1593 Tours - 1670 Paris
The Repentant Saint Peter
Oil on canvas. 84 x 112 cm.
Signed and dated upper right: Vignon ping. 1643.
Paola Pacht Bassani: Claude Vignon. 1593 - 1670. Paris 1992, p. 548, p. 100, no. MC 100.
“Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matt. 26:34) It was with these words that Christ foretold Peter's betrayal, and the apostle did indeed deny Jesus when he was captured, crying when the cock crowed and he recognised the truth of his master's words. Claude Vignon depicts the repentant Peter in a half-length portrait, accompanied by the cockerel, symbolic of the biblical story. This piece was previously in Austrian private ownership, and it is probably the work listed in the estate inventory of the artist as “Saint Pierre pleurant”, annotated “à demy corps” and dated 1643 (Pracht Bassani, op. cit., p. 100, no. MC 100).
Vignon first encountered this kind of large, half-figure saint's representation whilst residing in Rome from 1609-1622. It was around this time that he painted his first depictions of Saint Jerome, Saint Anthony and Saint Peter, with the obvious influence of Caravaggio and his circle. Vignon continued to use this motif following his return to Paris, and the present work illustrates the change in style in relation to his earlier works. The figure is no longer delineated by sharp contours and contrasts between light and dark, the overall palette has become darker, and the rapid brushstrokes remain clearly visible - the hands, for example, are formed from bundles of these sketchy lines.
Claude Vignon was born in 1593 and was among the many French artists who travelled to Rome to study the works of Caravaggio, Guercino, Guido Reni and Annibale Caracci. His artistic personality is enigmatic, contradictory, complex and hard to define within a single term or style. He assimilated elements of Mannerism, as well as Venetian, Dutch and German art, drawing influence from Domenico Fetti, Adam Elsheimer, Jacob Pynas, Leonard Bramer and many others. Vignon's technical prowess is also evident in his printed works, and he was among the most important peintre-graveurs in 17th century France. Following his return to Paris he became one of the city's most respected, productive and successful artists, enjoying the patronage of such illustrious figures as Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu.