Philippe de Champaigne was one of the protagonists of French classicism. His art, inspired in part by his association with Jansenism (a severe Counter-Reformation movement suppressed by Louis XIV), has been described as combining "a scrupulous perfectionism verging on coldness with an inner life of deep intensity." This picture was painted for the private chapel of Queen Anne of Austria (1601–1666), the widowed wife of Louis XIII. The chapel, a small oval room in the Palais Royal, Paris, was decorated by the most prominent French painters of the day.
Philippe de Champaigne painted more Annunciations than any other subject: pre-Revolutionary sources mention at least seventeen examples, ten of which survive today (see Dorival 1970). The present one came to light in 2003, having been known only from a line engraving made in 1812, when the painting was in a private collection in Saint Petersburg.
The MMA Annunciation is painted on a small oak panel, similar to other pictures that were made for the oratory in the Palais Royal of Anne of Austria (1601–1666), daughter of Philip III of Spain and widow of Louis XIII. All documents concerning the oratory are lost, but Henri Sauval gives an idea of its decoration in Histoire et recherches des antiquites de la ville de Paris, published in 1724: "Around the walls of the oratory are pictures, painted in competition by Champagne, Vouet, Bourdon, Stella, Lahire, Corneille, Dorigni, and Paerson, representing the life and attributes of the Virgin." Thus we know the paintings were parceled out to a team of artists comprising Champaigne and Simon Vouet (1590–1649), who had contributed to Richelieu's Galerie des Hommes Illustres in the Palais Royal, and six or seven younger artists. Sauval specifies the subject of only one of the pictures: a Flight into Egypt by Sébastien Bourdon (1616–1671) in the Louvre, painted on an oak panel the same height and almost the same width as the MMA painting. Other works from the oratory are listed in an inventory of the paintings in the Palais Royal drawn up in 1788; it includes another panel by Bourdon, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also in the Louvre and exactly the same size as his Flight into Egypt; a Death of the Virgin by Jacques Sarrazin (1588/92–1660) and a Visitation by Laurent de La Hyre (1606–1656), both missing; and Champaigne's Marriage of the Virgin in the Wallace Collection, which is the same height as the other panels but twice as wide. When the latter appeared in the Pourtalès sale in 1865, it was identified as the altar frontal from the oratory. A Birth of the Virgin by Jacques Stella (1596–1657) in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille, and another panel by Stella, a Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple formerly in the Suida-Manning collection, Forest Hills, New York, may also have belonged to the cycle (Pericolo 2005). The inscription on an engraving of Vouet's Assumption of the Virgin (The Met, 45.97) identifies the picture as belonging to Anne of Austria's oratory. Because of its larger size (76 3/4 x 50 3/4 in.) and its date, 1644, it must have been the oratory's altarpiece. Vouet, Louis XIII's favorite artist and the oldest member of the team, may have been in charge of the oratory project.
The decoration of the oratory, a small private chapel on an inner courtyard of the Palais Royal (see Allden and Beresford 1989 and Pericolo 2005), has been connected with the 20,000 livres that the queen received from the royal treasury on September 11, 1645 (see Ingamells 1989). The paintings, however, must have been commissioned earlier, as Vouet’s Assumption is inscribed 1644. Plans for the oratory may have been made soon after Richelieu’s death in 1642. He bequeathed the palace to Louis XIII, who survived Richelieu by a mere five months. Anne of Austria and her two young sons, Louis Dieudonné (1638–1715), the future Louis XIV, and Philippe (1640–1701), the future duc d'Orléans, moved into the Palais Royal in 1643. With the support of Cardinal Mazarin, Anne of Austria governed France as regent from the Palais Royal through the first years of the Fronde, the revolt of discontented nobles against royal authority. In 1649, she fled from Paris to Fontainebleau; with peace, in 1652, she took up residence in the ground-floor apartment in the Louvre traditionally assigned to queen mothers. Her apartment in the Palais Royal was dismantled in about 1752, when the architect Contant d’Ivry remodeled the building (see Sauvel 1968).
Although none of Champaigne's Annunciations are dated, their chronology is suggested by the change in their style from the exuberant version in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen, with its ornate prie-dieu and the dramatic lighting of its figures, to the sober Annunciation in the Wallace Collection, London, in which the Virgin and archangel stand in restrained poses. The Caen version probably dates from shortly after 1633, the Wallace version from the mid-1640s or later (Ingamells 1989). The MMA picture falls between them. A transitional work, it is symptomatic of the trend in Parisian painting of the 1640s toward a chaste classical style, tempered in Champaigne’s case by Flemish figure types. The face of the Virgin, for example, looks like a portrait, perhaps of a member of Champaigne’s family; she has the same girlish features as the protagonist of the Marriage of the Virgin in the Wallace Collection. While the painting is not yet in the severe style associated with Jansenists at Port Royal, the calm composition anticipates that of an etching by Jean Morin after an Annunciation by Champaigne in the Heures de Port-Royal, published in 1650 (see Dorival 1976).
