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PIERRE II MIGNARD called “le chevalier Mignard”, circle
Avignon 1640 – 1725 Avignon

Oil on canvas
122 x 158 cm / 48 x 62.2 inches, with frame 146 x 182 cm / 57.5 x 71.7 inches

Italia, Ascoli, collection del Duca

The brilliant era of Louis XIV gave the world a whole pleiad of outstanding architects, sculptors, masters of applied art. This time was no less glorious for the development of painting, especially the portrait genre, which is deservedly called the era of Pierre Mignard.
Indeed, Pierre Mignard created that portrait formula, which became an integral part of the French artistic tradition. At the same time, because of his universalism, Mignard also created one of the most serious problems in the study of 17th-century portraiture, namely, the problem of attribution. Indeed, for a long time almost any portrait of the second half of the 17th century had an attribution either to Mignard himself or to the "school of Mignard." Although in the last 30 years the names of the "minor masters" of French portraiture have become the subject of separate studies, this artistic continent has not yet been fully explored. And sometimes real discoveries await us in it.
"Portrait of a lady as Mary Magdalene" is a good example of this kind of mystery. This portrait caught my eye at an Italian auction where it was sold as a work of the school of Peter Lely. Indeed, the compositional similarities between the painting and some of Lely's portraits were obvious. Meanwhile, some details of the painting were not very typical of Lely. First of all, it concerned the landscape - its construction in the form of a theatrical backstage, clearly readable plans spoke in favour of the master of the French school, an artist formed under the strong influence of Nicolas Poussin and his followers. The second thing is draperies. The draperies in Lely's paintings have a very characteristic manner of depicting light and shadow, the volume in them is created through colour. The draperies in the portrait have a clearly readable volumetric form, which is more typical of the masters of French classicism. The third thing is the somewhat elongated proportions of the figure, which speaks of the author's familiarity with the works of Philippe de Champaigne and the masters of his circle. Robert Fohr kindly drew attention to this, and he also suggested dating the painting to 1660-70, with which I fully agree.

Further research into the painting and its iconography led me to the work of Pierre Mignard's nephew, his namesake Pierre Mignard (1640-1725), called le chevalier Mignard. It is a large composition representing Mary Magdalene at the Chapelle des Pénitents noirs in Avignon. The painting has a typological similarity. This similarity is striking first of all in the compositional approach - the same elongated proportions of the figure, similar construction of the landscape. When examined in detail, the paintings also have much in common - similar depiction of rocks and stones in the landscape, similar modelling of the face and draperies drawn in a completely similar way. Such a stylistic analysis allows us to name the author of the painting as an artist who worked in the entourage of Pierre Mignard (1640-1725), dit le chevalier Mignard in the 1660s-70s when he worked in Paris.
Another important mystery of this painting was the name of the person depicted. There was no doubt that this was a fine example of a allegorical portrait. Moreover, the iconographic type itself, representing the unknown lady as Mary Magdalene, involuntarily made us look for her among the royal favourites. There are known portraits of Madame de Montespan or Isabelle de Ludres as Mary Magdalene. This portrait, however, more bears a comparative resemblance to Louise de La Vallière, but this is a subject for further research.

Bratislava, 2023

Base: Canvas

Epoque: XVII century

Genre: Portrait

Genre: Religious

School: French

Technic: Oil

See also