Philippe de Champaigne  
Philippe de Champaigne

Self Portrait
born May 26, 1602, Brussels
died Aug. 12, 1674, Paris

portrait, historical, and religious painter of the French Baroque.

Trained in Brussels, Champaigne arrived in Paris in 1621 and was employed with the classical Baroque painter Nicolas Poussin on the decoration of the Luxembourg Palace, under the direction of Nicholas Duchesne. His career progressed rapidly under the patronage of the queen mother Marie de Medicis and the Cardinal de Richelieu, for whom he producedreligious paintings and portraits. Appointed painter royal to the queen mother, Champaigne succeeded Duchesne in that position in 1628. He became a professor at the Royal Academy (1653), later its rector, and produced many pieces for the palaces and churches of Paris.

Champaigne decorated a gallery in the Palais Royal for Richelieu and executed a masterful portrait of the powerful French figure (“Cardinal Richelieu”; c. 1635, Louvre, Paris). His strongest works are the natural and lifelike psychological portraits he produced of eminent contemporaries. Blending Flemish, French, and Italian elements, his work is characterized by a brilliant colour sense, a monumental conception of the figure, and a sober use of composition. His portrait style shows the influence of Peter Paul Rubens and Sir Anthony Van Dyck.

In 1643 Champaigne became involved with Jansenism, an ascetic sect, and he rejected previous Baroque techniques. His paintings became simplified and more austere, and his portraits, which often portray the sitter dressed in black, demonstrate his sensitivity toward and understanding of people. One of the masterpieces of his later period is “Ex Voto de 1662” (1662, Louvre), which depicts the miraculouscure of his daughter, a nun at the Jansenist convent of Port Royal. In his theory of art Champaigne emphasized drawing and was possibly the originator of the drawing-versus-colourcontroversy that embroiled the French Academy until well into the 18th century.

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Philippe de Champaigne: Triple Portrait of Cardinal Richelieu


Philippe de Champaigne
Triple Portrait of Richelieu
c. 1640
Oil on canvas, 58 x 72 cm
National Gallery, London

Philippe de Champaigne
Triple Portrait of Richelieu (detail)
c. 1640
Oil on canvas, 58 x 72 cm
National Gallery, London

Besides portraits of the actual ruler, it became customary during the period of absolutism to have state portraits painted of prime ministers, the figures in charge of state affairs. The best examples of such portraits are Philippe de Champaigne's likenesses of Armand-Jean du Plcssis de Richelieu, who rose to great power under Louis XIII. Richelieu's family had risen to the lower nobility by office; his mother was the daughter of a lawyer, while his father had served as Seigneur de Richelieu, Provost General of the Royal Household under Henry IV. At the age of twenty-one, Richelieu was nominated by Henry IV as candidate for the office of Bishop of Lucon, a position for which his family in Poitou traditionally possessed the right of proposal, and which he finally succeeded in obtaining by skilfully tricking Pope Paul V about his age. The way was now open for this legally adroit clergyman to enter a career in politics. Patronized by Maria de' Medici and Concino Concini, he was eventully appointed Secretary of State in 1616.
Among the other proteges of Maria de' Medici was Philippe de Champaigne from Brussels, who was appointed painter to the court by her in 1628, and put in charge of decorating the Palais du Luxembourg.

Many of Champaigne's portraits reveal the influence of the Jansenists, a Catholic sect supported largely by bourgeois circles whose quasi-Calvimstic severity was directed against Jesuit laxity in matters of faith. One such portrait is the famous "ex voto" portrait of two nuns, of whom one was his own daughter. Considering his religious views, it might perhaps seem odd that Champaigne was commissioned to paint the portrait of a cardinal and prime minister who was responsible for the persecution of the Huguenots. However, Richelieu's background and policy had made him an exponent of bourgeois political thought and a statesman who made determined use of his office to dismantle the privileges of the aristocracy and centralize state power (cf. his edict of 1626). Despite his eminent position within the church, Richelieu, a typically "modern" rationalist, was driven by an ascetic work ethos. His puritanical attitude to state office is accentuated in the famous full-length portrait, of which there are a number of variants. Although the fullness of his cardinal's robe is made quite apparent here, its triangular shape draws the eye upwards to his small, pale face, which, marked by years of tiring office, and partly as a result of the total masking of his body and rhetorical agility of his hands, seems the focal point of a puritanical force of will directed against the body.

