LUBIN BAUGIN
(Pithiviers 1610 – 1663 Paris)

 

Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist

 

Oil on canvas

22 x 42 ¼ (55.9 x 107.3 cm)


Provenance:   

Marcello and Carlo Sestieri, Rome, August 1967, where acquired by
Robert L. and Bertina Suida Manning, New York, 1967-1996.
Private Collection, USA.
 

This previously unpublished work is a fine example of a composition known from at least one autograph variant by Lubin Baugin, painted late in his career. With its unmistakable palette of delicate pinks and blues, the subtle treatment of the flesh tones, and the colored sky, this attractive canvas stands out among Baugin’s variations on this subject for the high quality of its execution.

Although little is known of his artistic training, Baugin likely came into contact early on with the works of Rosso Fiorentino and Francesco Primitaccio at the Château de Fontainebleau, located only a short distance from his native Pithiviers. Baugin was in Paris by 1629, where he joined the painter’s guild at the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. He left for Italy shortly thereafter, departing sometime in the first half of the 1630s, and eventually settled in Rome. During his travels, Baugin undoubtedly saw works by Raphael, Parmigianino, Correggio, and Guido Reni, which had a profound influence on his stylistic development. In the 18th century was given the moniker ‘Le Petit Guide,’ or ‘The Little Guido,’ a nod to the influence of Reni on his art. Baugin returned to Paris in 1641 and joined the Académie de Saint-Luc. He completed many important church commissions over the course of the following decade, including for Notre-Dame de Paris, many of which were lost or dispersed during the French Revolution. Baugin achieved considerable success during his lifetime, entering the Académie Royale in 1651 and serving as Painter in Ordinary to King Louis XIV in 1657.

Baugin specialized in painting small-scale devotional works, producing many tender depictions of the Virgin and Child or the Holy Family, such as this one. The present painting depicts the meeting of the infant St. John the Baptist with the Holy Family, an episode that does not appear in the Bible, but rather derives from apocryphal sources. The figures are arranged in a compact group roughly in the center of the canvas. The Virgin is seated on the ground, looking on as Christ offers his hand to St. John, who, having laid down his cross, kneels before him to kiss it. Whereas the Virgin, Christ, and St. John are bathed in a bright light, St. Joseph remains in shadow, unaware of the exchange that is playing out in front of him. Following a common pictorial trope for the period, Joseph is depicted as the old, inactive husband of Mary. Here, he leans on the base of a column and appears to be asleep, a possible reference to his second dream (Matthew 2:13), in which Joseph is warned by an angel to leave Bethlehem and flee to Egypt to escape the massacre of the children planned by Herod. The group is framed on the left by a rocky outcrop, while on the right the composition opens up into an expansive landscape, which reinforces the reading of Joseph experiencing his second dream. The base of a column in the upper left clearly evokes the destruction of the pagan world by the arrival of Christ.

Although the chronology of Baugin’s works has not been established, as none of his works are dated (and dates for only a few commissions are known), this painting is presumed to date from late in his career, when he was most under the influence of Raphael and Parmigianino. His indebtedness to these artists is visible in the composition of the figural group, as well as in the elongated slender features of the Virgin – particularly her hand and foot – and the undulating folds of her blue mantle. This work relates stylistically to the smaller Holy Family with Saints and Angels in the National Gallery (fig. 1), London, which is thought to date from the same period.

This Holy Family is a new addition to Baugin’s oeuvre and one of three autograph versions of the composition by the artist. The variant best known to scholars is that at Saltram, Devon, National Trust (fig. 2), which is less wide than the painting offered here.[1] It is unclear whether the Saltram painting has been cut down, or if it was conceived as a reduced version of the composition. The palette is also slightly different between these two paintings, particularly in the coloring of the Virgin’s garments, which in the present work is slightly more acidic, a clear indication of Baugin’s Mannerist tendencies. Eric Coatalem and Nathalie Delosme recorded the existence of another, larger variant by Baugin in a private collection that was known to them through a photograph.[2] However, this variant has remained unknown to scholars, and it has not been possible to locate a photograph of it.[3]

Fig. 1. Lubin Baugin,  Holy Family with Saints and Angels , oil on canvas, 12.4 x 8.9 inches, London, National Gallery,

Fig. 1. Lubin Baugin, Holy Family with Saints and Angels, oil on canvas, 12.4 x 8.9 inches, London, National Gallery,

 
Fig. 2. Lubin Baugin,  The Holy Family with the Infant John the Baptist ,  oil on canvas, 43 x 33 inches, Saltram, Devon, National Trust.

Fig. 2. Lubin Baugin, The Holy Family with the Infant John the Baptist,

oil on canvas, 43 x 33 inches, Saltram, Devon, National Trust.

 

[1] Jacques Thuillier, Lubin Baugin, exhibition catalogue, Paris, 2002, p. 202-203, no. 73.

[2] Eric Coatalem and Nathalie Delosme, “Lubin Baugin: Oeuvres religieuses et mythologiques provenant de collections privées”, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Galerie Eric Coatalem, September 30-28 October 1994, p. 46 under no. CP 27. The authors report that the work is painted on canvas and measures 89 x 119 cms (35 x 46.8 inches).

[3] See Jacques Thuillier 2002, who states that this photograph/painting is unknown to him.