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Work Allegory of the Trinity

Department of Paintings: Flemish painting

The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Bringing Together and Protecting Humanity

© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Angèle Dequier

Flemish painting

Guillaume Kazerouni

The religious significance of the painting is made explicit in the numerous inscriptions, quotations from the Gospels of St. John and St. Matthew. It also finds expression in a complex and unusual iconography, which has parallels to the poem Gallina by Alardus Aemstelredamus - comparing the Church to a hen protecting its chicks - published in Antwerp around 1528.

French origins

This ambitious painting by Frans Floris came from the church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, its presence there being documented in the 18th century. Seized during the Revolution, it was granted to the church of La Courneuve, and finally returned to the collection of the Louvre in 1977. The historical presence of this painting in France testifies to a marked taste for the monumental but fluid Flemish painting of the second half of the 17th century, which had a considerable influence on French artists.

A complex message

The pyramidal structure embraces a host of people on their knees beneath the crucified Christ, above whom are the Dove of the Holy Spirit and God the Father. This Trinity forms a vertical axis in the center of the painting, around which the other figures are organized. Around these are numerous quotations drawn from the Gospels of John and Matthew, notably on the two immense wings that protect the faithful. In the foreground, St. John the Baptist leads the viewer into the work, pointing out Christ with his hand. He holds a phylactery upon which one can read: "Behold the Lamb of God." The hen on the Baptist's right, surrounded by its chicks and placed on the same vertical axis as the Trinity, stands for Christ's role in gathering and protecting the faithful. Christ appears a second time in the landscape on the left, walking towards the city and carrying an inscription that refers to this image of the hen: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37). In opposition to the sunlit scene on the far left, a dark area on the right shows the wrong road followed by the faithful, encouraged by a pope who might be Paul III or Clement VII, a warning against Rome's encouragement of a more individual and more critical piety. The vine is a reference to Christ's sacrifice and to the Eucharist.

The question of style

The colors of this elaborate and complex work are subtly nuanced. The painting is dominated by warm colors bathed in a soft, golden light that reinforces its religious significance and impact. Floris, who lived in Rome from 1541 to 1547, was considered to be one of the best exponents of the Roman style among northern painters. He demonstrated his command of Italian art, of which he offered a highly original Flemish interpretation, developing a heroic and monumental style based on his familiarity with the work of Michelangelo, Salviati, and Zuccari. This Allegory of the Trinity, a work of the artist's maturity, represents a perfect synthesis of the fruits of his own investigations. In his robust and compact construction, and in a certain virtuosity of execution, Floris foreshadows the work of Rubens.

Technical description

  • Frans FLORIS (Antwerp, 1519-20 - Antwerp, 1570)

    The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Bringing Together and Protecting Humanity


  • H. 1.65 m; W. 2.30 m

  • Former collection of Victor-Amédée de Carignan (1690–1741), Paris; confiscated during the Revolution from the church of Saint-Sulpice, in Paris and ceded
    to the church of La Courneuve from 1821 to 1977

    INV. 20746

  • Paintings

    Richelieu wing
    2nd floor
    Netherlands, first half of the 16th century
    Room 811

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Additional information about the work

Signed and dated bottom left: FFF 1562