional door.

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Although found “not guilty” for lack of evidence to convict, the presiding judge expresses his disbelief in Fr. Logan’s innocence. When Fr. Logan exits the court building, he is followed and faced by a hostile crowd – “Preach us a sermon, Logan!” The prosecutor, as he watches the ugly scene from his office above, is forced to lament his actions: ”Do you think I enjoyed it?” he says, washing his hands. After Fr. Logan is crashed into a car window in the crowd, Alma, Keller’s wife, (her name means “soul”) rushes in towards the priest to tell what she knows – and which an accompanying police guard relates to the Inspector – “She said he was innocent.”

I, Confess animation” by doc_tor_matt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/catholic-faith/the-seal-of-the-confessional.html

Considered Hitchcock’s once most Catholic of films, I Confess is a tight drama with a truly despicable villain, whose murderous rampages continue. The film is ahead of its time in terms of direction – presaging some of the camera angles, editing, pacing and themes of international crime and psychological dramas that would not come to fruition for another 10 to 20 years.

An online search by title at the US copyright office yielded no copyright renewal. In the absence of renewal of the US copyright, this poster art entered the public domain 28 years after its US publication date.

text & layout –

FRENCH ART in the 17th Century: SIMON VOUET (1590-1649).

FEATURE Image: Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Self-portrait, c. 1626–1627, Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon. https://www.mba-lyon.fr/fr/article/simon-vouet In Simon Vouet’s self portrait painted in his final years in Rome he displays his signature rapid brushwork and desire for movement in the picture.

Simon Vouet was born into modest circumstances in Paris on January 9, 1590. After stays in England in 1604, Constantinople in 1611 and Venice in 1613 of which little is known, the French painter Simon Vouet (1590-1649) spent nearly 15 years in Rome starting around 1614. In 1624 Vouet was elected to lead the Accademia di San Luca, an artists’ association founded in 1593 by Federico Zuccari (1539-1609).

Most French painters born in the 1590s made a stay in Rome which influenced art in France in the 17th century. Vouet was in Italy, primarily in Rome, between around 1613 until 1627 and received a special privilege from the French crown in 1617. It was this traffic of young French, Flemish and other international artists between Italy and their home countries in the first third of the 17th century that, for France, helped revolutionize French art. This was achieved by way of the contemporary application of ideas and styles influenced by late Renaissance Italian realist artists such as the aesthetic of Caravaggio (1571-1610) and the history painting method of Annibale Carracci (1560-1609), among many others, to which French artists were exposed while in Italy. In Rome Vouet, like other French artists such as Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), was patronized by Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597-1679) and Cavaliere del Pozzo (1588-1657), among others. In 1624 Vouet was commissioned to paint the fresco to accompany Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s and while greatly admired it was destroyed in the 18th century.

In addition to Rome, Vouet traveled to Naples, Genoa in 1620 and 1621, and, in 1627, Modena, Florence, Parma, Milan, Piancenza, Bologna and again Venice where he copied Titian (1488-1576), Tintoretto (1518-1594) and Paolo Veronese (1528-1588). During these visits Vouet studied the chief art collections that informed Vouet’s own style which amounted to a free form of temperate, classicized Baroque. This is the style, along with the latest Venetian-influenced brighter colors, vivid light, and painterly execution that Vouet returned and introduced to France in the 1630s. In France, Vouet had taken to himself as a painter his particular appreciation for the classicized compositions of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) and the cool colors of Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674).

In 1627, King Louis XIII (1601-1643) called Vouet back to Paris to be his court painter. Vouet refined Caravaggio’s innovations into a style that would become the French school of painting starting in the 1630s and extending into the middle of the 18th century. Until about 1630 it was Late Mannerism which dominated in  French painting and included unnatural physiognomy, strained poses, and untenable draperies. This changed with Vouet’s return who brought back from Italy a style with classical, realist, and Baroque painting components that was unknown in France until then and which Vouet stamped with his own style.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Portrait of a Young Man, c. 1616/1618, 55 x .41 m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061288

This painting entered the Louvre as a work of the Neapolitan school. It was recent scholarship that attributed it to Vouet which would make it one of his earliest portraits in Rome. Building on the premise, scholars have proposed Francesco Maria Maringhi (1593-1653), a Florentine patrician and lover and protector of Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1656), as the model.

Vouet married twice. His first wife was a young Italian woman he met in 1625 – Virginia da Vezzo  (1600–1638). In France Vouet’s wife, who bore him 4 children, was well received by the French court. After Virginia died in 1638, Vouet married Radegonde Béranger (b. 1615), a young beauty from Paris, in July 1640. Radegonde bore Vouet another 3 children (one died in infancy), and survived him.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Virginia da Vezzo, the Artist’s Wife, as the Magdalen, oil on canvas, 40 × 31 in. (101.6 × 78.7 cm), oil on canvas,  c. 1627, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. https://collections.lacma.org/node/247903
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Judith with the head of Holofernes, 1620/1625, 97 x 73,5 cm, oil on canvas, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/jWLpZea4KY/simon-vouet/judith-mit-dem-haupt-des-holofernes
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Birth of the Virgin c. 1620 Rome S. Francesco a Ripa.
Detail: The Birth of the Virgin.

The Birth of the Virgin was one of many paintings in a somber palette that Vouet produced in Rome influenced by Caravaggio though its mood is more vibrant. The composition is broad, low and somewhat setback from the picture plane. Amidst the swirling movement and vitality of the drawing and figures, including sumptuous draperies, it is observed that the head of the maid servant in the middle of the composition is modeled on one by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). These early qualities that Vouet had  taken from Italian painting were, when he returned to France, taken over by a heightened decorative style in the 1630s and 1640s.

Ottavio Leoni (1578–1630), Simon Vouet in Italy, engraving, sheet 9 3/8 × 7 1/16 in. (23.34 × 17.94 cm), Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Temptation of Saint Francis, c. 1620 Rome Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Lucina.

In Rome Simon Vouet adopted a Caravaggesque style coupled with elements from Michelangelo such as in this painting for an ancient church in Rome. While Vouet worked directly from the model and used closely observed poses from reality, the head of St. Francis of Assisi seems to be taken from one by Michelangelo.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Circumcision, oil on canvas, Church of Sant’ Angelo a Segno Naples.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Crucifixion with Mary and John, oil on canvas, Church of Jesus and Saints Ambrogio and Andrea Genoa
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Appearance of the Virgin to St Bruno, c. 1624, Naples, S. Martino.

As Vouet stayed in Italy he increasingly turned to a Baroque style of which The Crucifixion with Mary and John in Genoa is an early example. The Appearance of the Virgin to St. Bruno in the Carthusian monastery of San Martino in Naples is a later and more fully realized Baroque style example. The atmosphere of each showing saints in ecstasy is a clear element in Baroque’s intensified and elaborated religious representation. In Italy Vouet’s paintings are more restrained than the full contemporary Baroque art of Pietro da Cortona (1597-1669) and his followers such that the French painter’s figure of the Virgin in his Naples’ picture tends towards a classical Renaissance tradition that would be an important part of the expression of French taste in the 1630s and 1640s.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Modelli for Altarpiece St-Peters Rome, 1625, Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The ill-matched couple (Vanitas), c. 1621.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), David with the Head of Goliath, c. 1621,Palazzo Bianco, Genoa.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), St. Catherine, c. 1621.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Young Man wearing armor, c. 1625/271,165 m x .91 m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061299

The painting by Vouet towards the end of his Roman period, the identity of the young man above is unknown though speculation by modern scholars is impressive (i.e., St. Thomas Aquinas, among others). The painting’s copies are numerous which points to the composition’s success. These copies can be found in major museums throughout Europe.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Saint Jerome and the Angel, c. 1622/1625, 144.8 x 179.8 cm (57 x 70 13/16 in.), oil on canvas, The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46151.html

In 1627 Vouet painted Saint Jerome and the Angel featuring an elderly bearded saint and a winged curly-haired angel holding a trumpet that signifies the Last Judgment. While the composition is Caravaggesque in its naturalistic depiction of half figures, stark lighting, and dark-brown palette, Vouet’s painting features brighter colors in the robes and clothes which was a departure from the Caravaggesque tradition and, among some contemporary artists in Rome in the late 1620s, an aesthetic innovation. The painting demonstrates Vouet’s superb fluid handling of paint which he brought back to and deployed in France starting in the 1630s.

Nicolas Mignard (1606-1666), Portrait de Simon Vouet, Louvre.

Vouet was a leading French artist in Rome when asked to return to France by the king in 1627. At his arrival, though embraced by King Louis XIII and his mother, Marie de’ Medici, Vouet was kept at a distance by Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642) who viewed the ambitious artist as a social climber. Though modest compared to the great collections in London and Madrid, Cardinal Richelieu collected about 272 pictures, the canvasses listed in an inventory compiled by Vouet and his student, Laurent de la Hyre. Though Richelieu succeeded in getting Poussin to return to France from Rome in 1641and as “First Painter,” this direct competition to Vouet was short-lived. Richelieu died in 1642 and Poussin left for Italy the same year.

The king set Vouet to the task of painting portraits of the court nobility though just one survives today – that of Richelieu’s secretary. In 1648, when the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture was established – an organization that held monopoly power over the arts in France for the next 150 years – Vouet was not invited to join. Vouet understood that the academy, which included his pupils Le Brun and Le Sueur, was established in part as a generational shift that challenged his influence and authority. Vouet countered by modernizing the old painter’s guild but did not live to see the battle joined. He died of exhaustion in June 1649. The Academy went on to school artists, provide access to prestigious commissions, and hosted the Salon to exhibit their work. After Vouet’s death, the Académie soon rose to prominence with Jean-Baptiste Colbert, First Minister of State from 1661 until his death in 1683 under Louis XIV, as its protector and Charles Le Brun as First Painter and the Académie’s director.

Atelier of Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Michel le Masle (1573-1662), 1628,, oil on canvas, musée Carnavalet, Paris.

