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Virgin and Child

Carle Van Loo

(1705 - 1765) | S.R. 53

Date : 1738 | Medium : Oil on canvas

This Virgin and Child dating from 1738 was commissioned from Carle Van Loo for the courtroom of the commercial court in Rouen. It was displayed on an altar opposite the consuls’ bench (at the other end of the room). At the time it was usual to open each day's hearings with a mass. On 5 December 1793 the painting was moved to a storeroom at the Church of Saint-Ouen in Rouen, and this Virgin is the only surviving remnant of the courtroom's decoration.

The work is representative of a certain religious ideal that was prevalent in the 18th century and that was well illustrated by Carle Van Loo around 1740. On discovering the painting at the Salon of 1741, the critic Desfontaine deemed it ‘as beautiful as anything produced in this genre by the renowned Carle Maratta.’ Following Maratta (1625-1713) and his guiding light Guido Reni (1575-1642), Van Loo finds a similar combination of grandeur and grace, monumentality and gentleness, candour and tenderness.

Standing on the Virgin's knees, which serve as both throne and pedestal, the child blesses us. Their two faces are close together as they direct their benevolent gaze towards the worshipper below. The soft colours, diffuse light, gentle touch and supple shapes enveloped within the folds of the robe all contribute to the sense of piety that flows out from these figures.

In 1738 Carle Van Loo was forging ahead in his career. He was already a professor at the Académie and in 1749 he was appointed director of the Ecole des Elèves Protégés. Finally in 1762 he was made First Painter to the King.