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Mystery Old Master painting gains an identity – but gets no love

March 24, 2012

Pierre Mignard, called Mignard Le Romain (Troyes 1612–1695 Paris), The Apotheosis of Saint Dominic, oil on copper, 48.5 x 36 cm, framed. Estimate: EUR 20,000-30,000. UPDATE: THIS PAINTING FAILED TO SELL.

I knew it! This painting, as noted in an earlier blog, caught my attention for being both lugubrious and oddly captivating.  Now, six months after appearing at Christie’s last October where it was labeled “Roman School, 17th Century” and selling for all of $7,605,  it’s back on the market at Dorotheum on April 18th with a stronger attribution and a much increased estimate.

UPDATE: this painting gained and new identity, but got no love and failed to sell.

Here’s the complete catalogue essay:

Pierre Mignard, called Mignard Le Romain (Troyes 1612–1695 Paris)

The Apotheosis of Saint Dominic, oil on copper, 48.5 x 36 cm, framed. Estimate: EUR 20,000-30,000.

We are grateful to Dr. Sylvain Kerspern, for identifying the present painting as a characteristic work by Mignard on the basis of a photograph (written communication February 2012). We are also grateful to Dr. Emilio Negro for suggesting an alternative attribution to Pietro da Cortona after examining the painting in the original (written communication).

The present painting had been traditionally considered as a work by an artist from the immediate Bolognese circle of Domenichino. Several scholars have suggested the authorship of a Roman or French artist. Dr. Sylvain Kerspern, to whom we are grateful, has identified the picture as a work from the Roman period of Pierre Mignard, called “Le Romain”. Pierre Mignard was trained in the workshop of Jean Boucher in Bourges. In 1633, he entered the workshop of Simon Vouet shortly after the latter’s return from Rome. Here the young artist was influenced by Vouet’s adoption of classicism.

In 1635, Mignard travelled to Rome, where he began a successful career that has yet to be fully explored. He only returned to Paris in 1657. His significance as a court artist to the Curia is demonstrated by the fact that he was commissioned to paint the portrait of the newly elected Pope Alexander VII in 1655. In Paris, he soon became a favoured court painter of Louis XIV. However, the progress of his career was hampered by Charles Le Brun, the director of the Academy. He was 80 years old when he was finally awarded the title of “premier peintre du roi” and succeeded Le Brun in his position at the Academy. Mignard painted many members of the Versailles court and he can be considered as one of the most important portraitists of the ‘Grand Siècle’.

The present work dates from the artist’s early period and this composition clearly reveals influences from Francesco Albani and Domenichino. The stylistic comparisons demonstrate that Mignard, whilst in Rome during the 1640s, readily adopted the tendencies of the Bolognese School. Nevertheless, the present composition also shows specifically French elements together with an affinity with the work of Pietro da Cortona, his contemporary in Rome. Pierre Mignard often borrowed from contemporary Italian works such as is apparent in the Virgin and Child (Paris, Louvre) which is based on Carravaggio.

A pentiment in the present painting on the wing of the left putto, who holds a lily, the saint’s attribute, betrays that the composition was modified. Numerous studies of putti and heads of saints (Paris, Louvre Département des Arts Graphiques) suggest that Mignard intensively prepared his compositions. An Ascension of Christ shows the figure of Christ, in a similar pose, in the reverse, to Saint Dominic in the present composition.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 24, 2012 4:56 PM

    Looks like Christie’s is getting things wrong quite a bit lately. Thanks for this interesting update!


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