April 10, 2011

Two Versions of Philippe de Champaigne's "Cardinal de Richelieu"

On this Day in Art History: "The Statute of Anne" came into effect in Great Britain protecting copyrights (1710), Dante Gabriel Rossetti died (1882)

Nationality: French
Born/Died: 1602-1674

Many people think that in the days before photographic reproductions a painting was one-of-a-kind item but this isn't entirely true. Many painters, draftsmen and sculptors made highly sought after copies of their works. Although copies are rare in American museums, they are not uncommon in public European art collections. Comparing these copies and alternate versions is interesting as they sometimes reveal the artist's thought process and values through the subtle changes they made.

That being said, I don't know the significance of the different choices between these two paintings, unfortunately. The changes could have been made for artistic reasons or for unrelated reasons such as the demands of the commissioner. However, it is interesting to note the aspects that were retained in both versions. For instance, despite the differences in the sitter's pose both paintings have a white, triangular shape below the Cardinal's left hand. This was obviously important enough to the composition to keep it despite the change in the position of the arm.

Creation Date: 1633-1640
Size: 116.3 x 70.3 in. (259.5 x 178.5 cm)
Media: Oil on Canvas
Location: National Gallery of London, London, U.K.

Creation Date: 1639
Size: 87.4 x 61 in. (222 x 155 cm)
Media: Oil on Canvas
Location: Louvre, Paris, France

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