Simon Vouet

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Simon Vouet
Self-portrait (c.1626-1627)
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Born(1590-01-09)9 January 1590
Paris, France
Died30 June 1649(1649-06-30) (aged 59)
Paris, France
EducationFather's studio, years in Italy (1613-27)
Known forPainting, Drawing
Patron(s)Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu

Simon Vouet (French: [vwɛ]; 9 January 1590 – 30 June 1649) was a French painter who studied and rose to prominence in Italy before being summoned by Louis XIII to serve as Premier peintre du Roi in France. He and his studio of artists created religious and mythological paintings, portraits, frescoes, tapestries, and massive decorative schemes for the king and for wealthy patrons, including Richelieu. During this time, "Vouet was indisputaby the leading artist in Paris,"[1] and was immensely influential in introducing the Italian Baroque style of painting to France. He was also "without doubt one of the outstanding seventeenth-century draghtsmen, equal to Annibale Carracci and Lanfranco."[2]


Simon Vouet was born on January 9, 1590 in Paris.[3] His father Laurent was a painter in Paris and taught him the rudiments of art. Simon's brother Aubin Vouet was also a painter, as also was Simon's wife Virginia da Vezzo, their son Louis-René Vouet, their two sons-in-law, Michel Dorigny and François Tortebat, and their grandson Ludovico Dorigny.

Virginia da Vezzo, the Artist's Wife, as the Magdalen (c. 1627), LACMA

Simon began his career as a portrait painter. At age 14 he travelled to England to paint a commissioned portrait and in 1611 was part of the entourage of the Baron de Sancy, French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, for the same purpose. From Constantinople he went to Venice in 1612 and was in Rome by 1614.[4] [5]

David with the Head of Goliath (1620-1622), Musei di Strada Nuova, Genoa

He remained in Italy until 1627, mostly in Rome where the Baroque style was becoming dominant. He received a pension from the King of France and his patrons included the Barberini family, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Paolo Giordano Orsini and Vincenzo Giustiniani.[4] He also visited other parts of Italy: Venice; Bologna, (where the Carracci family had their academy); Genoa, (where from 1620 to 1622, he worked for the Doria princes); and Naples.

He was a natural academic, who absorbed what he saw and studied, and distilled it in his painting: Caravaggio's dramatic lighting; Italian Mannerism; Paolo Veronese's color and di sotto in su or foreshortened perspective; and the art of Carracci, Guercino, Lanfranco and Guido Reni. Vouet's immense success in Rome led to his election as president of the Accademia di San Luca in 1624.[6]

Judith with the Head of Holofernes (c. 1624-1626) painted by Virginia da Vezzo, the first wife of Simon Vouet, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes

In response to a royal summons, Vouet returned to France in 1627, where he was made Premier peintre du Roi, a post he held until 1649 (when he was succeeded by Nicolas Poussin). Louis XIII commissioned portraits, tapestry cartoons and paintings from him for the Palais du Louvre, the Palais du Luxembourg and the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In 1632, he worked for Cardinal Richelieu at the Palais-Royal and the Château de Malmaison. In 1631 he also decorated the château of the président de Fourcy, at Chessy, the hôtel Bullion, the château of Marshal d'Effiat at Chilly, the hôtel of the Duc d’Aumont, the Séguier chapel, and the gallery of the Château de Wideville.

A number of Vouet's paintings and decorative schemes have been lost, but are known from engravings by Michel Dorigny, François Tortebat, and Claude Mellan.[4]

Personal Life[edit]

Vouet family tree, simplified to show those known to be artists: Simon and his father, brother, wife, son, sons-in-law, and grandson

In 1626 he married Virginia da Vezzo, "a painter in her own right...known for her beauty,"[7]:10 who modeled as the Madonna and female saints for Vouet's religious commissions. The couple would have five children. Virginia Vouet died in France in 1638. Two years later Vouet married a French widow, Radegonde Béranger, with whom he had three more children.[7]:13


