The Wallace Collection

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The Marriage of the Virgin
  • Philippe de Champaigne (1602 - 1674)
  • The Marriage of the Virgin
  • France
  • c. 1644
  • Painting
  • Oil on oak panel
  • Object size: 95 x 168.5 x 11 cm
    Image size: 68.8 x 141.7 cm, painted area
  • Signature: 'P.CHAMPAIGNE. F.'
  • P119
  • Great Gallery
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • The painting originally formed part of one of the major cycles of paintings commissioned in Paris before the reign of Louis XIV. It was painted in c.1644 for Anne of Austria, widow of Louis XIII of France, for her Oratory in the Palais Royal, Paris. The dowager queen had moved into the Palais Royal in 1643. Several of the leading Parisian painters had been commissioned to depict the life of the Virgin, a fitting subject both for the chapel of a female member of the royal house and for the regent and mother of the future king in particular - a position where easy parallels with the life vof the Virgin could be drawn. Simon Vouet painted the larger, central altarpiece of the Assumption of the Virgin (Reims, Musée des Beaux-Arts). Around it, scenes from the life of the Virgin painted by Philippe de Champaigne (P119 and The Annunciation, New York, Metropolitan Museum), Sébastien Bourdon (Flight into Egypt and Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Paris, Musée du Louvre), Jacques Stella (possibly a Birth of the Virgin, Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts, and a Presentation, ex-Suida Mannings Collection), Laurent de la Hyre (Visitation, lost), Michel I Corneille, Michel Dorigny; Charles Poërson and probably Jacques Sarrazin (Death of the Virgin, lost) were arranged. The room was dismantled in 1752.
    The subject is a is taken from two sources, the Golden Legend and the Apocryphal New Testament both adding further episodes to the biblical narrative. These recount how, when Mary was to be married, suitors were called to the Temple and Joseph, a widower with children, was chosen to be her husband by a sign from God. The painting shows the marriage ceremony performed by the High Priest on the Temple steps, with a relief-like frieze of priests, acolytes, virgins of the Temple and disappointed suitors. The grapes offered to a child on the right foreshadow the Passion of Christ.
    Champaigne's composition follows the principles of an antique bas-relief - figures are shown in a shallow space with a strong emphasis on their contours and profiles.