As an artist, Cardinal Richelieu fulfilled a vow given during the illness of his daughter
In France, the age of d’Artagnan in 1662, the artist Philippe de Champaign set to work on a new painting. Not by order of the royal court, as usual – in fulfillment of a vow. Champaign has long ceased to have a family – his wife passed away twenty-four years, and Claude’s son is not alive, her daughter Francoise died. Only Catherine, twenty-six years old, is alive, she is a nun of the Abbey of Por Royal, and recently a miracle happened to her, thanks to which, smear after brushstroke appears, one of Champaign’s best works.
Flemish, who was recognized at the French court
Philippe de Champaign was born in a tailor’s family in Brussels in 1602. His childhood passed in poverty, but the talent for drawing manifested, along with the stubbornness of the boy, did their job – from twelve to sixteen Philip studied with Jean Bouillon, then with Michel de Burdo. With eighteen, the young Flemish teacher became a landscape painter Jacques Fouciere. Champaign was distinguished by versatile knowledge in many areas, he was actively interested in the works of great contemporaries, one of which was Rubens.
In 1621, fate brings Philip to Paris, where he manages to become an assistant to the court painter Nicolas Duchenne. Together they work on the painting of the Luxembourg Palace. Champaign’s career goes uphill – he is favored by the Queen Mother Maria de Medici and Cardinal de Richelieu himself, and the protection of Duchenne promises to be permanent, because his daughter becomes a bride, and then the wife of the Flemish.
After the death of his father-in-law, Philippe de Champaigne took his place, fulfilling the orders of the royal family for creating portraits, as well as for painting and decorating Parisian buildings – the Cardinal Palace, Tuileries Palace, Sorbonne Chapel. At twenty-six years, the artist receives the status of the personal painter of the Queen Mother and valet of King Louis XIII. He creates his works only by order of the king’s entourage, gaining the glory of a brilliant portrait painter working in his own unique style: methodically and accurately conveying not only facial features, but also character traits.
At first, Champaign wrote under the influence of Rubens’ works, but gradually he developed his own style – something between Baroque and Classicism, stricter and somewhat drier, with methodical thoroughness. Champagne’s canvases contain a lot of scarlet and ultramarine.
The painting Ex voto (“According to the Vow”) is somewhat out of the usual for the artist color.
A masterpiece of painting in gratitude for the recovery of his daughter
The color scheme of the canvas is unusual for the painting of the Baroque period – against the background of the plain gray walls, two nuns are depicted, one of them knelt, the other sits on a chair. The artist depicted Catherine-Agnes Arnaud, Mother Superior of the Por-Royal Monastery, next to his daughter, Catherine, who took a monastic vow five years ago and suffered a serious illness for fourteen months – the patient was in a fever and half of her body was paralyzed.
By this time, Champaign had buried both his only son, and his sister Catherine Francoise, and their mother Charlotte. Catherine was treated with all the usual methods for the XVII century – baths, tinctures and herbs, bloodletting – but no improvement came. Then the abbess of the monastery announced a many-day prayer for the health of Catherine, and nine days later the patient was able to stand on her feet, showing more mobility every day.
In the same year, the artist, in gratitude for the divine mercy shown to his daughter, set about painting in fulfillment of a vow, which was considered a kind of sacrifice. The result was the birth of one of the most perfect works of Champaign. A ray of light falls on Agnes Arno, symbolizing the highest mercy shown. The text in Latin, which is visible on the left side of the picture, was not written by Champaign. It contains a story about Catherine’s disease and its healing thanks to prayers together with her mother Agnes, about an artist who gives this painting to express his joy. On the lap of the sitting Catherine, you can see the spike from the crown of thorns of Christ – a relic that was stored in the Por-Royal Monastery and had already revealed a miracle of healing several years before.
In 1656, after much suffering from a certain ulcer on the face, applying the same spike to the wound, the niece of the scientist Blaise Pascal, Margarita Perrier, was cured. Due to the fact that the monastery at that time was a stronghold of the heretical current of the Jansenists and caused the king’s discontent with his influence.