As one art historian writes, "When Vouet returned to Paris in 1627, French art was painfully provincial and, by Italian standards, more than a quarter of a century behind the times. Vouet introduced the latest fashions, educated a group of talented young artists—and the public as well—and brought Paris up to date."[1]

Vouet's style became uniquely his own, but was distinctly Italian, importing the Italian Baroque style into France. A French contemporary, lacking the term "Baroque," said, "In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before." In his anticipation of the "two-dimensional, curvilinear freedom of rococo compositions a hundred years later...Vouet should perhaps be counted among the more important sources of eighteenth-century painting."[7]:60 In his works for the French royal court, "Vouet's importance as a formulator of official decorations is in some ways comparable to that of Rubens."[7]:85

Vouet's sizeable atelier or workshop produced a whole school of French painters for the following generation. His most influential pupil was Charles le Brun, who organized all the interior decorative painting at Versailles and dictated the official style at the court of Louis XIV of France, but who jealously excluded Vouet from the Académie Royale in 1648. Vouet's other students included Valentin de Boulogne (the main figure of the French "Caravaggisti"), François Perrier, Nicolas Chaperon, Michel Corneille the Elder, Charles Poërson, Pierre Daret, Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy, Pierre Mignard, Eustache Le Sueur, Claude Mellan, the Flemish artist Abraham Willaerts, Michel Dorigny, and François Tortebat. These last two became his sons-in-law. André Le Nôtre, the garden designer of Versailles, was a student of Vouet. Also in Vouet's circle was a friend from his Italian years, Claude Vignon.


  • 1967: Vouet to Rigaud: French Masters of the Seventeenth Century, Finch College Museum of Art, New York, April 20, 1967-June 18, 1967.
  • 1971: Simon Vouet 1590-1649: First Painter to the King, University of Maryland Art Gallery, College Park, MD, February 18, 1971-March 28, 1971.
  • 1990-1991: Vouet, Galeries Nationales of the Grand Palais, Paris, Nov. 6-Feb. 11, 1991; a major retrospective of Simon Vouet's work.
  • 1991: Simon Vouet : 100 neuentdeckte Zeichnungen, Neue Pinakothek, Munich, May 9-June 30, 1991; exhibition of 100 newly discovered drawings from the holdings of the Bavarian State Library.
  • 2002-2003 : Simon Vouet ou l'éloquence sensible, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Dec. 5, 2002-20 Feb. 20, 2003; exhibition of drawings from the Bavarian State Library in Munich.
  • 2008-2009 : Simon Vouet, les années italiennes (1613–1627), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Nov. 21, 2008-Feb. 23, 2009, and Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie de Besançon, Mar. 27-June 29, 2009.
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1641), Louvre
Crucifixion (1636-1637), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Apparition of the Virgin and the Infant Jesus to Saint Anthony (1630-1631), L’église Saint-Roch de Quebec; displayed in Canada in 2017 and in France in 2018 in the exhibition The Fabulous Destiny of the Paintings of the Abbés Desjardins /Le Fabuleux Destin des Tableaux des Abbés Desjardins, after recent attribution to Vouet. A Can$30,573 restoration in 2016 removed a 19th-century Canadian artist's addition of a dog and a pilgrim's flask that had changed Saint Anthony into Saint Roch.[8][9]



Crelly's catalogue raisonné of 1962[7]:147 lists more than 150 preserved paintings by Vouet. Since that publication, "a number of paintings, some of them of considerable importance, have turned up in various parts of the world and the list of his work continues to grow."[10] A new catalogue raisonné, by Arnauld and Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée, is forthcoming.[11] This is a partial list by present location, and then, as possible, by date.


