Quantin was a French Caravaggist painter from Dijon who, just like Caravaggio, died at a young age. He worked in a sobre style, setting his dramatically lit figures against a dark background.
The Virgin is a "simple" woman with dirty nails, and a tired, old husband.
About Philippe Quantin
French Caravaggist painter
Dijon circa 1600 – 1636 Dijon
Painter of religious paintings and of some important groups of mythological scenes.
It is not known whom Quantin studied painting with, nor is it known if he ever travelled to Italy. The paintings of Caravaggio (1571 – 1610) and Caravaggisti such as Carlo Saraceni (1579 – 1620) certainly influenced him.
Quantin worked essentially in Burgundy, in and around Dijon and Langres. He died at a very young age (even younger than Caravaggio), just months after being made “peintre ordinaire” of Henri II de Bourbon, prince de Condé.
Our painter made two famous decorative series:
- scenes from the incredibly popular theatre play Il Pastor Fido by Battista Guarini for the castle of Ancy-le-Franc, circa 1610- 1615;
- the Muses for the castle of La Motte-Ternant near Saulieu, circa 1624 - 1628.
He also painted a fair number of religious subjects, often of large dimensions. Many of these paintings are at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon.
In his earlier production one sees the influence of the second school of Fontainebleau, who worked for King Henri IV. In his later works one clearly detects a Caravaggesque influence.
Typical of Quantin is the lack of perspective with strong, monumental figures often set against a neutral background and lit in a modern, dramatic way. His style was above all sober.
About French artists and Caravaggism
Mannerism had been a rather tormented answer on the departure of two of the big three of Late Renaissance painting, Leonardo and Raphael, but above all on the genius, muscular art of Michelangelo.
In the next stage Early Baroque artists had to chose between two very different options: the classicising tranquillity and unrest of Annibale Carraci (1560 – 1609) and the genius, but bold naturalism lit by dramatic chiaroscuro and tenebrism of Caravaggio 1571 – 1610).
The person, the art, the revolution of Caravaggio were not simple to handle, let alone to accept. His compositions and lighting had never been seen before, the way he reduced the most important bible subjects to their simplest, elementary senses neither. In his hands religious art had embraced the ideas of the Counter-Reformation and had thus become human again: at times crude, but never stereotype. Protestantism had been tough on the Catholics, but a gay, restless genius must have been as hard to support, be it in Rome or at Valetta on the island of Malta.
This artist was not from this planet:
- apparently he made no preparatory drawings;
- he had no assistants nor pupils.
But still half of the most important artists of the 17th century would not have evolved the way they did without having seen his paintings, or without having been influenced by his early followers, such as Bartolommeo Manfredi.
Hordes of artists travelled to Rome: many Dutch, Flemish and French artists came to the Eternal City to witness his art, Spanish artists saw it in Naples.
When thinking of French Caravaggisti one has to start with Valentin de Boulogne (1591 – 1632), apparently the first but also one of the last to stay loyal to the revolutionary ideas of Caravaggism and to the city of Rome. His pupil Nicolas Tournier (1590 – 1639) returned to France, to the Languedoc, probably in 1626/27 and died in Toulouse. Nicolas Regnier (1591 – 1667) was a Franco-Flemish artist who had come already very early to Rome, but who left the town in 1626 for Venice and rapidly also moved away from Caravaggism.
I should also mention Louis Finson (1580 – 1617), a Flemish, but international artist, born in Bruges. He must have been one of the very first Caravaggisti, he actually knew Caravaggio in Naples and possessed several of his paintings. Finson left Italy in 1613 for S. France, where his works had an important influence. He finally travelled over Paris to Holland and passed away there in Amsterdam in 1617.
In the Provence worked Trophime Bigot (1579 – 1650), known as the Candlelight Master. He had travelled in Italy and to Rome and returned to France in 1634.
Guy François (1578 – 1650) lived in Rome between 1608 and 1613 and then went to work and live in the remote area of the Auvergne, at le Puy-en-Velay, where he developed a Caravaggesque style.
In Paris several painters worked according to the Caravaggesque ideas:
- the three brothers Le Nain lived by 1630 in Paris where they worked in a sober, naturalist, Caravaggesque style.
- Claude Vignon, born in 1693 (probably just like Louis, the eldest of the Le Nain brothers) had studied painting in Rome before returning to France where the start of his career was influenced by Bartolomeo Manfredi.
- Simon Vouet created a very French type of Baroque painting, profoundly influenced by all great Italian artists.
A last French-speaking region, that did not belong to France yet in those days is La Lorraine, then a Duchy with important centres as Metz and Nancy. Here I should mention Georges de La Tour 1593 – 1653), especially known for his candle-lit scenes.
Our painter (circa 1600 – 1636) worked S. of La Lorraine, in the Bourgogne, a region known for its excellent wines and links with Flanders. It is not yet understood how he became influenced by Caravaggist painting.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because this sober composition demonstrates the early influence of Caravaggism in France.
Because a great Caravaggist touch in our painting is the representation of the dirty finger nails of the Madonna: not a "queen" of the Christian world as we know her from Renaissance art, but a "simple" woman ... with dirty nails, and a tired, old husband.