Christ Dead by Frère Luc re-discovered in Sézanne

1. Claude François, called Frère Luc (1614-1685)
Pentecost and Trinity
Oil on canvas
Sézanne, Hospital’s Chapel
Photo : Didier Rykner

23/11/10 – Discovery – Sézanne, former Récollets convent – The former Récollets convent in Sézanne, owned by the town hospital, is well-known to specialists of 17th century French painting since the chapel houses a remarkable ensemble of works by the artist Claude François, better known as Frère Luc : eight paintings in the nave, six of which represent scenes from the life of Saint Francis, and a superb altar (ill. 1) holding a retable depicting Pentecost with a Trinity above it.

The association Centre d’Etude du Pays Sézannais (CEPS) organized a colloquium last Saturday, 20 November on the artist. Besides the talks on the Récollect order and the religious and historical context in which Frère Luc painted, three other papers concerned more generally the artist’s work. They were by Karen Chastagnol, Guillaume Kazerouni and Brother Jean-Jacques Danel, a Franciscan himself and art historian, specialized in painting. The last two speakers showed several unpublished paintings during their talks which will be published in the upcoming proceedings.

2. Frère Jean-Jacques Danel
presenting the painting b Frère Luc
during the colloquim the 20 november 2010
Photo : Didier Rykner

3. Claude François, called Frère Luc (1614-1685)
Christ Dead
Oil on canvas - 68 x 54 cm
Sézanne, Hospital
Photo : Didier Rykner

However, we would like to point out here the re-discovery of a painting, presented for the first time at the colloquium (ill. 2), with a very interesting history and iconography. This canvas, depicting Christ Dead (ill. 3), has had a tumultuous background in its recent past. Perfectly unknown until now, it was apparently sent off to the landfill by the hospital cleaning crew, unaware of its value until Jacqueline Touchais-Yanca and René Guot, both members of CEPS saved it at the very last minute. Suspecting that it might be a work by Frère Luc, Madame Touchais-Yanca showed the canvas to Jean-Jacques Daniel who confirmed its authenticity, easily recognizable to anyone familiar with the artist.

This Christ Dead, covered in blood, is seen from the front, lying down, still covered with a blue robe which nevertheless reveals, with a particularly striking realism, all of his wounds. Works by Frère Luc are not rare but this particular subject and especially the manner in which it is treated are almost unique in 17th century painting, not only in France. Despite the dirt and mould, the painting is not in bad condition. Its effect will be all the more remarkable once it has been restored as planned shortly.

Didier Rykner, mardi 23 novembre 2010

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