A Painting by Jean-Baptiste Faudran Acquired by the Musée d’Histoire in Marseille

Jean-Baptiste de Faudran (1611-1669)
Allegorical Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Gault,
bishop of Marseille

Oil on Copper - 23.8 x 18.5 cm
Marseille, Musée d’Histoire de Marseille
Photo : Galerie Michel Descours

1/8/12 - Acquisition - Marseille, Musée d’Histoire de Marseille - At the exhibition La Peinture en Provence au XVIIe siècle organized in 1978 in this city, the artist Jean-Baptiste de Faudran was represented with two paintings, half of his known production at that time [1]. There is very little information concerning the painter except for the fact that he was also a lawyer (as of 1625). We do not know where or how he received his training but he was in Rome between 1635 and 1639 where he was a member of the Academy of Saint-Luc. It appears that he was deeply influenced by Nicolas Poussin. The brother of Maeleine de Scudéry, Georges de Scudéry, wrote about one of his paintings, a Bacchanale Illustrating the Defeat of Chastity in these words : "And the famous Poussin himself might have believed that he produced this painting."
Faudran returned to Marseille in 1640, the same year Poussin went back to Paris. A wealthy aristocrat, he had no need to practice his trade for a living which may explain the small number of paintings he produced, though provincial archives list a certain number of works, historical or mythological subjects, portraits as well as landscapes.

The copper just acquired by the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille from the Michel Descours gallery in Lyon (ill.) is therefore a particularly important manifestation of his work. It is a small allegorical portrait of Jean-Baptiste Gault, bishop of Marseille. The attribution was made thanks to an old mention in ink on the back : J.n. B. de gault évêque de marseille / tableau peint par Faudran [J.n. B. de gault bishop of Marseille / painting done by Faudran].
A native of Tours, Jean-Baptiste Gault was appointed bishop of Marseille in April 1640 after the death of his brother Eustache who had held the same position. However, he arrived in Marseille only in January 1643 and died five months later from a severe case of tuberculosis. This small allegorical portrait is probably a posthumous likeness. The two prisoners bearing the medalion and the galley ship which can be glimpsed in the background reflect the bishop’s charitable acts during the brief time he spent in Marseille, when he had launched the foundation of a hospital for the prisoners working in the shibuilding yards for galleys in Marseille.

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 13 août 2012


[1] The information in this news item was drawn from the catalogue of this exhibition and the entry for the painting submitted by the Michel Descours gallery.

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