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Nicolas Régnier (Maubeuge c. 1588-1667 Venice)
Property of a Private Collector
Nicolas Régnier (Maubeuge c. 1588-1667 Venice)

An allegory of autumn

Details
Nicolas Régnier (Maubeuge c. 1588-1667 Venice)
An allegory of autumn
oil on canvas
54 x 38 in. (137.2 x 96.5 cm.)
Provenance
Anonymous sale [The Property of a Lady]; Sotheby's, London, 8 December 2010, lot 29, where acquired by the present owner.

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Lot Essay

Faithful to the lessons of Caravaggio, the Allegory of Autumn is a harmonious marriage of virtuosity and simplicity. With its fluid handling, creamy textures and elegant balance of figural and still-life elements, this painting is a delightful example Régnier’s work dating from his Roman or early Venetian period.
Of Flemish origins, Nicolas Régnier travelled to Rome in circa 1617, where he was one of the founding members of the ‘Bentvueghels’, the society of Dutch and Flemish artists then active in the city. Stylistically, his work is closely associated with the French followers of Caravaggio working in Rome in the first quarter of the 17th century, including Nicolas Tournier, Valentin de Boulogne, Claude Vignon and Simon Vouet.
Just as Caravaggio before him in works such as Bacchus (Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Inv. 1890 no. 5312), Régnier here gives equal prominence to the animate and inanimate elements of his composition. Indeed, the choice of the kylix-style glass could be a direct reference on Régnier’s part to Bacchus, who holds up an almost identical vessel. Not only does this serve as homage to his illustrious predecessor, but it further emphasises the Flemish artist’s knowledge of the antique world; the kylix was an ancient Greek shallow stemmed cup that was used at symposia, the male drinking parties.
Similar still-life elements to those seen here - vines, grapes and shells - are incorporated into Régnier’s Allegory of Autumn, one of a set of seasonal allegories, now in the Princeton Art Museum and likely originally executed as over-doors in a Roman home. In this earlier example the figure of Bacchus squeezes grapes causing wine to flow, an action echoed here in the wine streaming from the jug.
Régnier’s masterly manipulation of the play of light across the different surfaces within the composition serves both to reinforce the realism of the various elements and, paradoxically, their illusionistic power. The figure of Autumn, with the pallor of her skin and rigidly vertical position is redolent of antique statues, such as the Callipygian Venus (Museo Nazionale, Naples). The glancing light on her décolletage heightens the sense of being made from marble and yet acts as a foil to the very human flush of her cheeks. In the same way, the shine of the grapes, the waxy gleam of the pear or the lustre of the oyster shell demonstrate the painter’s expert handling of paint and yet enhance their realistic appearance.

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