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GEORGES DE LA TOUR (VIC-SUR-SEILLE 1593-1653 LUNÉVILLE)
GEORGES DE LA TOUR (VIC-SUR-SEILLE 1593-1653 LUNÉVILLE)
GEORGES DE LA TOUR (VIC-SUR-SEILLE 1593-1653 LUNÉVILLE)
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GEORGES DE LA TOUR (VIC-SUR-SEILLE 1593-1653 LUNÉVILLE)
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GEORGES DE LA TOUR (VIC-SUR-SEILLE 1593-1653 LUNÉVILLE)

Saint Andrew

Details
GEORGES DE LA TOUR (VIC-SUR-SEILLE 1593-1653 LUNÉVILLE)
Saint Andrew
oil on canvas
24 ½ x 19 7/8 in. (62 x 50.5 cm.)
Provenance
(Probably) Commissioned for a church or monastery in or around Lunéville, or Vic, and later sent to Paris, where retrieved in 1694 by
François de Camps (1643-1723), Abbot of Signy, on behalf of the following,
Jean-Baptiste Nualart (d. 1694), Canon of Albi Cathedral, by whom gifted to the following,
Chapel of Saint John, Albi Cathedral, until circa 1795, or shortly thereafter.
Private collection, near Albi, and by descent until 1991.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, Monaco, 21 June 1991, lot 108, when acquired by the present owner.
Literature
C. Le Goux de la Berchère, 'Procez verbal de la visite de l'église métropolitaine et du chapitre d'Alby', 8 March 1698, MS, Albi, Archevêché d'Albi, as 'treize tableaux représentant Nostre-Seigneur et les douze apôtres, dans les bordures dorées pour demeurer attachés fixés autour de ladite chapelle, où ils sont'.
Mémoire des effets concernant les Arts qui se trouvent dans le district d'Alby, département du Tarn, et qui méritent la plus grande considération, etc., 1795, MS, Paris, Archives Nationales, F 17A 1231, dossier 4, pièce 44, as 'Douze petits tableaux, grandeur de portraits, représentant les douze Apôtres, d'une touche forte et rembrunie comme celle de Michel-Ange de Caravage'.
R. Huyghe, 'L'influence de La Tour. Une oeuvre perdue de Georges de la Tour', L'Amour de L'Art, 1946, p. 255-258.
F.G. Pariset, Georges de la Tour, Paris, 1948, p. 399, note 89.
P. Rosenberg and J. Thuillier, in Georges de La Tour, P. Landry, ed., exhibition catalogue, Paris, 1972, pp. 127-128 and 239, under nos. 4 and 34-42.
J. Thuillier, L'Opera Completa di Georges de La Tour, Milan, 1973, p. 88, under no. 19, as 'St Bartholomew (?)' after a lost original.
B. Nicolson and C. Wright, Georges de La Tour, London, 1974, pp. 22 and 166, under no. 12, as 'St Bartholomew (?)' and 'original lost', dating to circa 1621-23.
B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe, Turin, 1989, I, p. 133, as 'St Bartholomew (?)' and 'lost'.
M. Mojana, in Georges de La Tour, P. Rosenberg, ed., Paris, 1992, p. 20, no. 4, illustrated, as 'St Bartholomew'.
J. Thuillier, Georges de La Tour, Paris, 1992, pp. 46-48, 54 and 283-82, no. 6, illustrated in colour.
J.-C. Boyer, 'Les "Apôtres" de Georges de La Tour de Paris à Albi', in Georges de La Tour, ou, La nuit traversé: Colloque organisé à Vic-sur-Seille, du 9 au 11 septembre 1993, Metz, 1994, p. 59, as 'St. Bartholomew'.
J.-C. Le Floch, Le Signe de contradiction: Essai sur Georges de La Tour et son œuvre, Rennes, 1995, p. 128, under no. 11, as 'Saint Barthelemy (peut-être plutôt un Saint André)'.
J. Thuillier, Saint Jean-Baptiste dans le désert: Georges de la Tour, Metz, 1995, p. 15, illustrated.
P. Choné, Georges de La Tour: Un peintre lorrain au XVIIe siècle, Tournai, 1996, p. 130, illustrated.
P. Conisbee, 'An Introduction to the Life and Art of Georges de La Tour', in Georges de La Tour and His World, exhibition catalogue, Washington and Fort Worth, 1996, pp. 43 and 48, fig. 33.
L. Slatkes, 'Georges de La Tour and the Netherlandish Followers of Caravaggio', in Georges de La Tour and His World, exhibition catalogue, Washington and Fort Worth, 1996, p. 206.
D. Brême, Georges de La Tour, Paris, 1997, pp. 40-45, illustrated.
J.-P. Cuzin and D. Salmon, Georges de La Tour: Histoire d'une redécouverte, Paris, 1997, pp. 112-113, illustrated.
P. Rosenberg and B. Ferté, La Tour, Milan, 1998, p. 121, no. 13, illustrated, erroneously as in the collection of Heinz Kisters, Kreuzlingen.