Upon Vouet’s return to France in late November 1627, his French style set to work mainly on religious subjects which were admired by the public, particularly in diocesan and religious orders’ churches of Paris. As late as 1630, the eye of the Paris art consumer was used to prevailing late 16th century mannerism. It took time for the French to better accept Vouet’s new Caravaggesque naturalism. Further, while France was a so-called eldest daughter of the Catholic Church, Parisians did not share the intense religious enthusiasm that was the art expression in the papal states. Parisians did not fully accept the swirling heavenly masses found in Italian Baroque. In France Vouet had to temper his stylistic synthesis of classicism, naturalism and baroque as the French expression of and contribution to a great international style.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Madonna and Child, 1633 oil on canvas, overall: 110.3 × 89.4 cm (43 7/16 × 35 3/16 in.) The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.206070.html

Vouet’s new and tempered French style is exquisitely represented in Madonna and Child (1633). During the religious reformation period in the 16th century one of the Catholic Church’s responses was the renewal of devotion to the Virgin Mary. This cult of the Virgin, once blossomed in the 12th century, was in renewed full maturity in the 1630s and even inspired the French king to dedicate his North American empire to her in 1638. Vouet painted more than a dozen compositions of the Virgin and her son at half-length. While the blank background and figurative monumentality remain from his Roman days, Vouet’s mastery of light and use of bright colors signal the realization of the new French style. The monumental figure of the seated Virgin depicted in a Mannerist and Classical synthesis holds her son on her lap and looks at him with drooping eyes.Her arm supported by the foundation of a classical column, Mary’s dark hair is held back by a fabric band as her neck and shoulder are exposed. The Christ child reaches up to kiss his mother, his body in a Baroque twist as he caresses her face. The brilliantly executed moment expresses intimacy and tenderness while maintaining religious seriousness.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Lot and his Daughters, 1633, 160 x 130 cm, oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-arts, Strasbourg. https://www.musees.strasbourg.eu/oeuvre-musee-des-beaux-arts/-/entity/id/220480?_eu_strasbourg_portlet_entity_detail_EntityDetailPortlet_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.musees.strasbourg.eu%2Frechercher-oeuvre-musee-beaux-arts%3Fp_p_id%3Deu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet%26p_p_lifecycle%3D0%26p_p_state%3Dnormal%26p_p_mode%3Dview%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_checkboxNames%3DclassName%252CclassName%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_keywords%3Dsimon%2Bvouet%26p_p_lifecycle%3D1%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_formDate%3D1669662298707%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_vocabulariesCount%3D0%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_className%3Deu.strasbourg.service.artwork.model.Artwork%26_eu_strasbourg_portlet_search_asset_SearchAssetPortlet_className%3Deu.strasbourg.service.artwork.model.ArtworkCollection

The Bible story of depravity that Vouet depicts is that of Lot and his daughters found in Genesis 19. The angels have warned Lot who is an upright man that Sodom and Gomorrah are to be destroyed for its sins. As Lot’s family escapes, they are warned not to look back on the Divine destruction. Lot’s wife disobeys and is turned into a pillar of salt. Despairing of finding husbands where they are going and so carry on their own people, Lot’s daughters devise to get their father drunk and lie with him. Both daughters become pregnant in this way.

Vouet depicts Lot of the Old Testament story as they break the taboo of incest to carry on the race in desperate times using Renaissance artistic language of a god from pagan mythology. In place of moralizing, Vouet composes a sensual scene showing Lot, a male figure of late middle age, tasting the company of two nymph-like young women in a canvas filled with the attraction of the flesh and drunken debauchery. The lines and forms of Vouet’s new painting give priority to its narrative power which will be the manner of his artwork following his return to France. It is noted that Vouet used a contemporary engraving of an ancient relief to model the figure of the seated daughter.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Gaucher de Châtillon (1250–1328), Constable of France, c. 1632/35,2.18m x 1.37m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010065607

Commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu for his Palais Royal’s Gallery of Illustrious Men the painting of Gaucher de Châtillon was set into one of its bays. The portrait was greatly admired in that generation for the figure’s resolute pose as well as the execution of Vouet’s drawing and painting. Critics assessed that since the pose and head were so artistically beautiful Vouet’s subject was not modeled from life but inspired by Carracci. Seeing the subject turned and from behind was in the Mannerist tradition that Vouet loved and adopted for this historical figure of Gaucher de Châtillon (1250-1328), a constable of France and advisor to Capet kings, Philip IV the Fair (1268-1314), and then to his sons, Louis X the Quarreler (1289-1316), Philip V the Tall (1293-1322) and Charles IV the Bald (1294-1328). The Louvre’s picture has been restored.

Back in France Vouet had a successful career as the painter of large decorations and religious and allegorical paintings. His studio was the largest international workshop and school in Paris. Vouet was a most sought-after and beloved teacher and his art collaborators were numerous (Le Brun, Le Sueur, Mignard, Du Fresnoy, Le Nostre, among others). Per usual practice among professional artists in Europe, those with talent were encouraged to marry into the master’s family so to keep the training, skill and social connections “in house.”

The 1630’s began an age of cultural realignment and reorientation in France that would remain until about the French Revolution. In 1634 the Académie Française was founded under Cardinal Richelieu. In 1637 René Descartes published in French his Discourse on Method (“Je pense, donc je suis” “I think, therefore I am”) ushering in radical subjectivity in philosophical thought. That same year Peter Corneille’s Le Cid was produced, the first great stage play. In 1640 the Imprimerie Royale was founded to publish scholarly books and improve societal erudition. The decade’s innovations continued to transform culture over the next 30 years. By the 1660s French artists, writers and others in France viewed their language, thought, and artistic culture as the world’s most refined and unparalleled in history. Vouet’s return in 1627 was well situated for him to contribute to this prolonged period of interest in artistic matters in France.

In the mid17th century, wealthy French patrons began to collect Italian and Italian-inspired art. This included Louis Phélypeaux de La Vrillière (1599-1681) who collected 240 major paintings for his house in Paris. Critics have observed about Vouet that as he played the role of art functionary by  importing and translating Italian art tradition into France, he remained less of a truly profound original artist.

Louis Phélypeaux de La Vrillière, secrétaire d’Etat de la religion prétendue réformée. He built the Hôtel de la Vrillière in 1st arrondissement in Paris designed  by François Mansart (1598-1666) between 1635 and 1650.

In the 1630s, classical understanding of Carraci from Domenichino (1581-1641) was giving way to a different understanding of history painting from Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647). Lanfranco viewed Caracci’s legacy as decoration in search of vitality more than a spatial or formal articulation which extended to include figures in action. Vouet worked rapidly to populate the churches, monasteries and abbeys, royal palaces and private mansions, many newly built, of Paris, with his artwork. Vouet also produced large public commissions, all of which expressed a prevailing Baroque potpourri.

Vouet’s most significant contribution to French painting is his innovations in decorative painting whose influence was felt in France into the mid18th century. Vouet’s influence may be out sized to his intellectual quality and artistic originality but he made a tremendous impression on his contemporaries and was the artist, in a city of intense competition, who was the leading figure of the new Italian art manner for the French public and in many different projects for over 20 years. Vouet’s position as painter is on par with architects Jacques Lemercier (c.1585-1654) and Louis Le Vau (1612-1660) as part of that same generation in France who formed the classicizing French Baroque. They used French art practice since King Francis I (1494-1547) and solid current Roman practice forged into a French synthesis associated with Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII. Vouet’s pupils, Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), Pierre Mignard (1612-1695), Nicolas Mignard (1606-1668). Le Sueur (1617-1655), and François Perrier (1590–1650) carried on the tradition of Vouet’s artwork.

Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674), Jacques Lemercier with dome of Sorbonne.
Louis le Vau.
Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674), Cardinal Richelieu, 1642, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strabourg.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Young Louis XIII.

For his decorative work Vouet collaborated with artists in other media such as sculptor Jacques Sarrazin (1592-1660). Vouet painted large-scale decorations for royal patrons such as Anne of Austria (1601-1666), wife and mother of French Kings, at Fontainebleau in 1644  and at the Palais Royal between 1643 and 1647. Vouet did a decorative series at the Arsenal. At Hôtel Séguier (no. 16 rue Séguier) in Paris for the chancellor of France, Pierre Séguier (1588-1572), Vouet painted the chapel, library, and lower gallery. In these projects, Vouet reintroduced forgotten French painting traditions of illusionism practiced by Italian artists at Fontainebleau in the 1530s. Vouet synthesized it with the new Italian style in the 1630s, including imitating the use of gold mosaic and big oval designs derived from Venice. Today these decorations survive only by others’ engravings of them.

Pierre Séguier.

Some of Vouet’s decorative schemes survive at the Château de Wideville west of Paris. The castle was originally built in the late 16th century and sold to King Louis XIII’s minister of finances, Claude de Bullion (1569-1640), in 1630. Starting in 1632, the new owner set about building and expanding the castle in the Louis XIII style, with red bricks, white quoins and a pair of chimneys. Bullion involved the best decorators including Vouet for painting as well as Jacques Sarrazin (1591-1660) and Philippe de Buyster (1595-1653) for sculpture. Château de Wideville later became base for Louise de La Vallière (1644-1710), maitresse d’amour of King Louis XIV.

Claude de Bullion, oil on panel, 33 x 23,5 cm.

Vouet completed a later decorative panel, Muses Urania and Calliope in or around 1640, with the help of his studio. Likely commissioned as an altarpiece for the private chapel of a wealthy Parisian, the painting depicts porcelain skin women, bejeweled drapery, and putti in a classical architecture setting.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Armida carrying the sleeping Rinaldo, 63 x 47 in, n.d., private collection.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Muses Urania and Calliope, c. 1634, oil on wood, The National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.46160.html
Simon Vouet, The Toilet of Venus, c. 1640, 64 15/16 × 45 1/16 in164.94 × 114.46 cm, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh https://collection.cmoa.org/objects/7093a02e-4ea1-4892-9ace-6538065ebdab

With his patrons Vouet was an amenable creator and he was a facile painter. His wealthy and powerful patrons wanted showy decorative artwork painted in the modern Italian manner without very serious religious or political messages for their often newly-acquired or built residences. The Toilet of Venus is exuberant and intriguing though based on the latest Italian art of the day – the theme is inspired by a treatment of Francesco Albani (1578-1660) while the figure of Venus is derived from Annibale Carracci. Though the figures remain weighty in the mode of Italian Naturalism, Vouet transforms the group into curvaceous polished and floating interlocking forms.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Presentation at the Temple, 1641, oil on canvas, 3.93 m x 2.5 m, Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062002

As many of Vouet’s large-scale decorative and other works were virtually systematically destroyed in the Revolution so that the connoisseur must assess Vouet’s artistic merit by way of surviving decorative schemes more than individual canvases or fragments, The Presentation in the Temple is an important extant painting by the hand of Vouet that allows qualitative comparisons to other 17th century French artists such as Laurent de La Hyre (1606-1656), Eustache Le Sueur, Charles Le Brun, and Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet (1644-1717). Commissioned for the Jesuits by Richelieu in 1641 for what is today’s Saint-Paul-Saint Louis in Paris’s Marais it was part of a rich ensemble of artifacts  whose overall artistic scheme was dedicated to Christ and the French monarchy. Vouet’s presentation theme evokes the birth of Louis XIV and the painting was flanked by sculptures of Jesuit saints and French political figures.

There remains some similarity to what Vouet had produced in Italy in the mid1620s, particularly in The Appearance of the Virgin to St Bruno in Naples, such as his use of diagonals. Yet 15 years later in France Vouet’s composition is more classical in orientation including a rational not emotional or supernatural treatment of the subject more in the style of Nicolas Poussin who was called back to France from Italy the year before.

