Master of the Dinteville Allegory (Netherlandish or French, active mid-16th century)
Oil on wood
69 1/2 x 75 7/8 in. (176.5 x 192.7 cm)
Wentworth Fund, 1950 (50.70)
The protagonists in this elaborate allegory are the brothers Jean, François, Guillaume, and Gaucher de Dinteville, important members of the court of Francis I, king of France. Portrayed at a moment of crisis in their relations with the king, they participate in a narrative derived from Exodus 7:9. Moses and Aaron plead with Pharaoh to free the Israelites; to prove they are armed with the power of the Lord, Aaron changes his rod into a serpent. Depicted in the guise of Aaron is François II de Dinteville, bishop of Auxerre; his brother Jean is shown as Moses, and the younger brothers, Gaucher and Guillaume, stand behind them. The names and ages of the three latter brothers are inscribed on the hems of their robes. Pharaoh is a disguised portrait of Francis I. This painting hung in the Dinteville château of Polisy along with Holbein's Ambassadors (National Gallery, London). This fascinating allegory has stylistic affinities to the works of sixteenth-century Antwerp artistsin the emphatic gestures of the robed classical figures, in particular. The simplification and solidity of form, meanwhile, are more typical of French painting. Though the identity of the artist is unknown, the work represents a high level of technical accomplishment and suggests the hand of a Mannerist painter working in the circle of a Northern European court.