J.-P. Mohen et al., Les Apo^tres de Georges de La Tour: re´alite´s et virtualite´s, exhibition catalogue, Albi, 2004, pp. 4, 10-11 and 61-62, illustrated.
V. Merlini, D. Salmon and D. Storti, eds., Georges de La Tour in Milan: The Adoration of the Shepherds, Christ with Saint Joseph in the Carpenter's Shop, exhibition catalogue, Milan, 2011, pp. 49 and 53, fig. 40a.
Exhibited
London, Walpole Gallery, France in the Golden Age, 26 June-31 July 1996, no. 1 (catalogue entry by M. Fagiolo dell'Arco).
Paris, Grand Palais, Georges de La Tour, 3 October 1997-26 January 1998, no. 5.
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, on long-term loan, 6 September 2000-October 2018.
Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art, Georges de La Tour, 8 March-29 May 2005, no. 2.
Madrid, Museo del Prado, Georges de La Tour, 1593-1652, 23 February-12 June 2016, no. 3.
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Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

One of the last pictures by the artist remaining in private hands, this haunting image of Saint Andrew is an outstanding work by Georges de La Tour - the most important exponent of Caravaggism in seventeenth-century France, and one of the most enigmatic and elusive figures in the history of European painting. Painted in the early 1620s, the picture originally formed part of the famous series of Albi Apostles of which only six of the original thirteen canvases are known to survive today.
The son of a baker, La Tour was born in Vic-sur-Seille in Lorraine, the independent duchy on the frontier with Protestant Germany, and then at the forefront of the Catholic Reformation. Although scholars have been divided over whether he travelled to Italy early in his career, it is clear that he spent most of his life in Lorraine, where he formed an isolated and compelling artistic idiom. Highly successful during his lifetime, La Tour’s reputation, like that of El Greco and Vermeer, slipped into oblivion during the following centuries with his works being attributed to painters such as the young Velázquez, Zurbarán and Ribera, before his artistic resurrection in 1915 driven by the German art historian, Herman Voss. Since the first monographic exhibition of his work, held in Paris in 1972, La Tour has been the subject of numerous publications and exhibitions. Following it’s rediscovery in 1991, this canvas, one of fewer than fifty pictures accepted as by La Tour, has played a central role in our understanding of his artistic development and the revival of his reputation.
Imbued with a disarming stillness, Saint Andrew, shown in front of the crux decussata on which he was crucified, stares in meditative silence at the open book before him. Unlike the five other surviving pictures from the artist’s series of Apostles - many of which could be mistaken for dishevelled characters from the streets or fields of La Tour’s world - there is no questioning the religious nature of this work. Here, parallel to the picture plane and standing directly before the viewer, the saint radiates an intensely spiritual solemnity. Allied with this uncompromisingly frontal disposition, the strong chiaroscuro employed in the folds of the saint’s mantle, which in turn casts a deep shadow over his brown jerkin, endow the figure with a sculptural grandeur and monumentality.
Whilst La Tour’s Saint Andrew exudes a spiritual profundity, his subject also retains the humanity that underscores all of the Albi Apostles. As Philip Conisbee has observed: ‘…in La Tour’s interpretation they are not the remote, glorious saints criticized by the Protestant reformers in the sixteenth century. Rather they are of their time and place, men of flesh and blood who still seem extraordinarily immediate and credible’ (P. Conisbee, op. cit., 1996, p. 48).
Despite its early date, there is already a sophistication in the treatment of this canvas: the artist masterfully layers glazes for the play of half-lights between highlights in the flesh tones and darkest shadows, while painting the Apostle’s forehead and weathered hands with a remarkably instinctive wet-in-wet technique. Such virtuosic handling, combined with the simplified geometry of the composition, was central to La Tour’s distinctive stylistic interpretation of tenebrism. The restrained tonality, a hallmark of the Albi Series, is interrupted only by the red of his mantle, the colour that would dominate La Tour’s work throughout his career.
The Albi Apostles series:
This picture is one of a suite of thirteen canvases representing Christ and the twelve Apostles that are known as the ‘Albi series’ by virtue of their earliest known location in the city’s Cathedral of Saint Cecilia. As with so much associated to this artist, the genesis of the Albi Apostles remains a mystery. There are no surviving documents connected to what surely must have constituted an important commission for the artist early in his career. Scholars have suggested that the series was likely to have been commissioned for a church or monastery in or around Lunéville or Vic-sur-Seille. However, it is equally possible that they were painted for a private patron, as was the case for the comparable and contemporary sets of Christ and the Apostles painted by Rubens for the Duke of Lerma in Spain (1610-12; Madrid, Prado), and those by his pupil van Dyck, executed in Antwerp from 1618-20.