To give the illusion of grandeur, Vouet provides a very low position at the bottom of the stairs surrounded by gigantic religious architecture of which he paints a fragmentary synecdoche. For depth, Vouet interposes firmly-modeled foreground figures that partly mask more distant such figures in statuesque draping. Vouet’s cool colors reflect the influence of Philippe de Champaigne and the Baroque turning movement extends into the entablature of the architecture of the temple of Jerusalem, as well as the inclined position of the two angels painted in the upper portion.

By 1762, 20 years after Vouet painted The Presentation, politics changed unpleasantly for the Jesuits as they were suppressed by the Pope and their Paris flagship church’s high altar ensemble was dismantled. The painting was housed in the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture and later transferred to the Louvre during the French Revolution.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), The Adoration of the Holy Name by Four Saints, oil on canvas,265 x176 cm, Église Saint Merri, Paris.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Altar piece, Église Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, Paris.
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Virgin with oak branch, known as Madonna Hesselin, c. 1640/1645, Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010067259

In 1651, two years after the death of Vouet, the painting above was inscribed in Latin to state that Vouet had painted the artwork and in the house of “very noble lord” Louis de Hesselin, one of the king’s advisors. The inscription also gives the meaning of the palm branch the Virgin holds – it is a sign of the means of her effectual assistance to the afflicted. Sieur Hesselin was a confident to the artist who was both godfather to Vouet’s eldest son in 1638 and witness to the marriage of Vouet’s daughter 10 years later. Two other known versions of the painting are found in the United States and in England. X-rays revealed that Vouet fully completed the neckline of the virgin before he added the painted golden robe upon it.

Simon Vouet (workshop), Christ at the Column, c. 1635/40, 1.28 m x .66m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre.

Louis XIV owned this painting of Christ being scourged by Roman soldiers at the pillar during his Passion. In the 18th century the painting was attributed to Eustache Le Sueur which still has its defenders today. Attribution to Simon Vouet began in the 20th century among scholars. In the 21st century scholars have proposed Charles le Brun (1619-1690) and the “Workshop of Simon Vouet” which the Louvre has settled upon. Preparatory drawings for the painting exist at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich and at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Besançon. The artwork may have come from a chapel of the Château in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The painting was restored twice in the 18th century and in the 1960s.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Standing Angel, hands joined, 0.212 m ; L. 0.137 m Louvre.https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020227558
Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Head of a man with disheveled hair, three quarters view. 0,155 m ; L. 0,148 m Louvre https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020227444

Preparation drawing for a Last Supper picture.

At the same time that Vouet was painting religious subjects for churches in Paris he was painting allegorical and poetical artwork. For these paintings Vouet’s designs are freer, modeling looser and, in the Venetian style, the composition determined more by color and light.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Charity, c. 1635, 1.92 m x 1.32m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre.https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010062000

Vouet painted this artwork and two other allegorical paintings for the decoration of the châteauneuf of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In the 17th century the painting was known as “Seated Victory.” The female figure holds a flaming heart in her right hand and palm leaf in her left hand as a Cupid-like figure of love places a laurel wreath on her head. Later, the allegorical figure was called “Faith.” The painting was heavily restored in the mid1960s.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Allegory of Faith and Contempt for Riches, c. 1638/1640, 1.7 m x 1.24m, oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061999

The painting was made for the decoration of the Château Neuf de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In the 18th century the female figure wearing a laurel was described as “Victory” and holding Louis XIV in her arms. In the 19th century the female figure was viewed as an allegory for “Wealth” though other attributes such as the main figure’s foot resting on a cornerstone and strewn open books point to a figure representing “Christian Faith.” The standing cherub who offers her sparkling necklaces and the child on her lap have been interpreted as figures representing earthly and heavenly love, respectively.

Vouet depicts a scene on the standing silver vase of the nymph Daphne being pursued by Apollo, god of the arts. It is a classical mythological story which, despite aid from Cupid, the god of love, relates the vanity of earthly goods and pleasures. The scholarly theory of what is depicted in Vouet’s painting adds up to “Christian Faith” holding onto the figure of heavenly love as she is being tempted by baubles and pleasures of earthly love. The painting was restored in the 1950s and 1980s.

Beyond the thoughtful allegorical presentation, Vouet’s innovative style and reliance on lyrical emotion and sentiment more than ordered arrangement is in evidence as he presents a sensual winged goddess with healthy, chubby children in a fantasia of rich draperies and elegant linear architecture amid a metallic treasure hoard, all of which together enlivens the picture. Its languorous elegance derives from the Italian Baroque. Though a dictatorial teacher, unrivaled ambitious artist, and living in Paris during the grim era of the Thirty Years’ War, in Vouet’s painting for the French nobility there is no sense of unease and any subject’s forthrightness is tempered by superficiality.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649),The Three Marys at the Tomb, n.d., 52.25 x 66.5” Église de Davron Seine -et-Oise.

A chasm of space between the two angels holding up the shroud and the three women at the tomb before dawn on the third day delineates the heavenly from the earthly although these figures are linked by vibrant colors and a reflective animation of spirals. Detailed drawing is forgone for conventional pose and vague, mannered forms. Vouet seems not to be interested in the Biblical story or its meaning per se but the vivacity of the narrative by way of its stylistic elements. In contrast to Poussin’s statuesque figures or Le Valentin’s introspective art, Vouet introduced Baroque lyricism and fancy into French art.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Time Defeated by Love, Beauty and Hope, oil on canvas, 107x 142 cm, Prado, Madrid.  https://www.museodelprado.es/en/the-collection/art-work/time-defeated-by-hope-and-beauty/ebaeb191-f3ff-43b1-9207-fb36a3e5ad5a

Saturn who represents Time in Roman mythology has tumbled next to a scythe and hourglass, his attributes. Holding him by the hair the bare breasted figure has been identified as Beauty but also Truth and is likely a portrait of Vouet’s Italian wife. Virginia da Vezzo. She holds a lance over him. To the left is Hope who holds out a hook, her symbol, as a trio of cupids pluck feathers from Time’s wings. The allegorical message may be that Love defies Time.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Saturn Conquered by Love, Venus and Hope, 1643/45, , Musée de Berry, Bourges.

In another allegorical painting of the same theme, Saturn is Father Time. The old man is overcome by Love (Cupid), Beauty or Truth (a bare breasted figure, perhaps Venus), and Hope (holding an anchor, her traditional symbol). Above these in colorful robes is Fama, the figure of fame, who announces herself blowing her trumpet. Fama embraces Occasio, her hair traditionally blowing forward, holding an emblem of wealth, and signifying the fortunate occasion. In Vouet’s picture which synthesizes classical elements such as statuesque figures in the style of Poussin and swirling masses and vibrant colors of the international Baroque style, Time is the victim of what he usually despoils. The large painting originally hung in the Hôtel de Bretonvilliers in Paris.

Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Allegory of Good Government, 1644/45, oil on canvas, 2.37 m x 2.71 m, Musée du Louvre.

In the collection of Louis-Philippe d’Orléans (1725-1785) in the Palais-Royal in Paris before 1785, it entered the collection of Louis Philippe Joseph d’Orléans (1747-1793), known as Philippe Égalité afterwards, and was sold in 1800. In 1961 Friends of the Louvre acquired it in New York City and donated it to the Louvre that same year.

The young woman seated on an elevated throne wearing armor is, according to the influential Iconologia of 1593 by Cesare Ripa (1555-1622), the allegory for Reason. The pair of young women, one offering an olive branch and the other a palm branch, are allegories for Peace and Prosperity. The golden vase is decorated with a bacchanalia. Above the main scene are two cherubs bringing a palm frond and laurel with a twisted column wrapped with a vine that symbolizes Friendship.

Vouet painted this allegory of good government about Anne of Austria as she cooperated with Cardinal Mazarin’s peace policies. The painting was probably commissioned for the decoration of Anne of Austria’s apartment at the Palais-Royal around 1645. It was kept in the collection of the Dukes of Orleans at the Palais-Royal in the 18th century. and moved to London after the death of Philippe Égalité. It was purchased in New York by the Société des Amis du Louvre in 1961. The work was re-oiled with glue by Jacques Joyerot and restored in a pictorial layer by Jeanine Roussel-Nazat between 1979 and 1981.

Simon Vouet died in Paris on June 30, 1649 at 59 years old. His burial details are unknown.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

French Painting in the Golden Age, Christopher Allen, Thames & Hudson, London, 2003.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Ier_Ph%C3%A9lypeaux_de_La_Vrilli%C3%A8re

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fran%C3%A7ois_Mansart

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Ier_Ph%C3%A9lypeaux_de_La_Vrilli%C3%A8re

French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, Philip Conisbee, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009.

Baroque, Hermann Bauer, Andreas Prater, Ingo F. Walther, Köln: Taschen, 2006.

The Painting of Simon Vouet, William Crelly, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.

Art and Architecture in France 1500-1700 (Pelican History of Art), Anthony Blunt, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982.

French Painting From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Chatâlet and Jacques Thuillier, trans. from French by Stuart Gilbert, Skira, 1963.

https://gw.geneanet.org/garric?n=beranger&oc=0&p=radegonde

17th and 18th Century Art Baroque Painting Sculpture Architecture, Julius S. Held, Donald Posner, H.W. Janson, editor, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc. and New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1972.

French Painting in the Seventeenth Century, Alain Mérot, trans. by Caroline Beamish, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1995.

Kings & Connoisseurs Collecting Art in Seventeenth-Century Europe, Jonathan Brown, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Mannerism: The Painting and Style of The Late Renaissance,  Jacques Bousquet, trans, by Simon Watson Taylor, Braziller, 1964.

Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio, Annick Lemoine, Keith Christiansen, Patrizia Cavazzini, Jean Pierre Cuzin, Gianni Pappi, Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2016.

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/194104613/simon-vouet

FRENCH ART in the 17th Century: VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE (1591-1632).

FEATURE IMAGE: Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante (Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation). Villa Lante in Rome is an example of the work of the 16th century Raphael school in the reign of the Medici popes. The Renaissance villa, which was a residence for Roman aristocracy, was purchased in 1950 by the Finnish state. The Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation started operating there in April 1954.

Ruins of the Coliseum in Rome, Circle of Willem van Nieuwlandt, II, c. 1600,  Pen and brown ink, with brush and brown and gray wash, on pieced cream laid paper,  35.3 × 61.3 cm (13 15/16 × 24 3/16 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago.
https://www.artic.edu/artworks/95904/ruins-of-the-coliseum-in-rome

INTRODUCTION.

Le Valentin de Boulogne (c.1591/1594-1632), sometimes called Jean Valentin, Jean de Boulogne Valentin, or simply Le Valentin, was a French painter. Born in Coulommiers-en-Brie about 35 miles east of Paris, Le Valentin may have been at least half Italian. His artwork was certainly influenced by Italian painting more than any other though he was familiar with Northern or Flemish painting. Le Valentin may have been in Rome as early as 1612 – German painter and art-historian Joachim von Sandrart (1606-1688) remarked in 1675 that Valentin reached Rome before Simon Vouet (1590-1649) who had arrived around 1614. Whether in 1612 or definitely by 1620 (Le Valentin appears in the census), Le Valentin spent the rest of his life In Rome. In the Eternal City Le Valentin  was greatly influenced by Simon Vouet (French, 1590-1649) and Bartolomeo  Manfredi (Italian, 1581-1622), a leading Caravaggiste or follower of Carravaggio (Italian, 1571-1610).