Cardinal Richelieu's face is emphasised even more strongly in a triple portrait which unites three views of him, two profile and one frontal, so that the initial impression is of three separate persons communicating with each other. However, this was no caprice intended to attract undue attention, but was primarily painted to act as a model for a bust commissioned from the sculptor Francesco Mocchi (1580-1654). Anthony van Dyck had painted a triple portrait of Charles I of England to the same end for Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. Whether or not Hyacinthe Rigaud's portrait of two views of his mother was intended as a model for a sculpture has never been fully explained. It is difficult not to see a parallel between the creation of an apparent group portrait out of two or three different views of one sitter, and the split of the ego of the solitary, narcissistic individual engaged in exploratory, internal dialogue. This trait was of particular interest to the moralists of the day (e.g. Michel de Montaigne). A recurrent form of schizoid depersonalisa-tion found in the seventeenth century was expressed in the theme of the "Doppel-ganger", a motif especially popular in Spanish literature.

The painting of three different views of the sitter's face may have been inspired by knowledge of the "Prudentia" theme, a subject of central importance in Italian painting of the Renaissance. A fifteenth-century Florentine relief (London, Victoria and Albert Museum) shows an - admittedly syncretistic - allegory of prudence in the form of three faces. This can be traced back to Cicero's discussion of "prudentia" as a human quality consisting of three parts - "mcmoria" (memory), "intelligentia" (understanding) and "providentia" (foresight) - each of which, in turn, corresponded to a temporal dimension: past, present or future (Cicero, De inventione II, 13). Inscribed on an allegory of prudence attributed to Titian are the words: EX PRAETERITO/PRAESENS PRUDENTER AGIT/NI FUTURA AC-TIONE DETURPET (from the past come the wise actions in the present of a person who wishes to make no mistakes in future). This could almost be Richelieu's motto, a man who took every known factor into account before coming to a rational decision.

Norbert Schneider

Philippe de Champaigne
Cardinal Richelieu
c. 1637
OiI on canvas, 260 x 178 cm
National Gallery, London

Philippe de Champaigne
Cardinal Richelieu
Oil on canvas, 222 x 155 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Philippe de Champaigne
King Louis XIII
Oil on canvas, 108 x 86 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid


The Penitent Magdalen
Oil on canvas, 115,5 x 87 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Annunciation
c. 1645
Oil on canvas, 334 x 214 cm
Wallace Collection, London

Ex Voto
Oil on canvas, 165 x 229 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Portrait of Henri Groulart
Oil on canvas, 92,5 x 75,5 cm
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

The Marriage of the Virgin
c. 1644
Oil on panel, 71,5 x 143,5 cm
Wallace Collection, London

The Miracles of the Penitent St Mary
Oil on canvas, 219 x 336 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Portrait of Omer Talon
Oil on canvas, 225 x 161,6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Portrait of Bishop Jean-Pierre Camus
Oil on canvas, 73,2 x 59,4 cm
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent


Retrato en pie de Ana de Austria

Retrato en pie de Luis XIII

Moises con los diez Mandamientos

Cristo yacente

The Presentation of the Temple
Oil on canvas, 257 x 197 cm
Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

The Supper at Emmaus
Oil on canvas, 217 x 226 cm
Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent

Still-Life with a Skull
Oil on panel, 28 x 37 cm
Musee de Tesse, Le Mans

La ultima Cena


Retrato de Hombre

Portrat des Jacobus Govaerts

Portrait of Antoine Singlin

Portrait of a Man
Oil on canvas, 91 x 72 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris

Portrait of Robert Arnauld d'Andilly
Oil on canvas, 78 x 64 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris



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