VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE (Coulommiers, 1591 - Roma, 1632)

These two large pendant canvases, published by Benedict Nicholson, were analysed by the late Denis Mahon who recognised them as the work of Valentin de Boulogne (written communication, 2003).

Both of the paintings’ compositions have been used more than once by the artist. Indeed, identical versions are known of each of the present canvases. One pair is in the Museum of Copenhagen, while the other pair, almost certainly painted at the same time, has been divided: the Musicians and drinkers is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg, while the Palm-reader, drinker and thief is in a private collection, formerly with Matthisen in London.

The typical subject matter established by Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582 – 1622) of musicians, drinkers and other characters around a table, is masterfully redefined here by Valentin. While each figure acts out their individual part, the group in turn is elegantly bound together by their mutual participation in the scene, which creates a dramatic intensity characteristic of Valentin. Moreover, the artist’s intelligent response to his predecessors, namely Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and Manfredi, places Valentin at the forefront of the reinterpretors of the Baroque movement active in Rome during the early seventeenth century.

An interior scene with musicians and drinkers

An interior scene with a palm-reader, musician, drinker and thief 

Both oil on canvas, 128 x 181 cm

Alex Wengraf, London (1989).

Denis Mahon, written communication

B. Nicolson, Caravaggism in Europe (1ª ed., Oxford, 1979), 2ª ed., Turin 1989, I, pp. 204-205 (both works are listed), II, tav. 693 (the second painting is reproduced);