Joachim von Sandrart, Self Portrait, 1641.
Bartolomeo Manfredi, The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew (detail).
Simon Vouet, Self-portrait, c. 1626–1627 Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon.

Le Valentin’s oeuvre is today around 55-60 paintings, most of them identified by modern scholarship (i.e., Jacques Bousquet; Roberto Longhi). Le Valentin’s major commissions date from the last seven years of his life. Opportunities to acquire his artwork was  rare, though avid collectors such as Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) and Louis XIV collected them.

Cardinal Mazarin by Pierre Mignard, Musée Condé, Chantilly, France.
Louis XIV, Charles Le Brun, Château de Versailles.
Piazza del Popolo, Rome. “Piazza del Popolo.. Rome” by Nick Kenrick.. is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In Rome Le Valentin forged close ties with other French artists and lived with many of them in and around the Piazza del Popolo to the Piazza di Spagna. Most French painters born in the 1590s made a stay in Rome  – and influenced art in France in the 17th century. Reasons young painters fled to Italy in the early 17th century included depletion of opportunity in Paris due to the professionalization of artistic practice in and outside the capital although establishment French art was no longer flourishing. Conversely, Roman art – and not only the schools of Michelangelo and Raphael but new horizons afforded  by Annibale Carracci (1560-1609) and Caravaggio (1571-1610) -was at an apex. The Eternal City was drawing international artists from Paris and elsewhere and, between 1610 and 1630, the Roman style became internationalized. The dialogue among artists in Rome in this period was exciting – and its outcomes often unpredictable. The culture of Rome (and the papacy) could actually be liberating for foreign, usually destitute, often libertine talented young artists who had great ambitions for a prominent commission as they were exposed to Rome’s virtue and vice almost equally. Many of these young artists, even ones whose artworks survive, exist today virtually anonymously. Le Valentin de Boulogne is one of the better-known artists of the period, although his precise name is uncertain and his artwork requires connoisseurship based on modern scholarship.

Annibile Carracci, Self-portrait, 1604, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath, included a self portrait of the artist, 1610, oil on canvas, Borghese Gallery, Rome.

In 1626 Valentin, in Rome several years, was invited by Vouet to organize with Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) the festival of the Accademia di San Luca ‘s patron saint. Around the same age, Vouet led the academy whose artists’ association was founded in 1593 by Federico Zuccari (1539-1609). This appointment signaled that Valentin was an active and respected rising French artist in Rome in these years. Though Caravaggio died in 1610 his influence was still felt very strongly in Rome in the 1620s.

Two of Caravaggio’s masterpieces—The Martyrdom of Saint Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul—hung in the neighboring church of Santa Maria del Popolo which Le Valentin certainly had opportunity to study. In Italy, Valentin took swift, direct, and enduring inspiration from Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro and realistic depiction of characters drawn from Roman street life, including extensive use of half figures. As one of the young Caravaggisti, Valentin applies these elements to his artwork, whether genre or, later, Biblical subjects.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Group of figures seen mid-body, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl020210527

None of the works from Le Valentin’s earliest Roman years is documented, but it is believed he produced his Card Sharps (Dresden, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen), The Fortune Teller (Toledo Museum of Art), and Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats) (NGA) – and probably in this order – between 1615 and 1620.

In Le Valentin’s compositions which often contain several actors in a scene, the French artist’s realism and Caravaggio-inspired technique is often imbued with energetic rhythm in which diagonals and geometric concurrences play a role. This schematic suggests animation in the subject matter while retaining the human figures’ inner reserve and mystery. This creates a psychological quality in his artwork that is unique whichever drama is unfolding in the picture. Louis XIV who was an admirer of le Valentin acquired and hung several of his paintings in his bedroom at Versailles. Cardinal Mazarin, another art collector with a keen eye, acquired works by Valentin, some of which today are in the Louvre.

Andrea Sacci, Cardinal Francesco Barberini, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany, oil on canvas, c. 1631-1633 (detail).

By way of Le Valentin’s important young patron, Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597-1679) – made a cardinal in 1624 by his uncle, Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) – Valentin became a competitor to his artist friend Nicholas Poussin. Le Valentin’s first documented work commissioned in May 1629 and completed in the spring of 1630 called Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian is a compendium to a slightly earlier work by Poussin–both  in the Vatican (Poussin’s was a different stylistic statement called Martyrdom of S. Erasmus). Valentin had further won the patronage of Cavaliere del Pozzo (1588-1657), the secretary of Cardinal Francesco Barberini and one of Rome’s leading art patrons. Paid the handsome sum of 350 crowns for Martyrdom of SS. Processus and Martinian , after 1630 Valentin’s artwork continued to command high prices and prestige.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City/
Jan van den Hoecke (Flemish, 1611-1651), Portrait of Cassiano dal Pozzo. Pozzo’s portrait was painted by Le Valentin though it is lost.

Though SS. Processus and Martinian is Le Valentin’s most important public work, he also produced many pictures for private commissions. There are several pictures by, or today attributed to, Le Valentin in many of the world’s leading art museums. Le Valentin produced artwork especially for the ruling Barberini family and their circle.

How Le Valentin died in 1632 is not certain though it was sudden and of natural causes. The professional artist who is admired in today’s major art institutions reportedly left no money to pay for a funeral. Identified as a “Pictor famosus” on his death certificate, Le Valentin was buried at Santa Maria de Popolo on August 20, 1632 paid for by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657).

Façade – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo –Rome. Valentin lived in Rome on or near Via Margutta which is steps from the 15th century church.
File:Roma – Basilica di Santa Maria del Popolo – Facade.jpg” by M0tty is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

SELECTION OF PAINTINGS BY LE VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Solomon, 1627/29, Louvre. 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, oil on canvas.  https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061974

One of the most moving and beautiful stories in the Bible is the judgment of King Solomon in the case involving two disputing harlots over who was the mother of a living child (I Kings).

Both had had a child, though one died and the other lived. To have an offspring was considered a blessing. One harlot claimed that her living child had been taken from her bosom at night by the other harlot. She replaced the child with her dead child after “she had smothered him by lying on him” (I Kings 3:19).

Since this was a case of one harlot’s word against another’s Solomon had no simple and fair resolution at hand. King Solomon said: “Cut the child in two and give half to one woman and half to the other” (I Kings 3:25). Le Valentin shows the viewer what is at stake – a real flesh and blood child. The import of Solomon’s judgment could not be missed. Le Valentin’s women are modeled on those mothers and others the artist observed along Via Margutta.

Detail. Judgment of Solomon. Le Valentin.

When one harlot said, “Divide it! it shall be neither mine nor yours!” and  the other harlot said, “Please, my lord, give her the living child. Please do not kill it!”, the king’s judgement changed.

Solomon spoke again and said, “Give her the child alive, and let no one kill him, for she is his mother” (1 Kings 3: 16-28). Solomon knew a woman privileged to be a mother would seek to see the child live most of all.

It is this final pronouncement that Solomon appears to give in Le Valentin’s painting, as the complete biblical episode can be readily seen in the gestures and expressions of its characters.

Acquired by Louis XIV at Cardinal Mazarin’s death in 1661, The Judgment of Solomon has long been presented as a counterpart to The Judgment of Daniel. These canvases, which may actually be pendants, share the same format and show examples of just judgment in the Bible. The Judgment of Solomon is dated later than The Judgment of Daniel. There is a variant of it by Le Valentin in Rome at the Barberini Gallery in the same format and oil medium. The Louvre painting was restored in 1966.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Judgment of Daniel, 1621/22, oil on canvas, 68 ¼ x 83 ¾ inches, 1.76m x 2.1m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061975

The subject is taken from chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel, the book’s addendum. In Babylon, a pair of wicked elders covet Suzanne, “a very beautiful and God-fearing woman” who was the wife of the “very rich” and “most respected” Joachim. After these wicked elders surprised Suzanne in her bath, she refuses their advances and they denounce her for adultery with the intent to put her to death.

Daniel condemns these wicked elders for “growing evil with age” including their past sins of “passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty.” Daniel interrogates them and, by their own words, shows the assembly they are lying. The painting depicts that moment of judgment.

Detail. Judgment of Daniel. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin depicts Daniel in the painting instead of Suzanne in her bath which was a more popular subject. Suzanne is at right, her hands across her chest, “As she wept, she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly” (Daniel 13:35). A guard seizes one of the wicked elders as the other shows surprise and incredulity. Young Daniel, at left, is seated on a throne under a red canopy and stretches out his hand in judgment over the scene for their sin. For each judgment by Le Valentin the artist was inspired in some of its details by Raphael’s artwork in Rome. Louis XIV acquired the painting in 1662.

Valentin de Boulogne, Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian, 1629–30, Oil on canvas, 118 7/8 × 75 9/16 in. (302 × 192 cm), Vatican Museums, Vatican City.

Within iconography that is cyclonic, two Roman soldiers are placed on the rack to be tortured after they refused their commander’s orders to sacrifice to an idol. The soldiers had been converted to Christianity by Saints Peter and Paul when they guarded them in prison. The altar to Jupiter is on the upper left while, at right, the commander clutches his eye with his left hand after God blinded him in retribution for the idolatry. The foreground figures build on 16th century Franco Italian Mannerist style. One has his back to the viewer; another grinds the wheel of the rack; and, a third bends down with his arm outstretched. All are advanced expressions of realistic figural development and rendered in spatial perspective correctly.

Le Valentin’s powerful painting is an artwork with a psychological dimension. To the left, a hooded figure, Lucina, is a Christian woman who encourages the martyrs to be steadfast as an angel out of heaven extends a palm of martyrdom. To the right, realistically portrayed, is a Roman soldier indifferent to another brutal slaying by the authoritarian government in the face of nascent, meddling, heroic, and expanding Christians in their pagan global empire.

With his attention to detail, Le Valentin’s picture accomplishes an exciting imagined drama based on Renaissance-inspired natural world observation and by way of colorful contemporary 17th century formulations that give a viewer visionary immersion into a complex and significant Bible scene.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632 A Musical Party, 1623/26, oil on canvas, 44 × 57 3/4 in. (111.76 × 146.69 cm),Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
https://collections.lacma.org/node/186803
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Concert in an Interior, 1628/30, oil on canvas, 1.75m x 2.16m, Louvre. https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010061973

Some of Le Valentin’s great ambition as an artist is demonstrated by this large format canvas whose composition includes eight realistically delineated  figures including 5 musicians and 3 singing youths. The five instruments are depicted accurately as well as the demeanors of the musicians and singers. Instruments have been identified by others as a polyphonic spinet, an alto, a chitarrone, a bass viol and a cornetto.

