Diana returning from the hunt
(Nicolas Colombel)


After studying in Eustache Lesueur’s studio (1616-1655) in Paris, Nicolas Colombel travelled to Rome to enthusiastically discover the works of the great masters of classicism, Raphael and Poussin, which were to influence his style throughout his career.  In 1686 he was elected to the Academy of St Luke in Rome and studied there until 1693.  He then returned to Paris since he had been elected in 1694 to the Académie Royale thanks to the patronage of Pierre Mignard (1612-95).  Nicolas Colombel consequently exhibited both at the Salon of 1699 and that of 1704 and from 1705 assumed the post of professor at the Académie Royale.

Our portrait of Diana, which is dated 1698, would appear to be the painting that Nicolas Colombel presented in the 1699 Salon under the title Diana returning from the hunt.  This work formed part of a group of six paintings illustrating episodes from the story of Diana the Huntress.

Nicolas Colombel treats the composition in a way that is reminiscent of Poussin and his followers, yet the style also shows characteristics French painters had absorbed from the colourism and more effervescent technique of Rubens.  In this they echoed a trend prevalent among the majority of late seventeenth century Italian artists in opposing an earlier grounding which had given precedence to ‘disegno’ with a growing interest in colourism.  Whereas during the Renaissance both ‘disegno’ and ‘colorito’ were identified in treatises on art of the period as distinctive steps towards composing a composition, by the late seventeenth century this distinction had blurred or indeed merged.  This artistic controversy was to last until the late eighteenth century, yet Nicolas Colombel took up a position as a fervent defender of the merits of colourism, which, as a follower of Poussin, himself in turn an admirer of Titian, was only to be expected.  But Colombel was not just content with emulating the great masters.  His strength and originality as depicted in his works is due to the discipline of his technique and the beguiling beauty of his strong, vivid, brilliant colour.


The inscription on the frame carries the names of ‘Jannuci de Roland’ and ‘Coil. Robert’.  These may be identified with the names of Guillaume Robert and his wife.  Guillaume was the Seigneur of Septeuil and held the position of Counsellor in the 1689 Parlement.  Between 1701 and 1719 he was the President of the Chambre des Comptes or Court of Accounts.  We do not know the specific date of the marriage of Guillaume with his wife, but the latter is recorded as having died in 1738.  Although the frame dates from 1730-1740, that is a few years after the execution of the painting, it is reasonable to surmise that Guillaume Robert’s wife was the actual model for the portrait depiction of Diana in Nicolas Colombel’s painting.

65.7 x 81.1cm, 25¾ x 32in.
Oil on copper

Coil Robert Collection (according to the inscription on the frame)

Gallerie Yvonne de Brémond d’Ars and Maurice Ségoura Collection, 1975

Akram Ojjeh Collection

Christie’s London, 17th December 1999, lot 92, reproduced

Private Collection, France


Liepmannsohn et Dufour, Collection des livrets des anciennes expositions, Salon de 1699, Paris 1869, p. 22

Catalogue of the exhibition 1704 Le Salon les Arts et le Roi, no. 69 pg. 220, ill. pg. 221


Paris, Grande Galerie du Louvre, trumeau XVI, Paris 1699, Collection des livrets de l’Académie de Peinture et de Sculpture

Paris Salon, 1704?

Rouen, 9th Nov 2012- 24th Feb 2013, Nicolas Colombel, L’idéal et la Grâce, Rouen Musée de Beaux-Arts,  pp. 176-178, P.46,

Sceaux, 22nd March- 30th June 2013, Le salon de 1704, Musée de L’Ile- de- France.

Historical Period
Baroque - 1600-1720 & Rococo - 1720-1780
Price band
$350,000 - $500,000