[2011; adapted from Fahy 2005]
Inscription: Signed (lower left, on prie-dieu): P . CHAMPAIGNE . F
Anne of Austria, her oratory in the Palais Royal, Paris (ca. 1644–d. 1666); Louis Philippe Joseph, duc d'Orléans, Palais Royal, Paris (by at least 1788, probably until d. 1793; mentioned in "Liste des tableaux destinés à la vente en Angleterre," drawn up in 1788, but not included in earlier inventories); M.*** [possibly J. A. Lebrun or vicomte Edouard de Walckiers] (until 1793; anonymous sale, Paillet, Paris, [April 26–27 on catalogue frontispiece, but sale postponed] May 10, 1793, no. 33, as "Un Tableau très-précieux & de ton clair, offrant le sujet de l'Annonciation," on canvas [sic], 26 pouces square, by Philippe de Champaigne, for 1,370 livres); ?Khiening, Carinthia, Austria; Henri family, Germany; Jean François André Duval, St. Petersburg (by 1812–16), later Ghent (1816–45; sold entire collection to Morny); Charles-Auguste-Louis-Joseph de Morny, duc de Morny, Paris (1845–46; "Duval" sale, Phillips, London, May 12–13, 1846, no. 72, ill. [Klauber engraving], for Fr 1,250); sale, Fischer, Lucerne, November 19–24, 2003, no. 1018, for SF 550,000 to Williams; [Adam Williams Fine Art, New York, 2003–4; sold to MMA]
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.
Henri Sauval. Histoire et recherches des antiquités de la ville de Paris. Paris, 1724, vol. 2, p. 169, states that the oratory of the queen's apartment in the Palais Royal is surrounded with paintings of the life and attributes of the Virgin and that these were produced by Champaigne, Vouet, Bourdon, and other contemporary artists working in competition with each other.
Liste des tableaux destinés à la vente en Angleterre. March 1788 [published in Victor Champier and G.-Roger Sandoz, "Le Palais-Royal d'après des documents inédits (1629–1900)," Paris, 1900, vol. 1, p. 521], among works from the Palais Royal to be sold by the duc d'Orléans, lists "Le Mariage de la Vierge" (Wallace Collection, London; P119) and "L'Annonciation" (this picture), both by Philippe de Champaigne, with no further information.
Casimir Stryienski. La Galerie du Régent Philippe, duc d'Orléans. Paris, 1913, pp. 99, 179, tentatively suggests identifying the "Marriage of the Virgin" and "Annunciation" listed in the 1788 inventory with two works in the Wallace Collection, London (P119 and P134).
Wallace Collection Catalogues: Pictures and Drawings. 16th ed. London, 1968, p. 59, under no. P119, p. 61, under no. P134, dates the "Marriage of the Virgin" in the Wallace Collection, made for the queen's oratory at the Palais Royal, to soon after 1646, based on the age of the child at the far right, who is the painter's daughter Catherine, who is recorded as being ten years old in 1647.
Tony Sauvel. "L'appartement de la reine au Palais-Royal." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français (1968), p. 72.
Bernard Dorival. "Les oeuvres de Philippe de Champaigne sur le subjet de l'Annonciation." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français (1970), pp. 48–51, fig. 10 (Klauber engraving), cites the work included in the sales of 1793 and 1846 as two separate pictures (see Provenance), and identifies the "Annunciation" in the Wallace Collection (P134) as the one painted for the queen's oratory in the Palais Royal.
Bernard Dorival. Philippe de Champaigne, 1602–1674: La vie, l'œuvre, et le catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre. Paris, 1976, vol. 2, pp. 17, 140, no. 255, pl. 255 (Klauber engraving), connects the Annunciation in the 1793 sale with that in the 1846 sale; states that the present location of this picture is unknown, and suggests identifying it with one of the scenes from the Life of the Virgin painted for the carmelite convent of Faubourg Saint-Jacques, or with one that hung in the church of Notre Dame in Paris; dates the Marriage of the Virgin and the Annunciation (which he identifies as the Wallace Collection picture) that Champaigne made for the queen's oratory to about 1644, soon after she was widowed in 1643 and moved to the Palais Royal; offers as evidence for this date the presence at the extreme right of the Marriage of the Virgin of a likeness of the painter's daughter Catherine as she would have appeared in about 1644, judging from her appearance in a 1647 drawing (Dorival no. 326; see also Wallace Collection cat., 1968); also notes that the "Assumption" by Vouet painted for the oratory is dated 1644 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Reims).
