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Dieu le Père créant l’univers matériel

Philippe de Champaigne

(1602 - 1674) | D.803.9

Date : Circa 1633 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Philippe de Champaigne was a deeply religious painter who was very respectful of Catholic dogma and the decrees of the Council of Trent. This portrayal of the Eternal Father strictly respects these criteria. Art historian Bernard Dorival has shown how the very distinctive position of the fingers on the right hand of God originates from a work in Philippe de Champaigne's library, Les Hiéroglyphiques de Pierius (1556): they symbolise the numbers 2 and 100, or Matter and Power linked to Reason and Perfection. So the subject of the painting could be the creation of the world by the Celestial Father, exalted by a concert of angels.

Based on its style, Bernard Dorival has dated this work at around 1633. The angels are similar to those in the Annunciation held at Caen Museum – a work that originally came from a chapel at Notre-Dame de Paris and which could be its pendant. They also resemble the angels in another Annunciation housed in the church of Montrésor (Indre-et-Loire) and estimated to date from 1636.

However, attributing this painting has been a difficult task. In the 19th century it was variously attributed to Philippe de Champaigne, Noël Coypel, a pupil at the Vouet school, and finally in 1961 it returned to Philippe de Champaigne thanks to the scholarship of Bernard Dorival. Philippe de Champaigne belongs to that generation of "adventurer" painters (Jacques Thuillier) who in their youth were keen to push back the artistic boundaries. As has been noted by Pierre Rosenberg, this painting provides a surprising reminder of the Concert painted by the Caravaggio-influenced Honthorst, now in the Louvre (1624).