The Resurrection of Lazarus by Jean Le Clerc Acquired by the Louvre


Jean Le Clerc (1587/1588-1633)
The Resurrection of Lazarus
Oil on canvas - 85.9 x 128 cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
Photo : Galerie Richard Feigen

29/10/11 - Acquisition - Paris, Musée du Louvre - Following its appearance at an auction on 10 July 1987 at Christie’s London, then entering a private collection in New York, The Resurrection of Lazarus by Jean Le Clerc (ill. 1), acquired by the Louvre this year from the art dealer Richard Feigen, was presented for the first time in the exhibition, L’Art en Lorraine au temps de Jacques Callot organized by the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nancy in 1992 after being published by Luisa Vertova two years earlier in the revised and enlarged second edition of Caravaggism in Europe by Benedict Nelson [1].

Although the artist was mentioned by Félibien, he remains relatively unknown. Having spent most of his life in Italy, Le Clerc worked closely with Carlo Saraceni and was even commissioned after the death of the master, to execute an important painting for the Doge’s Palace [2]. His most famous work is the Night Concert, known from an engraving and at least three painted versions (one of which is in Munich). The presence of night scenes in the artistic production (we should also mention the two examples of Saint Peter’s Denial and the disputed attribution between Saraceni and Le Clerc) of a Lorraine native who worked in Italy obviously raises the complicated question of his connection to Georges de La Tour (and the latter’s hypothetical trip to said country).

In 1622, Le Clerc returned to Lorraine where he remained on a permanent basis until his death in 1633 and where he produced an extensive number of paintings, of which only a few can still be found today in the museums in Nancy and Langres notably, as well as in several churches.
The Resurrection of Lazarus is the first canvas by this artist to join the Louvre. It might have been painted in Lorraine but remains highly influenced by his Italian period. Of very fine quality and in good condition, it reveals many similarities to his other works. The figures, with their relatively small heads, characteristic of Le Clerc, are almost identical in The Shipwreck of the Villa Simes in Piazzola sul Brenta shown in Nancy in 1982 during the exhibition organized by Jacques Thuillier, Claude Gellée et les peintres lorrains en Italie au XVIIe siècle but also, for example, in The Concert in Munich (the bearded man sitting on the right). The Lorraine paintings also show the same type of figures (for instance, the Saint Joseph in The Adoration of the Shepherds at the Musée Breuil in Saint-Germain, Langres). Unlike some of the provincial French artists who spent part of their career in Italy whose works, no doubt due to a lack of emulation, declined after returning to France, Le Clerc’s talent appears to have remained intact insofar as can be judged from paintings which are at times in poor condition.

Following the Louvre’s acquisition in 1985 of a Mary Magdalene by Guy François, the addition of this painting allows the museum to offer visitors a better idea of Carlo Saraceni’s influence on French painters.

Version française


Didier Rykner, samedi 29 octobre 2011


P.-S.

After publishing this article, we received a note from Pauline Gomont, who wrote her Master’s thesis on Jean Le Clerc :

"This painting summarizes rather well, in my opinion, the artist’s complex work. My research leads me to believe that this Resurrection of Lazarus belongs in Le Clerc’s Venetian period. The range of colors used here is very rich, and I have not found the same variety in his Lorraine paintings. On seeing the canvas, I had the impression that Le Clerc was not using these colors for the first time, but almost so ; the blue on Christ’s robe or the green of the man’s cloak on the left, for example, are too intense and, I think, alter the balance of the ensemble. As you point out, this painting is very close to the one of the Villa de Piazzola sul Brenta and there is nothing similar in Lorraine until the 1630’s. It is also for this reason that I would associate this Resurrection of Lazarus with Le Clerc’s stay in Venice."


Notes

[1] We had written that it had been published for the first time in 1992 but Pauline Gomont (see the P.S.), pointed out our error.

[2] However, it is not known what share of creativity can be attributed to Sareceni or Le Clerc in the Doge Enrico Dandolo Exhorting Venice to the Crusade.



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