A Painting by Luca Penni Acquired by the Louvre

Luca Penni
(around 1500-1557)
Augustus and the Sibyl from Tibur
Oil on Panel - 84 x 103 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : D. R.

31/12/12 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée du Louvre - Thanks to a chance offering on the art market, an extremely rare occurrence since there are very few painted works by Lucas Penni still preserved, the Musée du Louvre acquired a painting by this master (from the Jan Muller Antiques gallery in Brussels), alas in a very poor state of conservation, but which was immediately added to the remarkable retrospective currently showing until 14 January 2013 (see article, in French).

The subject is well known : Augustus, wishing to find out if there would one day be a greater man than he, asked the sibyl the question ; she answered by pointing to a heavenly apparition of the Virgin and Child. The scene takes place at the top of the Capitol, overlooking the Roman forum which we can glimpse in the background, on the site where the Aracoeli basilica would be erected (the sibyl had pronounced the words : "Haec ara coeli" that is, "This is heaven’s altar").
The attribution to the Italian painter was made possible by comparing it with acknowledged works such as the pseudo Justice of Othon already at the Louvre in which the physical types are very similar, as well as by looking at the engravings after his drawings. The subtly shaded acid colors, typically Mannerist, are also close to this last painting.
In the essay of the catalogue sommaire of Penni’s paintings established by Dominique Cordellier in the publication accompanying the exhibition at the Louvre, only twelve paintings are listed. Seven are in public collections [1], three of which reside at the Louvre : the two quoted above plus a work from the studio (Diana and Acteon acquired in 1952).

Version française

Didier Rykner, mardi 8 janvier 2013


[1] Christ Laid on the Annointing Stone at the cathedral of Saint Etienne in Auxerre ; Venus Kissing Cupid at the Musée du Berry in Bourges, on view at the exhibition ; Henri II (Penni ?) at the Musée Condé in Chantilly, ; a Pieta in Lille, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

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