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Work Christ Appears to the Three Marys

Department of Paintings: French painting

Christ Appears to the Three Marys

© 1985 RMN / Gérard Blot / Christian Jean

Paintings
French painting

Author(s):
Kazerouni Guillaume

Prior to the French Revolution this painting was in the church of the Carmelite convent on Rue St Jacques in Paris. With it were La Hyre's Christ Entering Jerusalem, now in the church of St Germain des Prés, and works by Stella, Champaigne and Le Brun.

The Carmelites

Laurent de la Hyre's Christ Appears to the Three Marys was painted for the chapel in the Carmelite convent in the Rue St Jacques in Paris. The origins of the Carmelite order go back to the Crusades: in the 13th century Crusaders were living as hermits on Mt Carmel in Galilee, eventually forming a religious order that underwent many internal challenges and reforms. The first convent was opened in the mid-15th century at the instigation of Blessed John Soreth, the order's General, and after the reforms imposed in 1562 by St Teresa of Avila, the Barefoot Carmelites became known for their strict observance of the original rule. Under Teresa they gradually spread throughout Europe, becoming influential teachers and often, as in France, enjoying Royal patronage.

The convent in Rue St Jacques

The first half of the 17th century saw the appearance in Paris of a host of religious buildings, in part as a consequence of the proliferation of religious orders there. Naturally artists were called in to create ornamentation that would help proclaim the glory of God and edify the faithful. It was in this context that in 1604 Mother Acarie and Michel de Marillac established France's first Carmelite convent in the specially renovated Gothic buildings of the former Benedictine priory of Notre Dame des Champs. A gradual accumulation of commissioned works made the convent one of the capital's most lavish and highly decorated religious centers: more than two hundred works were confiscated before its destruction at the time of the Revolution. The nave of the church was home to a dozen compositions by Le Brun, Stella, La Hyre, and Champaigne, who also painted the ceiling. The side chapels were decorated with works by the same artists and in the choir was Guido Reni's Annunciation - now in the Louvre - which was intended as a reminder that the convent was dedicated to the Incarnation.

An "Atticist" canvas

Christ Appears to the Three Marys was among the works in the nave portraying the life of Christ. The scene is described in St Matthew's gospel: after the crucifixion, on Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene, the Virgin, and Mary, mother of James and Joseph, went to Christ's tomb, which they found empty. At that moment the Savior appeared to them and they prostrated themselves before him, seizing his feet. In the painting the figures are set in the foreground against a landscape opening onto a cloudy sky. In the lower right background, an angel sitting on the tomb is a reminder of the visit of the three women. The rigorousness of the composition, the use of pure, bright colors and the meticulousness and luminosity of the image reflect the style newly in vogue in Paris in 1640-50 and which was dubbed "Atticist" in the 20th century. Much admired, this work drew the interest of Bernini when he was in Paris in 1665. Another work painted by La Hyre for the same setting shows Christ entering Jerusalem; it is now in the church of St Germain des Prés.

Technical description

  • Laurent de La Hyre

    Christ Appears to the Three Marys

    Church of the Carmelite Convent, Rue St Jacques, Paris

    France

  • Oil on canvas

    H. 3.98 m; W. 2.51 m

  • Revolutionary confiscation

    Inv. 5356

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    17th-century altar paintings
    Room 19

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