Detail. Concert in an Interior. Le Valentin.

The painting had been dated at around 1626, though more recent connoisseurship dates it to around 1628 or 1630. It was restored in 1940. It was owned by that avid art collector, Cardinal Mazarin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Concert in bas-relief, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 1.73 m x 2.14m, Louvre.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.
Detail. The Concert in bas relief. Le Valentin.

Le Valentin painted seven figures gathered around a classical bas-relief. There are a pair of drinkers, one in the foreground, the other in the background; two singers; and three musicians – a violinist, guitarist and lutenist.

The painting, filled with mystery and gravity, is Caravaggesque and not merely telling a story or depicting a genre scene of performance. The painting has been dated to as early as 1622 by some connoisseurs. It was owned by Cardinal Mazarin and restored in 1959. It entered the collection of the Louvre in 1742.

Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings as attested by Concert with Eight Figures and Fortune Teller (both Musée du Louvre, c. 1628), and what is thought to be his very last painting, the Gathering with a Fortune Teller (Vienna, Liechtenstein Collection) in 1632.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Musicians and Soldiers, c. 1626, oil in canvas, 155 x 200 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg.

This is a tavern scene with impromptu music-making among transitory musicians. They are playing for a pair of drinking soldiers. Le Valentin’s painting is Caravaggesque with its interplay of shadows and light, dark palette, and depiction of realistic figures, and a psychological vivacity that is imbued by Le Valentin. It is by his passion and energy for Caravaggio that Le Valentin helped  revolutionize art in 17th century Europe.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Jesus and Caesar’s Coin, around 1624, oil on canvas, 1.11 m x 1.54m, Louvre.

In Matthew’s Gospel the Pharisees were plotting to entrap Jesus by his own words. They sent some of their followers along with local government types (“Herodians”) to flatter Jesus as a truthful and humble man. They asked him to reply to a question: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” (Mt 22:17).

Jesus, knowing their motivation, responded hardly very nicely, by calling them “hypocrites.” He asked them to show the coin that paid Caesar’s tax.

Le Valentin’s painting depicts the moment when the Pharisee’s henchmen show Jesus the coin with Caesar’s image and inscription on it. Jesus tells them: ”Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22: 21).

Owned by Louis XIV it was put in his dressing room at Versailles in 1680. The Louvre acquired it during the French Revolution in 1793.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Soldiers Playing Cards and Dice (The Cheats), c. 1618/1620, oil on canvas, 121 x 152 cm (47 5/8 x 59 13/16 in.), The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.
https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.107315.html

This painting is inspired by Caravaggio’s The Cheats in the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Le Valentin’s painting, only discovered in 1989, shows a group of soldiers idling in Rome and identifiable by their piecemeal armor and other livery. The crowding of the figures into the picture space adds to the scene’s tension.

In this early painting in Rome, Le Valentin presents a scene of its contemporary street life. These figures are seriously gaming at a table where two players (center and right) roll dice and two others (left and center) play cards. A fifth figure in the background signals to his accomplice what is in the hand of the card player in a feathered hat. It is an early artwork that Le Valentin gives a psychological dimension.

As had been Caravaggio’s practice, the artwork is painted alla prima, that is, directly onto the prepared canvas without under-drawing or any preliminary work which works to give it greater spontaneity. The painting is indebted to Caravaggio not only for its subject, but for its vivid sense of actuality with which Le Valentin invested his protagonists as well as for the chiaroscuro, and a thinly and rapidly-applied brushed execution.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, Coulommiers-en-Brie 1591–1632 Rome). Cardsharps. c. 1614-15. Oil on canvas. Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
https://skd-online-collection.skd.museum/Details/Index/415366

This painting is one of the first genre pictures Le Valentin painted in Rome. It is a pair of figures to which Le Valentin would soon numerically expand in his pictures. The composition is simple and sturdy.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Herminia among the Shepherds, c. 1630, oil on canvas, 134.6 x 185.6 cm (53 1/8 x 61 5/8”) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek München. https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/RQ4XPr8410 

Erminia, the king’s daughter, escapes her persecutors and asks a peaceful shepherd family for shelter. The scene is based on a contemporary (1576) epic poem The Liberated Jerusalem by Torquato Tasso (1544-1595). The picture was a private commission whose patron was likely a Roman art collector and cognoscente. Valentin’s painting combines Caravaggesque chiaroscuro with exquisite coloring. In this realistic depiction of a human encounter between characters who represent contrasting social experiences, the subject matter is rendered psychologically sensitively.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning of thorns of Christ, around 1616/17, oil on canvas, 173 x 241 cm Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich
https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/bwx0jkJGm8

One of the great artworks of Le Valentin’s early phase in Rome, biblical subjects painted before 1620 such as The Crowning of Thorns of Christ were interpreted in the street-life idiom, with expressive protagonists and bystanders resembling the cast of characters in his genre paintings. Although the painting was earlier believed to be by Caravaggio, it may have been a pendant to Le Valentin’s much-later Abraham Sacrificing Isaac (c. 1629) in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

This is Le Valentin’s most ambitious of 3 such “crowning with thorns” pictures. The artist in horizontal-format depicts Jesus before his going to Calvary. Christ is mocked and tormented; a crown of thorns is pressed onto his head (Matthew 27: 27-31; Mark 15:16-21; Luke 23:11; John 19: 1-3). With its dramatic lighting and shadows, the naturalistic depiction of Christ’s body and soldiers in contemporary costume is Caravaggesque.

Le Valentin’s scene adheres to the Bible episode: a whole cohort of soldiers surrounded Jesus, stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak on  him. Henchmen have weaved a crown out of thorns and are placing it on Jesus’s head. Another puts a reed as a faux scepter into Jesus’s right hand. To mock him they kneel before him and say: “Hail, King of the Jews!” The soldiers spit on Jesus and then take the reed away and strike him repeatedly with it. When they were done with these violent actions, the soldiers stripped Jesus of the military cloak, dressed him in his own clothes and led him out to be crucified.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Crowning with Thorns, around 1627/28, oil on canvas, 51 15/16 × 37 15/16 in. (132 × 96.3 cm) Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen München-Alte Pinakothek, Munich https://www.sammlung.pinakothek.de/de/artwork/Dn4ZR224aK/valentin-de-boulogne/dornenkroenung-und-verspottung-christi

Le Valentin’s Passion theme is a later vertical-format picture of a subject he had painted masterly before. In these last years the subject matter had gained in classical beauty as well as psychological involvement compared to Le Valentin’s earlier artwork. The painting covers over a discarded portrait of Cardinal Barberini which suggests Valentin’s close relationship with the ecclesial prince, very likely being in his employ. What caused the artist to revisit the subject of a brutalized Christ is unclear though it may have been based on the artist’s own struggles or that of his employer whose portrait he painted over.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Noli me tangere  c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Christ and the Samaritan Woman c. 1620. Oil on canvas. Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, 1622/24, oil on canvas, 195 x 261 cm, Prado, Madrid. Spain.

St. Laurence (d. 258) became a popular early Roman martyr. Laurence has been continually honored by the church since the 4th century and is a patron of Rome.

In the mid 3rd century, Laurence was a deacon to a new pope, Sixtus II (257-258). Sixtus II was martyred along with his seven deacons, including Laurence, during the persecution of Christians by Emperor Valerian (199-264).

Following the pope’s martyrdom, Laurence was arrested and ordered to collect and hand over church treasures to the secular authority. Instead, Laurence distributed any goods to Rome’s poor which infuriated the emperor against him. These paupers appeared in Le Valentin’s painting to the left.

The emperor ordered the Catholic deacon to sacrifice to Rome’s gods which Laurence refused to do (in prison Laurence converted his guard). Laurence was martyred after being tortured and then roasted alive over a fire on a spit. The saint is famously quoted as telling his executioners: “One side is roasted, so you can turn me over and roast the other side.”

In the Prado Le Valentin gives orderly arrangement to a complex scene of 15 figures and a horse. It shows the saint during his martyrdom isolated in the center of the composition. As with Caravaggio’s figures, the soldiers are in modern costume, use of chiaroscuro is evident, and further drama is added by the use of diagonals whose construction suggest movement that add to the tension of the naturally rendered figures. However, Le Valentin uses these derived elements unconventionally.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), St Luke, Evangelist, 1624/26, oil on canvas, 120 x 146 cm, Palace of Versailles, Versailles.
Detail. St. Luke Evangelist. Le Valentin.

Dating from the years 1624-1626, le Valentin painted all four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for the same religious order in Rome whose name is unknown. They entered the collections of the Sun King in 1670.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Last Supper, c. 1625, oil on canvas, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, Rome.

For his The Last Supper, Le Valentin was, at least through engravings, aware of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper (c. 1495–1498) in Milan and Raphael’s Last Supper (1518-1519) in Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. Le Valentin explores the 12 apostles’ reactions. Commissioned by Asdrubale Mattei (d. 1638), one of Rome’s nobili, to decorate a gallery in his family’s palace, the picture depicts a central event presented in the gospels. The moment that is depicted in these Last Supper paintings is when Christ announces that one of his disciples will betray him. Judas, in the foreground left, was treasurer for Jesus’s disciples and betrayed Jesus for a bribe payment of 30 pieces of silver. The picture, with its simple and monumental composition, so impressed Jacques-Louis David  (1748-1825) in 1779 that he copied it and sent it from Rome to Paris.

Portrait of Asdrubale Mattei di Giove, 17th century, attributed to Caravaggio, Condé Museum, Chantilly, France.
https://www.musee-conde.fr/fr/notice/pe-61-portrait-d-asdrubale-mattei-di-giove-1318fe15-3a5f-48ef-9486-e6920ed8d0b8
Valentin de Boulogne, Samson, 1631, Oil on canvas, 135.6 x 102.8 cm (53 3/8 x 40 1/2 in.), The Cleveland Museum of Art. https://www.clevelandart.org/art/1972.50

An Old Testament Judge, Samson was born in a miraculous fashion and with an angel telling his mother and father, “No razor shall touch his head” (Judges 13:5). Samson is often depicted with his locks unshorn. As a youth Samson displayed an incredible physical strength attributed to “the spirit of the Lord rushing upon him” (Judges 14:6).

Le Valentin’s picture presents Samson’s legendary strength by showing the solid demeanor of his physical body as well as objects which hold symbolic value of his strength. These include that he killed a lion with his bare hands and liberated the Israelites by slaughtering a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone (Judges 15: 15-16). The strength of his arm is displayed as his fingers curl under his jaw as his wandering gaze looks off with intense interiority. One contemporary allusion in the painting is Samson’s breastplate which is joined at the shoulder by a clasp in the form of a bee which was the emblem of the Barberini family who commissioned the painting. It is speculated that the facial features of Samson in a picture before his fateful meeting with Delilah (Judges 16), may be a self-portrait of Le Valentin.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), Judith with the Head of Holofernes. c. 1626-27. Oil on canvas. Musée des Augustins, Toulouse.

