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Crucifixion
(Virginia Vezzi)

Description

Virginia Vezzi or da Vezzo
(attributed to)
1597 Velletri -1638 Paris

Virginia Vezzi was the daughter of a painter by the name of Pompeo Vezzi. Little is known about his output and she is thought to have been born between 1597 and 1601. She is recorded as being enrolled in the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. At this period there were only 15 women members. Her father taught her painting. She then started in 1623 to participate in life classes in Simon Vouet’s studio in Rome. He also taught her during the following three years.(1) She married him in 1626 (2), shortly before they left for Paris. In France she progressively abandoned naturalistic influences derived from Caravaggio substituting a more classical and Academic style of painting. She opened her own school of life drawing in Paris, exclusively for women from the Royal Court. Many of her contemporaries referred to the high-quality of her work and her collaboration with the French king.(3) Thus, Bonaventura Theuli refers to Virginia Vezzi as the ‘famous painter of the Queen of France’. (4)

Pierre Jean Mariette, 1851-60, III 1858/59, p.56 states:
” (elle) dessinoit agréablement, peignoit en miniature et pouvoit travailler d’après ses propres compositions “.

Even though her painting was influenced by Vouet, she had some independence in her work and clearly executed much more than just drawings and miniatures.(5)

Very little of her work has as yet been identified mainly because many paintings probably by Vezzi are attributed to her husband, or to the circle of Simon Vouet. An example of this is the recently sold painting at Sotheby’s London, Study of a Young Woman as the Virgin attributed to Vouet even though a drawing by one of Vezzi’s student seems to link it to Vezzi herself.(6) The only certain painting attributed to Virginia Vezzi is Judith and Holophernes, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes; which is engraved by Claude Mellan.(7) In addition to the Judith, Consuelo Lollobrigida, attributes two other paintings to Virginia Vezzi; a Self-Portrait in a Roman private collection and a Self-Portrait or Muse in a French private collection.(8) Her work, is said to have followed the same development as her husband’s work, with the exception of his Roman period. A Danae in the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas has also been attributed to her hand. The face of the Danae bears a resemblance to the head of the Magdalen in our picture.
Originally ascribed to the Circle of Vouet, if not to the master himself in Genoa (Benati) this highly refined small copper of The Crucifixion with St John and Mary Magdalen was subsequently in turn given to Jacques Stella, Charles Mellin, Jaccques de l’Estin and Francois Perrier. In 2010 Dominique Jacquot suggested that on account of the strong Vouet influence the painting might be by Perrier while he was in Vouet’s studio c. 1633 in Rome. Shortly thereafter he proposed that the painting was by Virginia Vezzi who became Vouet’s wife, thus explaining the strong Vouet influence. Jacquot will include the painting as attributed to Vezzi in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the works of Simon Vouet.
The Crucifixion was clearly painted in Rome, probably between 1620-1626 as the influence of both Guido Reni and Giovanni Lanfranco is quite marked in the two standing figures and the colouring is Italian. The Crucified Christ, however, is entirely French in character and somewhat reminiscent of such Vouet pupils as Perrier and Dorigny. The treatment of the Crucifix itself is somewhat unusual. French painters seem to have favoured a finished, planed, squared Crucifix whereas in our picture the base is unfinished, a simple pole with a wedge hacked out of it with an adze to accommodate the lower body. This type of pole shaped Crucifix was later adopted by Simon Vouet and studio in his 1638 The Vow of Louis XIII before the Cross (Town Hall, Neuilly Saint Front, France). It is possible that Vezzi collaborated on this work, executed the year of her death.

 

1. Jacques Thuillier, Vouet, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1990, p.35-36.
2. 21st April 1626, at San Lorenzo in Lucina.
3. Bullart, Academie des Sciences et des Arts, contenants les Vie et les Eloges Historiques des Hommes Illustres…, Paris 1682, p.490.
4. O. Michel, Virginia Vezzi et l’entourage de Simon Vouet à Rome in Actes du colloque international Simon Vouet, Collection Rencontres de l’Ecole du Louvre, La Documentation Française, Paris, 1992.
5. Jacques Thuillier, Vouet, Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1990, p.35-39.
6. Simon Vouet, Study of a Young Woman as the vVrgin, oil on canvas, 60.7 x 49.5 cm., 23 7/8 x 19 1/2 in., Sotheby’s London, 2019.
7. Claude Mellan, after Virginia da Vezzo, Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne, 1626, Gabinetto

8. C. Lollobrigida, Virginia da Vezzo, Un inedito e qualche riflessione, Stampe.

 

Measurements
43 x 38 cm
Type
Oil on copper
Provenance

Private collection, Italy, before 2003
Christie’s, New York, 2004

Where is It?
Matthiesen Gallery
Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720
Subject
Religious: New Testament
Price band
$350,000 - $500,000