  • Presumed portrait of Aubin Vouet, the artist's brother (c. 1620), Musée Réattu, Arles
  • Prince Marcantonio Doria d'Angri (1621), Louvre
  • The Holy Family with St Elisabeth and the Infant St John the Baptist (1625–1650), Louvre
  • Cupid and Psyche (1626-1629), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
  • Self-portrait (1626–1627), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
  • Suite of the loves of Rinaldo and Armida (1631), based on Tasso's epic poem Jerusalem Delivered, collection of Guyot de Villeneuve, Paris
  • Repentant Magdalen (1633), Musée de Picardie, Amiens
  • Ceres Trampling the Attributes of War (1635), Musée des Beaux-arts Thomas Henry, Cherbourg-Octeville
  • Deposition of Christ (c.1635), Musée d'art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
  • Allegory of Wealth (c. 1635-1640), Louvre
  • Allegory of Charity (1630–1635), Louvre
  • Gaucher de Châtillon (1632–1635), Louvre
  • Lot and his Daughters (1633), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg
  • Crucifixion (1636-1637), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
  • The Four Cardinal Virtues—Allegory of Temperance, Allegory of Force, Allegory of Prudence, Allegory of Justice (1638), Salon de Mars, Versailles
  • Heavenly Charity (c. 1640), Louvre
  • Allegory of Virtue (1640), Saint-Germain-en-Laye
  • Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1641), Louvre
  • Hesselin Madonna or Madonna of the Oak Cutting (c.1640-1645), Louvre
  • Death of Dido (c. 1641), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dole
  • Portrait of Louis XIII—copy at Versailles (1643)
  • Saturn Vanquished by Love, Venus and Hope (1646), Musée du Berry, Bourges
  • Saint William of Aquitaine (1649), Louvre
  • Portrait of Louis XIII between two female figures symbolising France and Navarre, Louvre
  • Portrait of a Young Man, Louvre
  • Christ at the Column (Eustache Le Sueur?), Louvre
  • Polymnia, Muse of Eloquence, Louvre
  • Last Supper, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon


  • Mary Magdalene (1614-1615), Quirinal Palace, Rome
  • Angel with Dice and Tunic and Angel with Spear of the Passion (1615-1625), Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
  • Last Supper (1616–1620), Palazzo Apostolico, Loreto, Italy
  • Crucifixion (1621-6122), Chiesa del Gesù, Genoa
  • David with the Head of Goliath (1620-1622), Musei di Strada Nuova, Genoa
  • Nativity of the Virgin (c. 1629), San Francesco a Ripa, Rome
  • Annunciation (c. 1621-1622), Uffizi
  • Circumcision of Jesus (1622), Museo di Capodimonte, Naples
  • Portrait of Artemisia Gentileschi with Painting Implements (c. 1623-1625), private collection
  • Temptation of Saint Francis (1624–1625), church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome
  • Saint Francis Renouncing His Goods (1624–1625), church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome
  • Saint Agatha's Vision of Saint Peter in Prison (c. 1625), Palazzo Abatellis, Palermo

Elsewhere in Europe[edit]

United States & Canada[edit]


Chariclea Led Away by Pirates (ca. 1634-35), one of six Vouet tapestries at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco


Compositions by Vouet preserved in tapestries[7]:266 include:

Gallery of paintings (chronological)[edit]

Gallery: Images of Vouet and his family[edit]


  1. ^ a b Posner, Donald. "The Paintings of Simon Vouet " (book review), The Art Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Sept., 1963), pp. 286-291.
  2. ^ Rosenberg, Pierre."Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins, Inventaire général des dessins, École française, Dessins de Simon Vouet 1590-1649 by Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée" (book review). Master Drawings, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Winter, 1987), p. 414.
  3. ^ Simon Vouet at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ a b c Brejon de Lavergnée, Barbara. 'Simon Vouet', Oxford Art Online.
  5. ^ "Artist Info". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  6. ^ Bissell, R. Ward (2011). "Simon Vouet, Raphael, and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome". Artibus et Historiae. 32 (63): 55–72. JSTOR 41479737.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Crelly, William R. The Paintings of Simon Vouet. Yale University Press, 1962.
  8. ^ Durox , Solenne. "Confisqués pendant la Révolution, ces tableaux ont beaucoup voyagé." Le Parisien, Nov 4, 2017.
  9. ^ "Patrimoine religieux : aide financière pour les églises Saint-Roch et Saint-Sauveur". Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  10. ^ a b Fredericksen, Burton B. "Two Newly Discovered Ceiling Paintings by Simon Vouet." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. 5 (1977), pp. 95-100.
  11. ^ "Simon Vouet, Study of a Young Woman as the Virgin". Retrieved 2019-10-18.


