Self-portrait (c. 1626-1627)
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
|Born||9 January 1590|
|Died||30 June 1649 (aged 59)|
|Education||Father's studio, years in Italy (1613-1627)|
|Known for||Painting, Drawing|
|Patron(s)||Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu|
Simon Vouet (French: [vw?]; 9 January 1590 - 30 June 1649) was a French painter who studied and rose to prominence in Italy before being summoned by Louis XIII to serve as Premier peintre du Roi in France. He and his studio of artists created religious and mythological paintings, portraits, frescoes, tapestries, and massive decorative schemes for the king and for wealthy patrons, including Richelieu. During this time, "Vouet was indisputably the leading artist in Paris," and was immensely influential in introducing the Italian Baroque style of painting to France. He was also "without doubt one of the outstanding seventeenth-century draughtsmen, equal to Annibale Carracci and Lanfranco."
Simon Vouet was born on January 9, 1590 in Paris. His father Laurent was a painter in Paris and taught him the rudiments of art. Simon's brother Aubin Vouet was also a painter, as also was Simon's wife Virginia da Vezzo, their son Louis-René Vouet, their two sons-in-law, Michel Dorigny and François Tortebat, and their grandson Ludovico Dorigny.
Simon began his career as a portrait painter. At age 14 he travelled to England to paint a commissioned portrait and in 1611 was part of the entourage of the Baron de Sancy, French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, for the same purpose. From Constantinople he went to Venice in 1612 and was in Rome by 1614.
He remained in Italy until 1627, mostly in Rome where the Baroque style was becoming dominant. He received a pension from the King of France and his patrons included the Barberini family, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Paolo Giordano Orsini and Vincenzo Giustiniani. He also visited other parts of Italy: Venice; Bologna (where the Carracci family had their academy); Genoa (where, from 1620 to 1622, he worked for the Doria princes); and Naples.
He was a natural academic, who absorbed what he saw and studied, and distilled it in his painting: Caravaggio's dramatic lighting; Italian Mannerism; Paolo Veronese's color and di sotto in su or foreshortened perspective; and the art of Carracci, Guercino, Lanfranco and Guido Reni.
Vouet's immense success in Rome led to his election as president of the Accademia di San Luca in 1624. His most prominent official commission of the Italian period was an altarpiece for St Peter's in Rome (1625-1626), destroyed at some time after 1725 (though fragments remain.)
In response to a royal summons, Vouet returned to France in 1627, where he was made Premier peintre du Roi. Louis XIII commissioned portraits, tapestry cartoons and paintings from him for the Palais du Louvre, the Palais du Luxembourg and the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In 1632, he worked for Cardinal Richelieu at the Palais-Royal and the Château de Malmaison. In 1631 he decorated the château of the président de Fourcy, at Chessy, the hôtel Bullion, the château of Marshal d'Effiat at Chilly, the hôtel of the Duc d'Aumont, the Séguier chapel, and the gallery of the Château de Wideville.
Today, a number of Vouet's paintings are lost, and "only two major decorative schemes survive, those for the chateaux of Colombes and Chessy," but the details and imagery of many lost works are known from engravings by Michel Dorigny, François Tortebat, and Claude Mellan.
In 1626 he married Virginia da Vezzo, "a painter in her own right...known for her beauty," who modeled as the Madonna and female saints for Vouet's religious commissions. The couple would have five children. Virginia Vouet died in France in 1638. Two years later Vouet married a French widow, Radegonde Béranger, with whom he had three more children.
As one art historian writes, "When Vouet returned to Paris in 1627, French art was painfully provincial and, by Italian standards, more than a quarter of a century behind the times. Vouet introduced the latest fashions, educated a group of talented young artists--and the public as well--and brought Paris up to date."
Vouet's style became uniquely his own, but was distinctly Italian, importing the Italian Baroque into France. A French contemporary, lacking the term "Baroque," said, "In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before." In his anticipation of the "two-dimensional, curvilinear freedom of rococo compositions a hundred years later...Vouet should perhaps be counted among the more important sources of eighteenth-century painting." In his works for the French royal court, "Vouet's importance as a formulator of official decorations is in some ways comparable to that of Rubens."
Vouet's sizeable atelier or workshop produced a whole school of French painters for the following generation. His most influential pupil was Charles le Brun, who organized all the interior decorative painting at Versailles and dictated the official style at the court of Louis XIV of France, but who jealously excluded Vouet from the Académie Royale in 1648.
Vouet's other students included Valentin de Boulogne (the main figure of the French "Caravaggisti"), François Perrier, Nicolas Chaperon, Michel Corneille the Elder, Charles Poërson, Pierre Daret, Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy, Pierre Mignard, Eustache Le Sueur, Claude Mellan, the Flemish artist Abraham Willaerts, Michel Dorigny, and François Tortebat. These last two became his sons-in-law. André Le Nôtre, the garden designer of Versailles, was a student of Vouet. Also in Vouet's circle was a friend from his Italian years, Claude Vignon.
