Philippe de Champaigne (Brussels 1602-1674 Paris)
Philippe de Champaigne (Brussels 1602-1674 Paris)

Saint Benedict miraculously discovering a hidden fountain

Details
Philippe de Champaigne (Brussels 1602-1674 Paris)
Saint Benedict miraculously discovering a hidden fountain
with inscription 'S. Conca' (recto) and 'aa.' (verso)
pen and brown ink, grey wash
6 3/8 x 7 7/8 in. (16.2 x 19.8 cm.)

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Harriet West
Harriet West

Lot Essay

This hitherto unpublished drawing is a study for the Miraculous fountain, a canvas (108 x 149 cm.) now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (Fig. 1; B. Dorival, Philippe de Champaigne: 1602-1674, Paris, 1976, II, no. 103, ill.). This painting was part of a series of twelve (eleven are known today) dedicated to the Life of Saint Benedict executed circa 1655-56 by Champaigne and his studio for the apartment of Queen Anna of Austria at the Val de Grâce in Paris (see D. Brême, in A l'école de Philippe de Champaigne, exh. cat., Evreux, Musée d'Evreux, 2007-08, pp. 175-90).

Champaigne followed the drawing closely in some areas of the painting; the group of monks on the right and the amphorae in the foreground appear almost unchanged. However, the artist radically transformed the left part of the composition; whereas the drawing shows the moment that Saint Benedict digs up the well, the painting shows the saint in prayer, and another monk has been added in the background.

This sheet, characteristically drawn in pen and brown ink and an almost transparent grey wash, is the only known overall study for any painting in the series of the Life of Saint Benedict. Until its reappearance only studies of single figures in black and white chalk were known. These are now attributed to associates of Champaigne, including Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne and Nicolas de Plattemontagne (F. Lanoë, Trois Maîtres du dessin..., exh. cat., Musée national de Port-Royal des Champs, 2009, nos. 61, 67, 105 and 106).

We are grateful to Frédérique Lanoë for confirming the attribution on the basis of a digital photograph.

Fig. 1. Philippe de Champaigne, The miraculous fountain, Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts
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