  • Bissell, R. Ward (2011). "Simon Vouet, Raphael, and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome." Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 32, No. 63 (2011), pp. 55-72.
  • Blunt, Anthony. "Some Portraits by Simon Vouet." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 88, No. 524 (Nov., 1946), pp.268+270-271+273.
  • Brejon de Lavergnée, Arnauld. "Four New Paintings by Simon Vouet." The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 124, No. 956 (Nov., 1982), pp. 685-689.
  • Brejon de Lavergnée, Arnauld. "Paris: Vouet at the Grand Palais" (review of the exhibition). The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 133, No. 1055 (Feb., 1991), pp. 136-140.
  • Brejon de Lavergnée, Barbara. Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins, Inventaire général des dessins, École française, Dessins de Simon Vouet 1590-1649. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1987. (Comprehensive catalogue of the drawings of Vouet in the Louvre and elsewhere.)
  • Brejon de Lavergnée, Barbara. "New Attributions around Simon Vouet." Master Drawings, Vol. 23/24, No. 3 (1985/1986), pp. 347-351+425-432.
  • Brejon de Lavergnée, Barbara. "Some New Pastels by Simon Vouet: Portraits of the Court of Louis XIII." The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 124, No. 956 (Nov., 1982), pp. 688-691+693.
  • Crelly, William R. The Painting of Simon Vouet. Yale University Press, 1962.
  • Fredericksen, Burton B. "Two Newly Discovered Ceiling Paintings by Simon Vouet." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. 5 (1977), pp. 95-100.
  • Lurie, Ann Tzeutschler. "The Repentant Magdalene by Simon Vouet." The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 80, No. 4 (Apr., 1993), pp. 158-163.
  • Manning, Robert. "Some Important Paintings by Simon Vouet in America" in Studies in the History of Art, Dedicated to William E. Suida on His Eightieth Birthday. Kress Foundation/Phaidon Press, 1959.
  • Markova, Vittoria. "A New Painting by Vouet in Russia." The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 132, No. 1050 (Sept., 1990), pp. 632-633.
  • Posner, Donald. "The Painting of Simon Vouet " (book review). The Art Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Sept., 1963), pp. 286-291.
  • Rice, Louise. "Simon Vouet's Hesperus and the Mythopoetics of Praise." Studies in the History of Art, Vol. 74, Symposium Papers LI: Dialogues in Art History, from Mesopotamian to Modern: Readings for a New Century (2009), pp. 236-251.
  • Schleier, Erich. "A Bozzetto by Vouet, Not by Lanfranco." The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 109, No. 770 (May, 1967), pp. 272+274-276.
  • Schleier, Erich. "Two New Modelli for Vouet's St. Peter's Altarpiece." The Burlington Magazine Vol. 114, No. 827 (Feb., 1972), pp. 90-94.
  • Schleier, Erich. "Vouet's Destroyed St Peter Altar-Piece: Further Evidence." The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 110, No. 787 (Oct., 1968), pp. 572-575.
  • Simon Vouet: 100 neuentdeckte Zeichnungen: aus den Beständen der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek (catalogue of the exhiition). München: Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, 1991.
  • Simon Vouet ou l'éloquence sensible: Dessins de la Staatsbibliothek de Munich (catalogue of the exhibition). Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux; Nantes: Musée des beaux-arts de Nantes, c. 2002.
  • Simon Vouet: les années italiennes, 1613-1627 (catalogue of the exhibition). Paris: Hazan; Nantes: Musée des beaux-arts; Besançon: Musée des beaux-arts et d'archéologie, 2008.
  • Thuillier, Jacques. Vouet: Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 6 novembre 1990-11 février 1991 (catalogue of the exhibition). Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, c. 1990.

External links[edit]