The Property of a Gentleman
Saint Agnes 《聖依搦斯》
December 8, 08:20 PM GMT
300,000 - 500,000 GBP
The Property of a Gentleman
Paris 1590 - 1649
dated on the medallion: 1626
oil on canvas
94 x 75.5 cm.; 37 x 29⅜ in.
1590 - 1649年，巴黎
94 x 75.5 公分；37 x 29 ⅜ 英寸
Anonymous sale, Lyon-Villeurbanne, Hôtel des Ventes du Tonkin, 8 June 1982, lot 57 (with pendant, as attributed to Gregorio Lazzarini);
New York, art market, by 1983;
With Didier Aaron, London, Paris and New York, by 1994;
Anonymous sale, New York, Christie's, 19 April 2007, lot 73 (as Simon Vouet);
There acquired by the present owner.
P. Rosenberg, ‘France in the Golden Age. A Postscript’, in Metropolitan Museum Journal, no. 17, 1984, pp. 37–38, reproduced fig. 15 (as Simon Vouet?);
J. Neumann, ‘Tableaux de Simon Vouet conservés dans les musées de Tchécoslavaquie’, in Simon Vouet, rencontres de l'École du Louvre, 1992, pp. 57–59 (as a copy or studio of Vouet);
A. Brejon de Lavergnée, ‘Simon Vouet à Rome: un nouveau tableau et une perspective de travail’, in Scritti di archeologia e storia dell'arte in onore di Carlo Pietrangeli, V. Casale, F. Coarelli, and B. Toscano (eds), Rome 1996, p. 31, n. 7 (as ‘an important original by Vouet’);
P. Malgouyres, in Charles Mellin, un Lorrain entre Rome et Naples, exh. cat. Nancy/Caen 2007, p. 40, nn. 64 and 65;
E. Schleier, in Simon Vouet 1590 Paris–1649 Londres, exh. cat., London, Richard Green Gallery 2007, n.p., reproduced fig. 18 (as Vouet);
D. Jacquot, in Simon Vouet (les années italiennes 1613/1627), exh. cat. Nantes and Besançon 2009, p. 163, no. 47 (as Vouet);
M. Weil-Curiel, Review of the exhibition Simon Vouet (les années italiennes 1613–1627), Nantes-Besançon 2008–9, in Les Cahiers d'Histoire de l'Art, vol. VII, 2009, p. 7 (as probably from the circle of Vouet);
S. Loire, ‘Simon Vouet en Italie (1612–1627)’, in Simon Vouet en Italie, O. Bonfait and H. Rousteau-Chambon (eds), Rennes 2011, pp. 209 and 231 (as Vouet).
First described by Pierre Rosenberg from photographs as ‘very beautiful’, the significance of the present work was first recognised by Arnauld Brejon de Lavergnée, who described it as ‘very important’,1 and endorsed its autograph status in an article in 1996. Painted towards the end of Vouet’s years in Italy, it is distinguished, as all scholars have observed, by the date of 1626 inscribed on the medallion worn around Saint Agnes’s neck, an invaluable aid to our understanding of the chronology of this part of his career. Vouet had first arrived in Rome in 1613 with a pension from Louis XIII of France. He rapidly forged a highly successful career as a painter of portraits and religious works under the patronage of the Barberini family and other important figures such as Cassiano dal Pozzo, and went on to become one of the most celebrated foreign painters working in the city. In 1624 he was elected president of the Academy of Saint Luke and the same year his reputation was assured by a commission for Saint Peter’s itself. Vouet remained in Rome until 1627, when he was recalled by King Louis to Paris, where he would subsequently become the most important and influential French artist of his generation.
The present painting can be linked to a number of single figure paintings in half-length format which survive from Vouet’s Roman sojourn, and which were evidently something of a speciality of the artist. Among works from the same year it may be compared to a signed and dated canvas depicting Saint Catherine of Alexandria, last recorded with Richard Green in London, in which the same colour scheme of yellows and blue predominates, although the latter differs in having a slightly larger three-quarter-length format and a landscape background.2 Other works in a more similar format include another pair of female saints, the Saint Ursula and Saint Margaret painted around 1620 and preserved today in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford (figs 1 and 2), in which we find the same dramatic play of the drapery forms and dramatic use of lighting.3 Another comparable pair of female figures of very similar date to the present painting are the documented Angel holding the vessels of Pontius Pilate and An Angel holding the Superscription from the Cross, two from a series of twelve angels carrying instruments of the Passion painted the year after the present work in 1627 for Cardinal Ascanio Filomarino and now in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (figs 3 and 4).4 In all of these works the dramatic contrasts of light and shadow by which the saints and angels are illuminated against a dark background, reflect the impact of Vouet’s knowledge of the paintings of Caravaggio, whose work was so influential in the 1620s in Rome. The calm monumentality of all the figures similarly reflects his careful study elsewhere in Italy of the Bolognese school and the work of Giovanni Lanfranco in particular. The richness and delicacy of the colours of the draperies, and the care taken here to achieve an impression of elegance were however already characteristic of Vouet’s work at this period, and were qualities which he carried over into his subsequent years in France with such dramatic effect on the art of that country.
