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Work Allegory of Victory

Department of Paintings: French painting

Allegory of Victory

© 1991 RMN / Droits réservés

French painting

Kazerouni Guillaume

The subject, composition and dimensions point to a painting destined to be hung over a fireplace.
Victory is shown trampling a female figure - perhaps Deceit, Intrigue or Rebellion.

The mysteries of Victory

Unique and totally unexpected in the Le Nain brothers' oeuvre, this strange painting came to light at the Château de Cheneviery, near Montargis, and was acquired in 1971 with the help of the Friends of the Louvre association. It would seem, from its size and subject matter, to have been intended for hanging over a fireplace. X-ray examination has revealed a Holy Family beneath the present work, blanked out because it had failed to please its creator or his client, or simply because the client had changed his mind. In this case the effaced painting ran widthwise, and the painter has reused the canvas by standing it on its end.

A victory for morality

Helmeted, wings spread and her modesty preserved by folds of red fabric, a naked, generously sensual woman stands victorious on a prone, more or less female body whose feet are replaced by the coils of a serpent. One hand holding a palm branch and the other raised to her breast, she contemplates her strange captive. She symbolizes victory, but over whom? The allegorical figure at her feet has variously been interpreted as Deceit, Intrigue or Rebellion, vices vigorously opposed by right-thinking people of the time. The composition is enlivened by the way the skillful interplay of obliques in the sky counters the slightly too-strict geometry of the scene. The naked woman stands triumphantly centre-stage against a background containing, on the right, a few tiny figures.

The Le Nains: Mathieu, Louis and Antoine

The designation "Le Nain Brothers" covers the oeuvre of three painters born in Laon: Mathieu, Louis and Antoine. Recently their different personalities have become more recognizable and analysis of their work means each can now be seen as an artist in his own right. Mathieu has been identified as the creator of most of the large, mainly religious works and some of the mythological scenes. Stylistically the Allegory of Victory would appear to be by his hand, offering a characteristic, subtly restrained chromatic range highlighted by the color work on the fabric. The red and yellow found here are features of several other of his canvases. There is, too, the sensually monumental aspect of the figures, which sets this work apart from another group of paintings whose authorship - Louis or Antoine? - remains a matter for debate.

Technical description

  • Louis LE NAIN (Laon, vers 1593 - Paris, 1677)

    Allegory of Victory

    About 1635

  • Oil on canvas

    H. : 1,51 m. ; L. : 1,15 m.

  • 1971

    R.F. 1971-9

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    Georges de La Tour
    Room 912

Practical information

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