The complete series is first recorded in 1698 in the sixth chapel of Saint John in the cathedral choir where they are described as: ‘treize tableaux representant Nostre-Seigneur et les douze apôtres, dans des bordures dorés pour demeurer attachées fixes autor de ladite chapelle où ils sont’ (‘thirteen paintings that represent our Lord and the twelve Apostles, in gilded frames to remain fixed and unmoveable around the said chapel where they are’). An inscription on the tomb of Canon Jean-Baptiste Nualart, who was buried there in 1694, indicates that he had paid for the decoration of the chapel during his lifetime: ‘vivens hanc capellam suis sumptibus ornavit’. It has now been established that twelve of the pictures were sent from Paris in 1694 by abbé François de Camps (1643-1723), with the remaining two arriving the following year. A renowned scholar and connoisseur, de Camps assembled an important collection of paintings in Paris, which was later absorbed by the dukes of Orléans. It remains unclear as to whether the Albi series formed part of de Camps’s own collection, or whether he was acting solely as an intermediary on behalf of Nualart. In the catalogue to the 2016 Madrid exhibition, Jean-Claude Boyer notes that de Camps, then abbé of Signy, had been appointed a commendatory abbot of Champagne in 1693, the year before their arrival in Albi (Georges de La Tour, Madrid, 2016, p. 88). The abbey of Champagne was then in the grip of financial crisis. This has prompted de Boyer to speculate that the pictures were then the property of the abbey and that de Camps, in his new role as commendator, sold the pictures in order to relieve their financial burden (ibid.).
The series remained at Albi and was recorded in 1795 during the Revolution when included on a list of works in the cathedral to be saved, where they were described by ex-canon Jean-François Massol as worthy of: ‘the greatest preservation’. Massol described the: ‘strong and darkened touch’, and astutely related them to the work of Caravaggio, then the subject of much renewed interest from painters such as Jacques-Louis David. This is the last document that refers to the pictures in Albi and no subsequent description of the cathedral mentions their presence there.
It was not until the 1972 Paris exhibition that it was finally established that only two of La Tour’s original Albi Apostles – those of Saint James the Lesser and Saint Jude (figs. 1 & 2) - had remained together, by then forming part of an incomplete series in the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec (Albi). Pierre Rosenberg and Jacques Thuillier showed that the remaining eight Apostles and the canvas of Christ were faithful but later copies of La Tour’s originals, most probably executed from the period of the Restoration and possibly commissioned to avoid risky or indeed expensive restoration. This conclusion, illustrated through a direct comparison between La Tour’s Saint Philip (fig. 3; Norfolk, Virginia, Chrysler Museum), then in a Swiss private collection, with the corresponding saint from Albi, was confirmed by the subsequent succession of remarkable rediscoveries. Firstly the present picture, which appeared at auction in June 1991, with that of Saint Thomas (fig. 4; Tokyo, The National Museum of Western Art) being sold the following day. In 2005, the original of Saint James the Greater (fig. 5; private collection) was then rediscovered and sold at auction in 2008. As with the Chrysler picture, copies of all three works are preserved in the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. The two remaining Apostles, for which neither the originals nor the copies survive, are thought to be of Saint John and Saint Matthew or Saint Bartholomew.
Dating and Influences:
Although there has been considerable debate over the dating of the Albi series within La Tour’s oeuvre, there is a consensus among scholars that they were painted at the beginning of his career. Jean-Pierre Cuzin and Jacques Thuillier both consider the series to be the first extant works by the artist with the former suggesting they date to either 1614-15 or to 1620-22, after he had moved to Lunéville. Benedict Nicolson and Christopher Wright dated them to the early 1620s (Georges de La Tour, London, 1974, p. 24). At the time of the 1996 exhibition Georges de La Tour and His World, Philip Conisbee dated the pictures to c.1624 (op. cit.). More recently, in the 2016 Madrid exhibition catalogue, Jean-Claude Boyer proposed a dating of ‘between 1614/5 and the early 1620s’ (Georges de La Tour 1593-1652, Madrid, 2016, p. 88).
While scholars of La Tour’s work have universally agreed on the influence of Caravaggio, whose artistic language of tenebrism was coursing through European painting in the first decades of the seventeenth century, the subject of whether La Tour made a trip to Italy, possibly between 1613 and 1616, has ignited long-standing and energetic debate (for a full discussion see ‘Celui qui croyait à Rome, celui qui n’y croyait pas’, in Georges de La Tour 1593-1652, exhibition catalogue, 2016, pp. 63-69). Some, including Voss, Rosenberg and Thuillier, believe that such a trip is irrefutable and that it proved defining in terms of his artistic development, while others, such as Cuzin, Nicolson and Anthony Blunt, rejected this theory and point to the absence of documentary evidence. Nicolson and Wright suggested the influence of Hendrick ter Brugghen, while Leonard Slatkes (op. cit.) argued that La Tour must have encountered the work of Dirck van Baburen, with whom ter Brugghen shared a workshop in Utrecht and where they transmitted their interpretations of Caravaggio’s style. Others still believe that the artist remained in his native Lorraine, where his style was informed by the work of Jacques Bellange and Jacques Callot - both of whom produced their own series of Apostles - and that of Jean Le Clerc. Le Clerc, who settled in Nancy in 1622, had studied in Rome with Carlo Saraceni when the Venetian was under the spell of Caravaggio’s revolutionary style.

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