The painterPhilippe de Champaigne(1602 – 1674) achieved a considerable reputation in his time. Originally from Brussels, from a young age he settled in Paris and spent practically his entire career there working for important personalities such as himself King Louis XIII of France or the powerful Cardinal Richelieu. In addition to the fact that he made outstanding portraits of important figures of his time.
Champaigne Skull Vanitas
However, surely his greatest work is thisVanitaswhich is now kept in theMusée de la Tessein the city FrenchLe Mans.
A work that, like other similar baroque art, tells us about the unstoppable passage of time and how absurd it is to worry about certain material things. However, in this case it is a work that is not a commission or a fashion painting, in fact it translates very well the thought of this artist.
The daughter of Champaigne had suffered a serious illness that left her paralyzed and believed to be permanent. She however she came into contact with the religious movement ofJanseismin the convent ofPort Royal in Paris, and there she inexplicably healed the daughter of her So he became a great devotee of this spiritual current. A movement that promotes austerity and the harsh following of Catholic beliefs.
And with itIt perfectly fits the spirit of this work. We see in the center the brutal image of a skull that clearly tells us about death. It is the most obvious symbol of it and its central presence and its size dominate this peculiar still life. While next to him is the hourglass, which is obviously representing the flow of time that may be slow but never stops. It is relentless and in its wake, sooner or later everything ends up dying. For example, on the other side we witness the last moments of the life of a tulip. It is no longer a beautiful flower, nor does it transmit us joy. It is something already withered and that has lost all its beauty. That is to say that everything ends, the riches, the beauty, the glory, …
The truth is that Champaigne was imbued with that thought and was also able to portray a large number of people who were followers of that current. But in parallel he continued to develop a prosperous pictorial career in which he did not lack other paintings of a more decorative nature. And in fact, curiously, one of the great references of his art was the colorful art ofTitian, whose artistic approaches had little to do with the Janseite spirit. In addition, Champaigne was one of the artists who founded the Royal French Academy of Painting and Sculpture. However, his art went a bit out of fashion as thebaroquemoved away from classicism towards more ornamental and elaborate formulas, such as those represented by the most fashionable artist at the end of life by him, Charles Le Brun.