Mary Allden and Richard Beresford. "Two Altar-pieces by Philippe de Champaigne: Their History and Technique." Burlington Magazine 131 (June 1989), pp. 395–96, fig. 10 (Klauber engraving), publish a 1745 architectural drawing of the Palais Royal and suggest that a small oval room at the northwest corner of an interior courtyard and the rectangular space adjacent to it comprised the oratory of Anne of Austria, which would have measured no more than 7.3 x 5.85 meters in total; identify two further paintings from the oratory by Bourdon: the "Flight into Egypt" and "Presentation in the Temple" (both Musée du Louvre, Paris); note that apart from the large Vouet "Assumption," which they believe was probably the main altarpiece, the "Marriage of the Virgin" in the Wallace Collection and the two Bourdons are all painted on panel and comparatively small; conclude that the Annunciation mentioned in the 1788 inventory cannot be the picture in the Wallace Collection and instead tentatively suggest identifying it with the painting in the 1846 sale (this work).
John Ingamells. The Wallace Collection: Catalogue of Pictures. Vol. 3, French before 1815. London, 1989, pp. 94–95 n. 9, pp. 110, 112 n. 16, believes the Annunciation in the 1846 sale (this painting) is likely to be the one included in the 1788 inventory; dates the paintings for the oratory to probably about 1644, and notes that the "simple classical pedestal" depicted in the engraving in the 1846 sale catalogue "would be consistent with a date in the mid-1640s".
Jacques Thuillier. Sébastien Bourdon, 1616–1671: Catalogue critique et chronologique de l'oeuvre complet. Exh. cat., Musée Fabre, Montpellier. Paris, 2000, p. 233, accepts Allden and Beresford's (1989) identification of the pictures made for the oratory, including this one.
Victor Franco de Baux. Letter to Derek Johns. January 13, 2004, states that the arms on one of the wax seals on the reverse of this picture appear to be those of the Khiening family of Carinthia, Austria; describes the crest on this seal as "a demi-man, holding in his right hand three arrows," but finds it difficult to see.
Victor Franco de Baux. Letter to Derek Johns. January 29, 2004, identifies the arms of the Henri family of Germany on one of the wax seals on the reverse: "Sable, on a mount of three peaks argent, a demi-griffon Or, Crest: A demi griffon Or".
Richard Beresford. "Philippe de Champaigne, 'Philippe, homme sage et vertueux': Essai sur l'art et l'oeuvre de Philippe de Champaigne (1602–1674) . . . , by Lorenzo Pericolo . . . , 2002." Burlington Magazine 146 (April 2004), p. 267 n. 4.
Keith Christiansen in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2003–2004." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Fall 2004), p. 19, ill. (color), dates it about 1644.
Lorenzo Pericolo. "Two Paintings for Anne of Austria's Oratory at the Palais Royal, Paris: Philippe de Champaigne's 'Annunciation' and Jacques Stella's 'Birth of the Virgin'." Burlington Magazine 147 (April 2005), pp. 246–48, fig. 33 (color), mentions the three old wax seals on the back, stating "one of them confirms that it belonged to Duval"; believes that a recently discovered panel by Jacques Stella, the "Birth of the Virgin" (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille), was almost certainly part of the decoration of the oratory, as well as possibly another work by Stella, the "Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple" (formerly Suida-Manning collection, Forest Hills, New York).
Everett Fahy inThe Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 151–55, no. 42, ill. (color), lists six related compositions.
Nicolas Sainte Fare Garnot inPhilippe de Champaigne (1602–1674): Entre politique et dévotion. Ed. Alain Tapié and Nicolas Sainte Fare Garnot. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Paris, 2007, p. 130, fig. 21 (color), under no. 21, dates it about 1643, mentioning it in relation to Champaigne's closely related Annunciation of about 1642 in the collégiale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Montresor (215 x 170 cm), which he believes was made for the private chapel of Léon Bouthillier in Paris.
Keith Christiansen inPhilippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 34.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 288, no. 234, ill. pp. 229, 288 (color).
A pentiment visible to the naked eye shows that the angel originally had his foot on the pavement as is the case in Champaigne's Annunciation from about 1639 now in the church of Notre-Dame-du-Port at Clermont-Ferrand (Dorival no. 22).