(Bordeaux, 1790 – Boulogne, 1870)
Oil on canvas
81 x 65 cm
Related work: painting of the same dimensions, signed, preserved in the Magnin Museum (Dijon, France)
Monvoisin is an interesting painter but quite unknown in France, unlike Latin America (especially Chile) where he spent fifteen years and where he is considered as a major artist.
Surprisingly, no biographical study on Monvoisin seems to mention our painting, whose only certainty is that it was executed before 1847. Indeed, at the Paris Salon of the same year, the porcelain painter Antoine Kürten presented a replica, N ° 1834 of the libretto, titled Saint Therese, according to M. Monvoisin. These replicas on porcelain in principle concerned masterpieces of the Renaissance or the seventeenth century, as well as contemporary paintings that had had some success.
The fact that Monvoisin himself produced at least one autograph (our painting) of this portrait of Saint Teresa of Avila confirms the interest that must have known his composition.
The painting of the Magnin Museum is probably the main version, unfortunately undated, bearing the signature R.Q. MONVOISIN; it was acquired between 1922 and 1935, and Jeanne Magnin gives a particularly accurate description: “It is difficult to imagine St. Teresa of Avila, that soul of fire, this devouring ardor, this mystical flowering of chivalrous Spain, in the species of the pretty nun, with round, fresh cheeks, heavy eyelids devoutly lowered. The sweet sentimentality of inspiration is of the same order as the quality of the irreproachable, neat, caressed, blaireauté treatment: all this is completely out of date; but there would be some injustice in ignoring the good faith of the painter in his effort towards the realization of the ideal glimpsed”.
One could add that this portrait, while belonging to the religious register, of a young woman, with delicate features, and with a slightly perceptible smile, reveals a certain sensuality.
In keeping with the ease of execution that the criticism of our artist recognized, the softness of the face, the suggested environment, the search for a certain ideal beauty, the careful design and finish of our painting, denote the influence of Ingres.
Trained in Bordeaux by Pierre Lacour for several years, Monvoisin went to perfect in the studio of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin at the Beaux-Arts in Paris, he joined in 1816. It is a student laborious and obstinate, even hard at work , who will win several internal competitions at the school and will participate almost every year in the Grand Prix de Rome of painting. Having finally obtained the second place in 1820, and a third place in 1821, it is thanks to the recommendation of Gerard and the support of Louis XVIII (which he had painted a portrait in 1820) that the State grants him a pension to study in Rome. There he met Domenica Festa, and married there in 1825, just before the young couple returned to Paris.
He then knows a certain success and develops his clientele, which includes for example the Duke of Orleans, who buys several paintings thematic mythological or Italian. At the height of his career in the early 1830s, Monvoisin specializes in history painting and receives commissions from the state, especially for the historic gallery of Versailles, and around 1840 he starts producing a few genre paintings, while regularly performing many portraits.
Yet despite his fame (first class medal at the Salon of 1831, Legion of Honor ...), he has problems with health and marriage, and especially a quarrel since 1835 with Cailleux, secretary general of the Royal Museums; all this decided him in 1842 to respond favorably to the solicitations (which dated back to 1838) of Chilean intellectuals and diplomats, whom he had been close to for fifteen years, who offered him to come and found a school of painting in Chile.
He then spent fourteen years in South America, mainly in Chile, with the exception of two interludes in Peru in 1845, where he founded a school of painting in Lima, and in 1847; he also stayed 3 months in Argentina when he arrived on the continent late 1842, and several months in Brazil, returning from a short trip to France in the summer of 1847, where he will be decorated by the Emperor Pedro II. Considered a forerunner of the Fine Arts in Chile, he trained many students there, and would have painted more than 500 paintings; today there are about 300 paintings in Chile (70 in public collections), 65 in Argentina, 18 in Peru and 8 in Brazil.
Monvoisin returned to France at the end of 1857; now a forgotten painter, he devoted himself to paintings with South American themes (landscapes, portraits) which he exhibited at the Salon and were reproduced in engraving by the publisher Goupil.
The last years of his life, spent in Boulogne sur Seine, took place under the sign of spiritualism and interest in homeopathic medicine.
An attempt at dating around 1840 may be suggested for our work, because of the ingresque vein, but before leaving for America (the portraits made appear to be of a different style and represent only local personalities), and when the theme of Saint Teresa of Avila inspires artists. Claudius Jacquand thus exposes at the Salon of 1839 a Sainte Thérèse in ecstasy (resumed in engraving by Allais at the Salon of 1841); Alexandre Caminade a Saint Thérèse in prayer (55 x 36 cm, preserved in the Semur en Auxois Museum) at the Salon of 1841; between 1841 and 1847, 11 works on this subject will be exhibited.
Moreover, we can not ignore the influence of Gerard's version at the Salon of 1827 (it will be taken over porcelain by Marie-Adelaïde Ducluzeau and engraving by Leroux at the Salon of 1831, and again on porcelain by Jenny Girbaud at the Salon de 1848!), In a more mystical and neoclassical style. A replica (oil on canvas, 73 x 60.5 cm, 1938 F 721) of this painting, described as Monvoisin, is kept in the Magnin Museum. We must go back to the Salon of 1810 and Monsiau to find a Saint Therese in ecstasy, and to that of 1785 and Taillasson to raise a Saint Therese enlightened by the divine light.