The story of Judith in the Old Testament relates of a woman of great beauty and reverence to the God of Israel who is highly respected by her people and its leaders. The nation, desperate for survival, turns to Judith who is given the opportunity to kill their enemy’s military leader which she believes she can and must do and that all believed impossible as Israel’s military defeat by their enemies was a foregone conclusion.

The story has a femme fatale aspect as Holofernes was captivated by Judith’s physical appearance, but the Biblical episode of the execution, while a climax of her mission, pales in comparison with the relating of Judith’s overall dedication to her people and her God, a femme forte, which carries on into her long life of blessedness to her natural death. Le Valentin chooses that sacred element of the Bible book when he shows an iconic Judith, triumphant woman of Israel, holding in her hands the decapitated head of one of Israel’s once-formidable mortal enemies. Judith is shown as a heroic woman with her hand raised as she admonishes: “But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman.”

For Le Valentin’s artwork, Judith is an icon of God’s justice to his obedient people. Purchased for French King Louis XIV from German banker Everhard Jabach, the picture was installed in the king’s bedroom at Versailles to be especially admired.

The picture belongs to Le Valentin’s period of maturity for it displays the artist’s full interpretation of the realism of Caravaggio and Manfredi though, as expressed here, with a new appreciation for colors. The pretext of a Judith who, according to the Bible, had adorned herself in her best finery so not to dissuade Holofernes’s gaze (Judith, 13, 14), allows le Valentin to illuminate the dress’s rich fabrics with monochrome refractions, while the jewels and hair are bathed in ethereal light.

Detail. Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), David with the head of Goliath, c. 1615/16, oil on canvas, 99 x 134 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Madrid,
Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), The Four Ages of Man, c. 1627/30, oil on canvas,. London, National Gallery.
https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/valentin-de-boulogne-the-four-ages-of-man

The Four Ages of Man is a painting commissioned by Cardinal Barberini. It is an allegorical work whose human figures are painted by Le Valentin in natural poses. Groups of figures around a table were common in the work of Caravaggio and his northern followers. The allegory of the ages of man was a common subject for paintings during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, though its quantity of ages varied.

The allegory presents humanity in four categories of age – childhood (holding an empty bird trap); youth (playing a lute); adulthood (with a book and victor’s laurel); old age (with coins of wealth and delicate glassware).

The theme had its origin in classical literature: Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Dante’s Inferno acknowledged the stages of human life according to physical growth and decline. Contemporary poems were written on the subject that Le Valentin may have known.

In the 17th century, the painting was owned by Michel Particelli, seigneur d’Emery (1596–1650) in Paris. In the 18th century it was in the Orléans collection at the Palais Royal. During the French Revolution and the dispersal of the collection in 1791, the painting was brought to England where it is today.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ Expelling the Merchants from the Temple c. 1626. 192 x 266.5 cm, oil on canvas, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. https://www.hermitagemuseum.org/wps/wcm/connect/8276ab63-4bcc-40e9-83ab-91aa57903031/WOA_IMAGE_1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&1677c4b2-bad6-47ed-b628-27cda4f71809

Le Valentin painted many half- or three-quarter-length figures of saints, prophets and narrative scenes including this painting. The scene of Christ expelling the moneychangers from the Temple of Jerusalem is told in all four gospels of the New Testament. Le Valentin adapted the method of half-length, full size street figures depicted in dark, precisely lighted spaces and emerging in relief from the shadows from the Caravaggistes.

Gospel readers would recognize that the cleansing of the temple was prophesied in the Old Testament as a  sign of the ushering in of the Messianic Age (Zechariah 14:21). In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) the episode appears at the close of Jesus’s public ministry and in John’s gospel at the start (2:13-17). The chronology of the episode in Jesus‘ ministry is generally not considered its most important element.

Le Valentin shows the “whip of cords” held by Christ, a detail mentioned only in John (Jn 2:15). There are overturned tables, a bench, and scattered coins. Le Valentin depicts the gestures, movements and emotions of the characters involved, focused on a wrathful Christ and fear of the unrighteous.

While in Synoptics the point of the episode appears to be the dishonesty of the Temple money changers, in John’s gospel Jesus’s wrath is directed to the Temple institution itself. In John’s Gospel Jesus declares the Temple is to be “My Father’s house.” Though not a term unique to John, he uses it more than any other Gospel writer (27 times).

Derived from Caravaggio are the types of ordinary people, distinct contrasts of light and shade and the natural plasticity of the figures involved in the composition.

The painting entered the Hermitage collection in 1772.

Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632), Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple. Oil on canvas, 195 x 260 cm (76 ¾ x 103 1/8 in.). Palazzo Corsini, Rome.

The painting’s structural asymmetry lends energy to the scene. With Christ’s raised arm, he is a menace to the money changers. Le Valentin, taking inspiration from Caravaggio, unabashedly renders a scene in grand format of violence in the gospels. The painting was rediscovered in Rome in the mid19th century.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Allegory of Rome, 1628, oil on canvas, 330 x 245 cm, Villa Lante – Institutum Romanum Finlandiae Foundation. https://irfrome.org/en/villa-lante-4/architecture/salone-en/

The oil painting called Allegoria d’Italia by Le Valentin was originally called Historia d’Italia. Its massive volumes imbued with inner life are rendered using a brown palette and highlights that retained the Caravaggiste tradition. Le Valentin’s redoubling his commitment to Caravaggio in the late 1620s was on display in this painting as other leading painters, such as Vouet, Poussin, Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647) and Pietro da Cortona (1597-1669), were deploying brighter “modern” colors.

In March 1628 Cardinal Barberini gave Le Valentin the commission for the Extraordinary Jubilee of 1628 and paid 113 crowns for it. This major painting which renewed Caravaggio-inspired technique in the late 1620s attracted greater attention to Le Valentin’s artwork not only by Caravaggeschi but the broader Roman art circles.

A young Roman girl wears an emperor’s cuirass, holds a spear and shield, as the personification of Italy. At her feet are the fruit and nuts of the land’s bounty. Below her image are two male figures, naked and bearded, who represent the Tiber and the Arno, Italy’s great rivers. The figure of the Tiber is joined by Romulus and Remus and the suckling wolf who founded Rome and the later Papal States. The Arno that runs through Florence is joined by its symbol of the lion. In the top left corner, a tree stump with a bee swarm symbolizes the Barberini.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Christ and the Adulteress,, 1618-22, oil on canvas, 167 x 221.3 cm, Getty Museum, Los Angeles.  https://museum-essays.getty.edu/paintings/ebeeny-valentin/

The gospel story that Le Valentin depicts using the typical Caravaggiste method (half-length, full size street figures in shadow and light) is from John 8. The story had been painted by the Flemish and the Venetians. The plump young woman in a torn garment exposing her shoulders and full-formed breasts is taken into custody by soldiers in armor to Jesus. According to the law the woman should be publicly stoned for adultery. The Pharisees lay verbal and other traps repeatedly in the gospels for Jesus to say or do something that is expungable. Jesus’s response moves past their premise. Whereas Jesus will soon be arrested, tried, and condemned by the authorities for his “transgressions,” the focus of le Valentin’s artwork is Jesus showing mercy to the sinful woman. From a theological viewpoint, Jesus’s innovative teaching is again based on the appeal to an extant biblical tradition of God’s anger towards, and forgiveness of, harlotry or unfaithfulness when such sin is repented (Hosea 5:4). Jesus tells her: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). While the woman’s disheveled look suggests the nature of her sin, she represents humankind and points to Christ, the God-Man and prophesied suffering servant (Isaiah 53). Christ  takes the harlot’s place as the arrested agitator and manhandled by soldiers along the Via Dolorosa. In that episode, Christ goes to the cross to shed his blood in the new covenant whose outcome for “adulterous” humankind is  eternal forgiveness of sins and rising to new life.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Lute Player, c. 1625/26, 128.3 x 99.1 cm The Metropolitian Museum of Art, New York. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/439933

The image of a young soldier singing in armor breastplate a love madrigal is unique in Valentin’s oeuvre. The painting was part of the collection of Cardinal Mazarin, minister to Louis XIV.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632), Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1615–16, oil on canvas, 59 1/16 × 70 1/16 in. (150 × 178 cm), Museo della Venerabile Arciconfraternita della Misericordia, Florence.

One of Jesus’s most famous parables, The Prodigal Son tells the story of a young man who demanded his “full share of [his father’s] estate that should come to [him],” and departed to waste it “on a life of dissipation” (Luke 15). When the lost son falls on hard times, he seeks his father’s house though “only as a hired servant.” The forgiving father who has been on the look-out for his lost son (dressed in rags) since the day of his departure welcomes him back as a son “who was dead and has come back to life.” Which of the other figures may be the older brother who is unhappy about his dissolute brother’s return is not clear. Le Valentin treats the parable as a human story of repentance, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Fortune-Teller with Soldiers, 58 7/8 x 93 7/8 in. (149.5 x 238.4 cm), Toledo Museum of Art.
http://emuseum.toledomuseum.org/objects/54884/fortuneteller-with-soldiers?ctx=99a0dbca-6a24-444e-a66b-95c576c7395c&idx=1

The attribution to Le Valentin and its dating for this artwork is the result of modern scholarship. Art historians can thereby draw conclusions and make conjectures about the development of Le Valentin’s early artwork in Rome -he uses a larger format, growing complexity of compositional qualities and its subject matter, and the retention of low-life characters and stylistic indebtedness to Caravaggio as he moves beyond him.

A dark tavern filled with low-life characters provides the setting for a scene of fortune and deceit. As a gypsy fortuneteller reads the palm of a young soldier he is looking pensively as she speaks his fate, there are carousers and thieves in the scene.  The picture is emblematic of Le Valentin – the techniques of a somber palette and dramatic lighting and tabletop groupings but also a mysterious mood and psychological depth to the complex interplay among its characters.

Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Portrait of Roman Prelate, 128 x 94 cm, private collection.

The prelate is dressed in the robes of a papal chamberlain. Modern scholarship has proposed various individuals as the sitter from cardinals to lawyers.

Denial of St. Peter, c. 1623/25, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, 119 x 172 cm.
https://collection.pushkinmuseum.art/entity/PERSON/273?query=valentin%20de%20boulogne&index=0
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, 1629/32, 149.2 x 186.1 cm The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
https://www.mbam.qc.ca/en/works/8394/
Valentin de Boulogne (French (active Rome), 1591-1632), Moses, 1625/27. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, 131 x 103.5 cm. https://www.khm.at/en/objectdb/detail/2012/

Moses led the Israelites out the slavery of Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land during the Exodus. The event is told and retold in the Old Testament and Moses as Liberator and Law Giver is its most significant figure. Le Valentin shows him holding a miraculous rod that he used  to open the Red Sea (Exodus 14), struck the rock to produce water (Numbers 20) and, after its transformation into an iron snake, healed the ill (Numbers 21). Moses points to the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments of God (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). This late work by Valentin is characteristic in its dark and pensive tone that is reminiscent of Caravaggio.

Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632),Cheerful company with Fortune Teller, 190 × 267cm, oil on canvas, 1631 Vienna Liechtenstein.
https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/collections-online/cheerful-company-with-fortune-teller
Detail. Cheerful Company with Fortune Teller. Le Valentin.

The picture is one of Valentin’s last paintings before his death in 1632. Prince Hans Adam Il von und zu Liechtenstein (b. 1945) acquired the work in 2004.  Throughout his painting career, Le Valentin never ceased producing genre paintings.

SOURCES:

A Dictionary of Art and Artists, Peter and Linda Murray, Penguin Books; Revised,1998.

French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collection of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Philip Conisbee and Frances Gage, Washington, D.C., 2009 pp, 413-414.

Art for the Nation, text by Philip Conisbee, National Gallery of Art exhibition catalogue, 2000.

French Painting From Fouquet to Poussin, Albert Chatâlet and Jacques Thuillier, trans. from French by Stuart Gilbert, Skira, 1963.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/663663

https://www.metmuseum.org/press/exhibitions/2016/valentin-de-boulogne

https://arthistorians.info/bousquet

https://arthistorians.info/hoogewerffg

https://arthistorians.info/longhir

https://www.kulturelles-erbe-koeln.de/documents/obj/05011488/rba_d054126_01

The Saints: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, edited by John Coulson, Guild Press, New York, 1957.

The New American Bible, Catholic Book Publishing Corp, New York, 1993.

Mannerism: The Painting and Style of The Late Renaissance,  Jacques Bousquet, trans, by Simon Watson Taylor, Braziller, 1964.

The Liberation of Jerusalem, Torquato Tasso, trans by Max Wicker, Oxford World’s Classics, 2009.

Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio, Annick Lemoine, Keith Christiansen, Patrizia Cavazzini, Jean Pieere Cuzin, Gianni Pappi, Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2016.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/hauts-de-france/somme/amiens/six-tableaux-de-la-chambre-du-roi-du-chateau-de-versailles-exceptionnellement-exposes-au-musee-de-picardie-2620412.html

https://www.liechtensteincollections.at/en/

Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J,  and Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm.,The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1968.

Lehmbeck, Leah, editor. Gifts of European Art from The Ahmanson Foundation. Vol. 2, French Painting and Sculpture. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019.

Marandel, J. Patrice and Gianni Papi. 2012. Caravaggio and his Legacy. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Fried, Michael. After Caravaggio. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.

Schmid, Vanessa I., with Julia Armstrong-Totten. The Orléans Collection. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art; Lewes: In association with D. Giles, 2018.

Merle Du Bourg, Alexis. “L’omniprésence de la musique.” Dossier de L’Art no.246 (2017): 64-67.

Ten miles west of Chicago: A Miraculous Crucifix in Hillside, Illinois, where the Virgin Mary is reported to have appeared in the 1980s and other unexplained “miracles.”

FEATURE Image: Old Testament prophets window, Mausoleum, Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois. This is one of scores of original stained glass and artifacts in the mausoleum in Chicago’s near western suburbs.

The Miraculous Crucifix in Hillside, Illinois.

The crucifix today is located in a southern section of Queen of Heaven cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. The cemetery is almost 500 acres that offers extensive in-ground burials as well as large indoor and outdoor mausoleum complexes where each year there are thousands of new burials. Since 1947, many notable Chicago-area figures from the world of politics, sports, religion, and business, including several gangland figures, are buried in these consecrated precincts. Overall, there are around 125,000 burials in the cemetery.

Queen of Heaven Mausoleum. This building alone houses more than 30,000 burials.
St. Teresa of Avila window. Queen of Heaven Mausoleum, Hillside, Illinois.

In the expansive mausoleum is a gallery of stained glass, statuary and carved wood and statuary in marble, bronze and mosaic. The art of the main building was created mostly by DaPrato Studios of Chicago, with an international array of artists and architectural designers.

The miraculous crucifix’s connection to Medjugorje visionaries.

That there is a “miraculous” crucifix on the grounds of Queen of Heaven cemetery gained noteriety starting around 1990.

The story is told about Joe Reinholtz, a retired railroad worker from neighboring Westchester, Illinois, who had lost his sight in the early 1980’s. Reinholtz, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune published in July 1991 (see – https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1991-07-24-9103220302-story.html), claimed to have been directed to the 15-foot-tall crucifix by one of the Medjugorje visionaries when he visited the Catholic pilgrimage site in Bosnia on two occasions in the late 1980’s.

After being directed by the Medjugorje visionary to pray before the crucifix in Queen of Heaven, Reinholtz (who died in 1996) and others reported that the figure of Christ on the cross bled. When more visitors reported that they too had seen the crucifix bleed, the cemetery staff investigated. They reported that they found nothing out of the ordinary at the crucifix site.

Cures and signs.

At the same time that the crucifix was seen to bleed, Joe Reinholtz was healed of his blindness. He also reported having seen the Blessed Virgin Mary who appeared at the crucifix site, accompanied by angels, including St. Michael the Archangel.

More of these many kinds of appearances continued to take place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. These were accompanied by other miraculous signs, many defying ready explanations. For example, some claimed the beads of ordinary rosaries had turned to gold after they prayed with them at the site.

Despite an incident of vandalism in 1994 where the feet of Jesus were broken off, inexplicable occurrences continued to be reported regularly at the crucifix into the mid1990s when they slacked off.

Sunday afternoon at Queen of Heaven cemetery in Hillside, Illinois, in October 2016.

Into the first quarter of the 21st century, people still slowly drive past the crucifix, while others are found at the foot of the crucifix sometimes alone, or with family or friend, or in larger groups. Many look to be praying at the “miraculous” crucifix, some certainly looking for a healing miracle like Joe Reinholtz experienced there in 1986.

Quotations: ALEXEI VON JAWLENSKY (1864-1941), Russian-German Expressionist Artist. (3 Quotes).

FEATURE image: Photograph of Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), Russian-émigré German Expressionist painter.

Alexei von Jawlensky, Self Portrait, 1912.

Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941) was a late 19th-early 20th century Russian-émigré artist to Germany. In an art career which began in earnest in the mid1890’s Jawlensky became, over the next decade and a half, one of the most progressive avant-garde modernist artists of his generation.

Based in Munich, Germany, Jawlensky surrounded himself with a coterie of fellow young ex-patriate artists such as Russian Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Jawlensky’s art developed out of an international search which took the artist from Russia to Germany and onwards to France, England, the Low Countries, and Switzerland.

Jawlensky borrowed significantly from the avant-garde art movements of his day, namely, French Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Cloisonnism, Synthetism, Symbolism, and Fauvism. Jawlensky was a friend and admirer of Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954).

Before the outbreak of World War One, Jawlensky experimented and synthesized his modern art to the plateau of new-found German Expressionism. In a working dialogue with Wassily Kandinsky, German painter Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), and several other avant-garde artists, Jawlensky pursued his individual experimentation with particular interest as to the liberation of color and form. This was done in the context of European modernism, including its response to modern society’s industrialization and mechanization.

Emergent German Expressionists such as Jawlensky sought to free the object —that is, more precisely, the whole natural world—from its objective fixity so to situate it within the inner feelings and spirit of the artist.

As a European modernist, Jawlensky participated in international modern art exhibitions that featured avant-garde artists whose artwork was controversial in general society as well as in the prevailing art world. Jawlensky co-founded leading avant-garde art groups such as, in 1909, the New Munich Artist’s Association and, in 1911, Der Blaue Reiter. These artists groups led modern art towards representational expressionism and abstraction.

Jawlensky died in Germany on March 15, 1941.

The whole matter of French art is a matter of seeing nature as beautiful, very beautiful in face. But on the whole, this is not enough. You have to create your own nature.

Apples, trees and human faces merely help me to see something different in them– the life of color, as comprehended by someone who is passionately in love.

My paintings were aglow with colors and so my soul was contented with them.

Introduction:

Art Photography: RICHARD HUNT (b. 1935, American), We Will, 2005, Chicago, Illinois.

Richard Hunt (b. 1935, American), We Will, welded stainless steel, 35’x 8’ x 8’, Chicago, Illinois, in July 2016.

Chicagoan Richard Hunt has over 150 large-scale installations around the world. Since 2005, Richard Hunt’s We Will has stood proudly on the sidewalk by the intersection of Randolph Street and Garland Court near Chicago’s Cultural Center and Millennium Park. We Will stands 35 feet tall and is made of welded stainless steel. The public art is a sculpture of scale that is impressive on its downtown Chicago streets.

“I Will” is the long-time mantra of Chicago. Its roots trace to the Great Fire of 1871, and the dogged resiliency of its citizens to rebuild, to reinvent, and to grow to new heights. The sculpture evokes the licks of flame from that devastating event in the 19th century from which the city built back bigger, better, faster, and stronger – and whose title We Will indicates that Chicagoans in the 21st century continue this tradition of resilience and resolve by looking to do so together.

We Will was commissioned by the Mesa Development Company, the developers of a condominium and mixed-use building in Chicago.  Hunt has his artwork installed for viewing across the city of Chicago including, in 2021, his Light of Truth Monument to Ida B. Wells in Bronzeville, Jacob’s Ladder in the Carter Woodson Regional Library, Farmer’s Dream at the MCA, and Flightforms at Midway Airport, among others.

“There are a range of possibilities for art on public buildings or in public places. To commemorate, to inspire. I think art can enliven and set certain standards for what is going on in and around it.” – Richard Hunt, sculptor.

Among these celebrated works by Richard Hunt is included the first artwork commissioned for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. Titled Book Bird, Hunt’s sculpture will be placed outdoors in the Library Reading Garden of the new Chicago Public Library branch at the Obama Presidential Center campus. The former 44th U.S. president in a Zoom call with the artist recently observed about Richard Hunt and his artwork: “[Hunt’s] personal story embodies what is hoped to be the experience at the center. To have one of the greatest artists Chicago ever produced and to participate in what we hope is an important cultural institution for the city and the South Side  …it feels like a pretty good fit to me.”

Young Richard Hunt in Cleveland Ave Studio – Chicago 1962” by Unknown, From the Estate of Richard Hunt is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Richard Hunt was born in 1935 in the Woodlawn neighborhood and lived at 63rd and Eberhart on the South Side of Chicago. His family moved to Englewood when Hunt was 4 years old. Hunt attended public schools and his family was very involved in visiting the city’s cultural institutions, particularly The Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum. Hunt received a B.A.E. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1957 and, afterwards, studied and traveled in Europe as well as served in the U.S. Army.

In the artist’s long career Hunt has received more than a dozen honorary degrees from leading educational institutions of higher learning across the country. He has also served at several prestigious universities as professor and artist in residence. Hunt made history when he became the first African-American artist to have a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern art (MoMA) in New York City.