During his lifetime, writes Arnaud Brejon de Lavergnée, "Vouet's stature increased continually, his paintings becoming ever more beautiful, particularly in the last decade." But, "although his career was as brilliant as can be imagined," Vouet "played no role in the foundation of the Académie Royale" that was to be so dominant after his death, "and was neglected by the biographers and more influential amateurs. Between 1660 and 1690 only Poussin and Rubens were taken seriously...and later generations drew their own conclusions from this." Further eroding his legacy, "Vouet was undoubtedly at his greatest in these ensembles [his magnificent decorative schemes for chateaux and churches], most of which were destroyed during the Revolution" of the next century.
Though never entirely forgotten by connoisseurs and collectors (such as William Suida), Vouet fell into a relative obscurity that was not remedied until William R. Crelly's monograph of 1962, and then by the major retrospective of Vouet's work at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1990-1991 with its colloquium and catalogue, which Brejon de Lavergnée says fulfilled "its aim of rehabilitating the artist." "The Simon Vouet retrospective...is still vividly remembered. Since then, studies of the painter, his circle and his students have abounded, defining the image of the artist and his workshop ever more clearly."
The exhibition's organizer, Jacques Thuillier, "is surely justified in claiming the altarpiece of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as among the greatest masterpieces of seventeenth-century monumental painting," writes Brejon de Lavergnée, who further asserts that in the artist's works of the 1640s, such as Saint Francis of Paola Resuscitating a Child, "one can see Vouet concluding his career with pictures of an immense gravity informed by an intense spiritual energy. Images of the greatesf force, these paintings constitute the apogee of French seventeenth-century painting."
Two Modelli for Altarpiece in St. Peter's (1625), LACMA
Crelly's catalogue raisonné of 1962:147 lists more than 150 preserved paintings by Vouet. Since that publication, "a number of paintings, some of them of considerable importance, have turned up in various parts of the world and the list of his work continues to grow." A new catalogue raisonné, by Arnauld and Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée, is forthcoming. This is a partial list by present location, and then, as possible, by date.
Compositions by Vouet preserved in tapestries include:
Parnassus, or Apollo and the Muses (c. 1640), Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
St. Catherine (n.d.), National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
Mary Magdalen (1614-1615), Quirinal Palace, Rome
Lovers (1614-1618), Pushkin Museum, Moscow
Woman Playing a Guitar (c. 1618), Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Halberdier (c. 1615-1620), Dayton Art Institute
Angel with Dice and Tunic (1615-1625), Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
Angel with Spear of the Passion (1615-1625), Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
Portrait of a Gentleman (c. 1620), Blanton Museum of Art
The Fortune-teller (c. 1620), National Gallery of Canada
Judith (1620-1622), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Circumcision of Jesus (1622), Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
Judith (c. 1620-1625), Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Saint Luke (1622-1625), Philadelphia Museum of Art
Saint John (1622-1625), Philadelphia Museum of Art
Saint Jerome and the Angel (c. 1622-1625), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Sophonisba Receiving the Poisoned Chalice (c. 1623), Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
Portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi with Painting Implements (c. 1623-1625), private collection
Angels Carrying Instruments of the Passion (1625), Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie de Besançon
Saint Agatha's Vision of Saint Peter in Prison (c. 1625), Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo
Saint Sebastian (c. 1625), Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Saint Cecilia (c. 1626), Blanton Museum of Art
The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (1626), Legion of Honor, San Francisco
Salome (1626-1627), Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento
Angel Holding the Vessel and Towel for Washing the Hands of Pontius Pilate (1627), Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Angel with the Superscription from the Cross (1627), Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Time Vanquished by Love, Beauty and Hope (1627), Prado
Nativity of the Virgin (c. 1629), San Francesco a Ripa, Rome
Saint Mary Magdalene (c. 1630), Cleveland Museum of Art
Neptune and Amphitrite (1630s) Hearst Castle
Madonna and Child (1633), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Lot and His Daughters (1633), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg
Ceres Trampling the Attributes of War (1635), Musée des Beaux-arts Thomas Henry, Cherbourg-Octeville
Aeneas and his Father Fleeing Troy (c. 1635), San Diego Museum of Art
Deposition of Christ (c. 1635), Musée d'art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
Diana (1637), Cumberland Gallery, Hampton Court Palace
Sleeping Venus (1630-1640), Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
The Toilet of Venus (c. 1640), Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
The Death of Dido (c. 1641), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole
Artemisia Building the Mausoleum (early 1640s), Nationalmuseum, Stockholm
Venus and Adonis (1642), J. Paul Getty Museum
Allégorie de la Charité (1640-1645; possibly a studio work), Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Draguignan
Portrait of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, n.d., private collection
Simon Vouet, Self-portrait, Uffizi
Simon Vouet, presumed self-portrait (c. 1620-1625), Musée de Picardie
Ottavio Leoni, Portrait of Simon Vouet (1625)
Simon Vouet, Self-portrait (c.1626-1627) Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Nicolas Mignard, Portrait of Simon Vouet
François Perrier, Portrait of Simon Vouet (1632)
Frédéric Hillemacher, Portrait of Simon Vouet (etching, 1854), British Museum
Simon Vouet, fragment of a possible portrait of Virginia da Vezzo (c. 1624-26), Gemäldegalerie, Berlin
Simon Vouet, Virginia da Vezzo, the Artist's Wife, as the Magdalen (c. 1627), LACMA