37
37
Simon Vouet
A STUDY OF A BEARDED MAN, HEAD AND SHOULDERS
Estimate
400,000600,000
LOT SOLD. 495,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
37
Simon Vouet
A STUDY OF A BEARDED MAN, HEAD AND SHOULDERS
Estimate
400,000600,000
LOT SOLD. 495,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Master Paintings Evening Sale

|
New York

Simon Vouet
PARIS 1590 - 1649
A STUDY OF A BEARDED MAN, HEAD AND SHOULDERS

Provenance

Miss Vera Palmer, Lisdonagh House, Headford, Co. Galway;
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby's, 14 December 2000, lot 192 (as Attributed to Simon Vouet), where acquired by the present owner.

Exhibited

Milan, Palazzo Reale and Vienna, Liechtenstein Museum, Caravaggio e l'Europa: il movimento caravaggesco internazionale da Caravaggio a Mattia Preti, 15 October 2005 - 9 July 2006, no. IV. 22.

Literature

M. Gregori, in Caravaggio e l'Europa: il movimento caravaggesco internazionale da Caravaggio a Mattia Preti, exh. cat., Milan 2005, pp. 332-33, cat. no. IV. 22, reproduced in colour;
G. Papi, in Gherardo delle Notti: quadri bizzarissimi e cene allegre, exh. cat., Florence 2015, p. 194, reproduced in colour.

Catalogue Note

This dramatic depiction of a young man, half-turned away from the viewer, his gaze directed over his bare, left shoulder and his mouth half-open, as if his attention has just been caught, is characteristic of Vouet's work from his years spent in Italy, and specifically in Genoa, circa 1621. The figure's form and expression are conveyed through the use of intense shadows and carefully-placed highlights - his glistening right eye, the shape of his nose, and the contracted tendon in his neck are defined by light emanating from the left, while, conversely, his mouth and the left side of his face are modelled through gradations of shade. The inspiration Vouet derived from the work of Caravaggio is apparent here not only in this eloquent use of chiaroscuro, but also in the animation of the figure's pose - the idea of conveying emotions through movement, which Caravaggio developed to an unprecedented degree. The restricted palette, absence of any identifying attributes, and the impression that this is a work most probably painted from life, also reveal a debt to Caravaggio's naturalism, and reflect Vouet's absorption of this visual language which he in turn would communicate through his own artistic vocabulary.

The treatment of this painting is comparable to a number of Vouet's paintings dating to his Italian period. The young artist arrived in Rome in 1614, where he became part of the Caravaggist movement along with Northern European artists such as Gerard van Honthorst. The contrast between light and shade used to articulate the face of the model here is reminiscent of Vouet's early painting of the Swordsman, today in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Brunswick - a work which also blurs the line between portrait and character study.1 And the mouth, slightly ajar, is an evocative device that Vouet had already employed in works such as the Portrait of a young man, in the Galleria Pallavicini, Rome,2 as well as his own head-and-shoulders Self-Portrait, now in the Musée Réattu, Arles, believed to date to the last years of the second decade, just before the artist travelled to Genoa.3

Vouet is recorded in Genoa in 1621, where he painted his David with the head of Goliath, today in the Palazzo Bianco, Genoa, perhaps his most overtly Caravaggesque work (fig. 1).4 David is depicted half-length, his right arm, shoulder and chest bare, drapery covering the rest of his torso, as he holds the head of the giant in his left hand and glances over his right shoulder, his mouth just slightly open and his expression a sophisticated mixture of apprehension and assurance. The analogies with the present painting are clear, to the extent that it is even possible to speculate as to whether the models may be one and the same. Similarly pertinent is Vouet's Bust of Saint John the Baptist, in a private collection, Milan, in which the subject turns his head to look over his bared right shoulder, the eyes again directed to the side, the mouth slack (fig. 2).5 The present work clearly belongs to this same moment, which sees Vouet delighting in the development of his own ideas following his assimilation of Caravaggio's legacy.

1 See J. Thuillier (ed.), Vouet, exh. cat., Paris 1990, pp. 193-94, cat. no. 7, reproduced in colour p. 194.
2 See B. Nicholson, Caravaggism in Europe, Turin 1990, vol. II, reproduced fig. 734.
3 See Thuillier 1990, p. 202, cat. no. 10, reproduced in colour p. 203.
4 See Thuillier 1990, p. 204, cat. no. 11, reproduced in colour p. 205.
5 See Nicholson 1990, vol. II, reproduced fig. 740.

Master Paintings Evening Sale

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New York