“There are a range of possibilities for art on public buildings or in public places,“ Hunt said recently in the context of his Obama Center work, “To commemorate, to inspire. I think art can enliven and set certain standards for what is going on in and around it.”

Sources and further information:

https://www.obama.org/the-center/richard-hunt/

https://richardhuntstudio.com/portfolio-items/we-will/

Chicago. August 2021.

Text, 2016 and 2021 photographs, format:

Art Photography: ALEXANDER CALDER (American, 1898-1976), Flamingo (1974), Federal Center Plaza, Chicago, Illinois.

FEATURE Image: Flamingo by Alexander Calder is a masterwork stabile in Chicago’s downtown. It was unveiled on October 25, 1974 in a dedication ceremony with the artist. It is one of Chicago’s iconic outdoor public artworks.  6/2022 7.73 mb

In downtown Chicago’s Federal Center Plaza on South Dearborn Street between Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard is Alexander Calder’s 53-foot-tall painted steel plate “stabile object” entitled Flamingo. The Chicago Federal Center was completed in 1974 with Calder’s artwork. The design project began in 1958 and included three International-style government buildings by modernist architect Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) within a public plaza design that was completed in 1974. Flamingo, commissioned after Mies’ death for $250,000 by the Government Services Administration, was unveiled on October 25, 1974 with the 76-year-old Calder present for its dedication ceremonies and festivities. With the commission Calder understood the significant impact of his artwork for the Federal Center Plaza in Chicago.

Calder’s prolific and impressive art career started in the early 1920s. Fifty years later, Flamingo (a.k.a., “the Calder”) in Chicago’s historic Federal Center Plaza is a later work, whose maquette Calder made before it was intended for Chicago.

During his artistic career’s many decades and years, Calder never stopped developing in his art. The 1974 steel sculpture painted red-orange is four stories tall and makes a powerful impact on the streetscape where it is an integral part. Along with Chicago’s Picasso in 1967 and Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (“the Bean”) in 2004, Calder’s Flamingo in 1974 has taken its well-deserved place among Chicago’s most iconic outdoor public artworks.

From the inventor of the mobile, Calder turned later to the development of the stabile of which Flamingo is a masterwork. Starting in the mid1950s and into the 1970’s, Calder produced scores of stabiles in many shapes and sizes for display around the world.

“Most architects and city planners want to put my objects in front of trees or greenery. They make a huge error. My mobiles and stabiles ought to be placed in free spaces, like public squares, or in front of modern buildings, and that is true of all contemporary sculpture.” – Alexander Calder.

Titled Flamingo, the towering abstracted “Calder red” painted stabile object can evoke reactions to it that are unexpected. Calder’s stabile masterwork was unveiled in October 1974 which was the same year the Sears Tower (in the background) was completed and which was at that time the world’s tallest building (today it is ranked no. 26). From Federal Center Plaza, Chicago’s 20th century architectural history is readily on display in its downtown buildings in a range of shapes, sizes, textures and design styles. 6/2022 7.24 mb

Flamingo can be intimidating because of its monumental size. Actual flamingo shorebirds vary in size, but are usually no more than 3 to 5 feet tall, and weighing about 5 to 7 pounds. At 53 feet tall, Calder’s immense stabile in Chicago is about the size of a giant sauropod dinosaur which could weigh around 60 tons. 5/2014 3.28 mb

Alexander Calder trained and worked as a mechanical engineer before he became an artist. The graceful design and construction of Flamingo is expressed by nearly one-inch-thick steel plates buttressed by ribs and gussets joined overhead by lofty arches and resting on three legs as if it is nearly weightless. Even his largest stabiles (of which Flamingo is one) are made so they can be easily unbolted, and taken apart to be transported and assembled at the place of destination. 11/2015 260kb 25%

In Federal Center Plaza is a complex of three buildings of varying scales by Mies van der Rohe: the broad 30-floor Everett McKinley Dirksen Building at 219 S. Dearborn Street completed in 1964 (at right), the lean 45-floor John C. Kluczynski Building at 230 S. Dearborn Street completed in 1974 (not pictured), and the single-story U.S. Post Office building at 219 S. Clark Street (not pictured). Calder’s Flamingo sits on its three pillars like a lunar lander that reflects the arcaded bases of Mies van der Rohe’s buildings that surround it as well as provide a sweeping contrast of curves and bright stand-out color against the surrounding modernist buildings’ monochrome glass-and-steel grid appearance. Calder’s artwork achieved more than the sum of these parts – it transformed Mies’ overall somber architectural trio into a more dramatic and complex quartet that included Calder’s art. The 30-story Dirksen Building is across Dearborn Street. 5/2014 4.82 mb

Calder’s Flamingo after dark with the one-story Post Office illumined within behind it. 11/2015 484 kb 25%

Calder’s stabile is one of the most monumental public art commissions in Chicago. Flamingo’s height and breadth (it fills a space of about 1440 square feet) achieves a largesse that does not forgo a human scale as it allows pedestrians to freely walk around, under and through it. The 45-story Kluczynski Building is at left. 6/2022 6.87 mb

Flamingo lighted at night in late November where there is already a snow pile on the sidewalk in Chicago’s Federal Center Plaza presaging the Chicago winter. In summer months there is a regular farmer’s market on the Federal Center Plaza. It is also the location for a variety of political gatherings year-round. The Kluczynski Building is behind. 11/2015 3.77 mb

In October 1974 Alexander Calder was in Chicago for a “Calder Festival” where two of his major works were being dedicated – Flamingo for Federal Center Plaza (depicted above with the Kluczynski Building) and Universe, a motorized mural for the Sears Tower. Reflecting the artist’s lifetime interest in circuses, Calder joined in the city’s circus-themed parade in his honor. In another major cultural event in Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art held a large retrospective exhibition of Calder’s art from October to December of 1974. 6/2022 6.20 mb

SOURCES:

https://www.tclf.org/landscapes/federal-plaza – retrieved September 30, 2022.

A Guide to Chicago Public Sculpture, Ira J. Bach and Mary Lackritz Gray, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1983, pp. 54-55.

Calder’s Universe, Jean Lipman, The Viking Press and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1976, pp. 305; 339.

Calder The Conquest of Space, The Later Years: 1940-1976, Jed Perl, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2020, pp. 551; 553.

https://www.architecture.org/learn/resources/buildings-of-chicago/building/federal-center/ – retrieved September 30, 2022.

All text and photography by:

The 1952 song MARILYN was written, recorded, and released as a single by Ray Anthony’s orchestra with one rising Hollywood star in mind: Marilyn Monroe.

FEATURE Image: Marilyn Monroe, 1952 by Philippe Halsman for LIFE. “Marilyn Monroe – 1952 / fotografiada por Philippe Halsman para LIFE” by Antonio Marín Segovia is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Marilyn Monroe in 1951 was a rising feature film star of whom the critics observed is “the new blonde bombshell.” “Marilyn Monroe, por Ernest Bachrach, 1951” by Antonio Marín Segovia is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) showed up in a bright pink dress for the release party of the song, Marilyn, in 1952. Though invited, she was the “surprise” stand-out guest who swooped in and out of the celebration fashionably in a wonky helicopter.

Bandleader Ray Anthony released the two-minute single Marilyn in 1952 with rising film star Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) definitely in mind.

By the end of 1951 Marilyn Monroe had completed 13 films, mostly for 20th Century-Fox, and was on the cusp of major stardom.

In 1952, Marilyn made five additional movies – including Clash By Night (RKO) where she was identified as “the new blonde bombshell” by Kate Cameron in New York News. Marilyn also made in 1952 We’re Not Married for 20th Century-Fox where, according to Alton Cook of the New York World Telegram, “Marilyn supplies beauty. She is Hollywood’s foremost expert.” Also for Fox that year Marilyn made Monkey Business where Paul C. Beckley hints at the major transition that Marilyn was making to open the nation’s eyes to her rising star in 1952: “Not seen her before,” Beckley wrote in the New York Herald Tribune, “I now know what’s that about.” Marilyn rounded out 1952 with the Fox anthology film, O. Henry’s Full House where the critics stood up and noticed Marilyn’s “stunning proportions” (Archer Winston, New York Post).

Marilyn Monroe in 1952.
Marilyn Monroe – 1952, Niagara” by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

In 1953, Marilyn Monroe’s star did not miss. Her next three films for Twentieth Century- Fox – Niagara (“seductive”), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (“alluring”) and How to Marry a Millionaire (“magnificent proportions”) walked the walk to solidify her film acting career and her status as America’s enduringly iconic sex goddess or symbol.

Marilyn Monroe’s performance and appearance in Niagara in 1953 from 20th Century-Fox were highly praised. One critic observed: “Seen from any angle…Marilyn Monroe leaves little to be desired.” (A.H. Weiler, New York Times).

Ray Anthony (b. 1922) is one of the few surviving members of the post-war period of Old Hollywood (TV producer Norman Lear is another) that came to an end arguably with Marilyn’s death in 1962. Four years older than Marilyn Monroe, Anthony turned 100 years old in California on January 20, 2022.

Most of that exciting generation born in 1922 – including Ava Gardner, Jason Robards, Betty White, Judy Garland, Doris Day, Cyd Charisse, Kim Hunter, Eleanor Parker, Veronica Lake, and others – are today gone.

Marilyn Monroe by Jock Carroll, June, 1952.
Marilyn Monroe by Jock Carroll, June, 1952” by thefoxling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Starting in the early 1950’s, Ray Anthony led a very popular ensemble that put out dance record after dance record. Many became instantly part of the culture – such as The Hokey Pokey and The Bunny Hop which seemed to make their musical appearance at nearly every wedding reception throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

With Anthony’s single Marilyn, the world’s most famous sex symbol was unattached though being courted by New York Yankees baseball great Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio. They married two years later in 1954.

Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio. The movie star and former major league baseball player married in 1954. “Evan Esar” by Peter K. Levy is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

In 1952 Marilyn Monroe was declared the “It Girl” by Hollywood gossip columnists. Though not a major star yet, Marilyn’s career was fluttering at the verge which made the Marilyn release party particularly exciting.

Marilyn Monroe started 1953 as Hollywood’s “It” girl. “Marilyn Monroe 1953” by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Ray Anthony adored beautiful and sexy Hollywood blondes. He married one in 1955. Anthony met Mamie Van Doren (b. 1931) in 1955, they had a son, and divorced in 1961. In 1956, Anthony appeared with another popular Hollywood blonde bombshell, Jayne Mansfield, in the musical comedy, The Girl Can’t Help It.

Surrounded by all this beauty and great music it is no wonder that Ray Anthony received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the midst of this period in 1957.

Marilyn Monroe, June 1952 by Jock Carroll.
Marilyn Monroe by Jock Carroll, June, 1952” by thefoxling is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
All That Remains” by MelCamp77 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.