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Saint Sebastian tended by Irene

Nicolas Régnier

(1590 - 1667) | 853.6

Date : Circa 1624 | Medium : Oil on canvas

Born in Maubeuge in 1590 and trained in Antwerp, Nicolas Régnier settled in Italy from 1615 onwards. After living in Rome for ten years until about 1625, he moved to Venice, where he lived until his death in 1667. Once established there, he was generally considered as an essentially Italian painter. It was there also that the painter Niccolò Renieri – as he came to be called – enjoyed considerable success, portraying the most important figures at court, working for religious commissions and those from important Venetian and foreign dignitaries. The painting in the Rouen collection is interesting in that it seems to be situated between his two main periods of Italian residence, perhaps dating from the very end of his time in Rome, circa 1624-1625.    

The artist is here very close to the spirit of Caravaggio himself, with his ‘dramatic, violent and silent’ character which is ‘shot through by a spirit of lyricism’, as Arnaud Brejon de Lavergnée and Jean-Pierre Cuzin note in 1974 in their catalogue of the work of Valentin and the French Caravagesque painters. The two female figures (probably Irene and a servant nurse) recall both the art of Simon Vouet, in the style of the faces and the hands, and that of Manfredi (that great disciple of Caravaggio in Rome) in the composition. Figures cut in two in the middle of the body are involved in a silent dialogue in a dark atmosphere. The style of Nicolas Régnier is already distancing itself from its influences, however, through a search for balance, a certain breadth in the composition, and a number of characteristic traits such as the tight folds in the cloth and the androgynous features of the young man.