Louis LICHERIE (Houdan, 1642 - Paris, 1687)
Tondo (circular painting). 80 cm diameter.
This anonymous painting obviously stems from the French 17th century school, and was inspired by two well-known models. One can principally note the influence of Annibale Carracci, who painted two widely admired Pietàs. Less connected with the Carracci Pietà acquired by Colbert de Seignelay and now held in the London National Gallery, this Pietà is more closely related with the other one, today held in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, and which features a similar silhouette of Christ. Apart from this major source of inspiration, one can likewise make out the influence of Charles Le Brun (1619-1690), the First Painter (premier peintre) of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Here, Mary Magdalene is portrayed quite similarly to Jephthah’s kneeling daughter in Charles Le Brun’s Sacrifice of Jephthah, held today in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Since the theme of sacrifice is common to both paintings, the idea of transposing a mourning feminine figure from one work to the other must have readily suggested itself: moreover, both are in round tondo format. The portrayal of the Virgin Mary, with her face turned toward Heaven, originates in another work by Charles Le Brun: The Pentecost, held today in the Louvre. With these antecedents in mind, it is most probable that the artist who painted this Pietà can be counted among the Le Brun’s students or assistants. The names of Le Brun’s main collaborators on the Versailles project, René-Antoine Houasse, Claude II Audran and François Verdier, have been proposed by art historians. Less attention has been devoted, however, to a fourth possible artist whose career, according to historical sources, was supported in its entirety by Charles Le Brun. In his monography on painter Louis Licherie (Houdan, 1642 - Paris, 1687) Guillet de Saint-Georges points out that Licherie, in his youth, was presented to Charles Le Brun, who was influential in ensuring him the post of drawing teacher at the Gobelins Manufactory (Louis Dussieux, Mémoires inédits sur la vie et les ouvrages des membres de l’Académie royale, Paris, 1854 edition, vol. 2, pp. 61-72). From the same text we also learn that Licherie’s first important work was a Descent from the Cross, probably carried out between 1665 and 1670 (ibid., p. 62). The painting’s whereabouts could hitherto not be ascertained, but it now seems most probable that it is identical with a painting sold in 1998 in France and erroneously ascribed to François Verdier. The existence of an etching based on an Assumption of the Virgin by Louis Licherie (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Est.,Da 46) makes the connection between the Descent from the Cross and Licherie’s style even clearer: the figure of the Virgin, from head to belly, is identical apart from the fact that it is inversed on the engraving. It is thus clear that if the Descent from the Cross was painted by Licherie, he is also the author of the Pietà here in question. The motifs of the deceased Christ and of the Virgin are indeed faithfully reproduced from one work to the other. The attribution of the Pietà (and of the Descent from the Cross) to Licherie is confirmed by a Christ on the Cross with Saint Bruno engraved by Louis Cossin on the basis of a work by Licherie which has been lost (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Est., Da 46). The similarity of the figure of Mary Magdalene in that etching and in the Pietà is astounding. Apart from these analogies with the works of Louis Licherie, one will note the painstaking care applied in portraying objects associated with Christ’s Passion. The quasi-analytical reproduction of such objects in the foreground seems to have been Licherie’s true ‘factory mark’: liturgical dishes and other accessories are invariably placed in evidence, whether it be in the Descent from the Cross, in the painter’s reception piece held in the Louvre, in his Holy Family in the Musée Thomas Henry in Cherbourg, or in his Saint Louis in the Musée des Beaux-arts in Rouen.
François Marandet, 3 July 2017
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Price : on request
Price : on request
Price : on request