When this painting was first published by Pierre Rosenberg in 1984, it had a companion canvas depicting Saint Catherine of Alexandria (fig. 5).5 The two female saints are both shown at half-length, framed by the curving lines of their martyrs’ palms, with Saint Agnes turning towards Saint Catherine, who is shown in profile. Vouet thus seems to present a contrast between a dynamic Christian type in Saint Agnes with the more contemplative figure presented by Saint Catherine. While the autograph status of the present canvas has been accepted by the great majority of modern scholars,6 the Saint Catherine is now regarded as a work from Vouet’s studio following the publication by Jaromir Neumann in 1992 of a second version in the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, Slovakia,7 and the subsequent appearance of a third version in a French private collection in 2007.8 The last of these was later exhibited as the prime version at the time of the Nantes–Besançon exhibition of works from Vouet’s Italian period in 2009, although scholars such as Loire and Weil-Curiel have since expressed some reservations as to its autograph status. It is not known why as many as three versions of the Saint Catherine were painted. It is very possible that by this date, just prior to his departure for Paris, Vouet had been obliged to share his increasing workload with painters from his studio or immediate circle, as, for example, was the case with the Filomarino commission, or to delegate replicas to them. By contrast, the present Saint Agnes appears to be the only known version of this composition.
Saint Agnes was an early fourth-century virgin martyr, whose name signifies her chastity. She is shown here holding her traditional attribute of a lamb (agnus in Latin) together with a palm signifying her martyrdom at the hands of the Romans during the persecutions of the Christians by Diocletian in the year 304. A native of Rome, she was held in particular veneration in that city. Both Agnes and her fellow virgin martyr Saint Catherine of Alexandria (very much a favourite subject of Vouet’s) were highly important female Christian saints, paragons of virtue and a focus of devotion and models for proper feminine behaviour since the Middle Ages, and thus were frequently portrayed together. As Dominique Jacquot has speculated, their pairing in this canvas and its pendant may be a reflection of the fact that both were patron saints of the Trinitarian Order (or Mathurins in French), a mendicant order founded in France in the twelfth century and devoted to the redemption of Christian captives of the infidel, and for one of whose houses or patrons they may have been intended.
1 Letter of 15 July 1993 to Galerie Didier Aaron in Pars, cited by Jacquot in his entry for the present canvas in Nantes and Besançon 2009, p. 163, no. 47.
2 Canvas, 132 x 99 cm. Signed: SIMON VOUET FT ROM/ 1626. Exhibited Nantes and Besançon 2009, no. 49, reproduced. Schleier 2007 passim.
3 Inv. nos 1961.285 and 471, each canvas: 90.2 x 73.7 cm. See P. Rosenberg, France in the Golden Age. Seventeenth-century French paintings in American public collections, exh. cat, New York 1982, pp. 336–37, nos 118 and 119, reproduced.
4 Inv. nos 69.36.1 and 2, each canvas: 104.3 x 78.5 cm. Rosenberg 1982, pp. 334–35, nos 115 and 116, reproduced. The paintings are from a set of ‘12 angeli’, purchased from the artist for 120 scudi on the 5 June 1627. The commission was at least partly executed by assistants, among them Charles Mellin, as for example in the case of the two canvases of angels holding the tunic of Christ and the lance and sponge now in Naples, Museo di Capodimonte.
5 Canvas, 94 x 75.5 cm. Present whereabouts unknown. This is probably the canvas sold New York, Sotheby’s, 29 January 2016, lot 495 (as studio of Simon Vouet).
6 Neumann 1992, p. 58, considered it on the basis of photographs as most likely from Vouet’s studio, an opinion more recently shared by Moana Weil-Curiel in his review of the Nantes exhibition in 2009.
7 Inv. no. 0302. Canvas, 98.7 x 74.2 cm. Neumann 1992, pp. 57–59, reproduced fig. 9.
8 Canvas, 99 x 74.5 cm. Exhibited Nantes 2009, no. 46 (as Vouet).
Figs 1 and 2 Simon Vouet, Saint Margaret, Saint Ursula, c. 1620. Oil on canvas, 104.3 x 78.5 cm. The Ella Gallop Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford
Figs 3 and 4 Simon Vouet, An Angel holding the vessels of Pontius Pilate and An Angel holding the Superscription from the Cross, 1627. Oil on canvas, 104.3 x 78.5 cm. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the John R. van Derlip Fund, Minneapolis
Fig. 5 Studio of Simon Vouet, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, c. 1626. Oil on canvas, 94 x 75.5 cm. © Sotheby’s
[show alongside the present lot]