A recent and remarkable rediscovery, this sumptuous painting by Nicolas Régnier includes an inscription which dates the picture to 1626, the year he arrived in Venice. The refined work is a beautiful example of Régnier's Venetian period, and it clearly shows the influence of the city's masters Titian and Veronese in its subtle color palette and spirited chiaroscuro, as well as the inclusion of a landscape in the background, an area which Régnier more often left neutral or simply draped with fabric. As in many of his finest compositions, the artist's attention to both the still life and the figure are evident: the female figure is painted softly, with porcelain-like skin and an elegant, sheer fabric, while the still life includes great attention to detail, careful compositional balance, and a very realistic and skillful reflection of the skull in a mirror.
Though Régnier is most often associated with Rome and the Caravaggisti, he moved to Venice in 1626 and remained there for the rest of his life. The first year of his stay he painted a group of allegories which are considered some of his most successful Venetian compositions, including two in the Palazzo Reale, Turin: an Allegory of Vanity and an Allegory of Wisdom, the latter of which is a version of the present work and includes a similar inscription, though its date reads 6 Giunio 1626 rather than 12 Giunio 1626.1 Multiple autograph versions of each composition exist, and a painting of identical size to the present work representing an Allegory of Vanity, currently in a private Swiss collection, was likely its original pendant (fig. 1). Dr. Annick Lemoine confirmed the attribution to the present work upon firsthand inspection of the painting.
1. See A. Lemoine, Nicolas Régnier (ca. 1588-1667), Paris 2007, pp. 251-254, cat. nos. 54 and 55, reproduced p. 125.