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Work Solomon Sacrificing to the Idols

Department of Paintings: French painting

Solomon Sacrificing to the Idols

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Erich Lessing

French painting

Kazerouni Guillaume

This picture once hung over a door in the main anteroom of what had been Louis Phelypeaux de la Vrillière's Hôtel de Toulouse townhouse in Paris, now the Bank of France.

Bourdon, history painter

In addition to his genre works and landscapes, Sébastien Bourdon was also a prolific history painter. His work is marked by his admiration for Nicolas Poussin and the Italian innovators, notably those of the Roman and Venetian schools he discovered during his years in Italy (1634-37). Originally part of the collection of Louis Phelypeaux de la Vrillière, this picture, according to the inventory drawn up after its owner's death, was hung over a fireplace in his Paris townhouse, the Hôtel de la Vrillière - later renamed the Hôtel de Toulouse and now the Bank of France. In the following century it was set above a door of the main anteroom of the Duc de Penthièvre's townhouse, before being confiscated at the time of the Revolution.

Solomon and the idols

Solomon was the sixth child of the union of David and Bathsheba. His mother urged the king to give the child his blessing as his successor and it was Solomon, famed for his wisdom, who would build the first Temple in Jerusalem. However, in his later years he was lured away from God by his many wives and offered sacrifice to such pagan deities as Astarte and Moloch. Here we see him surrounded by some of his wives as he kneels before an altar bearing a sculpted likeness of a goddess. Bourdon stresses the negative role of the wives by showing one of them approvingly directing the king's attention towards the statue. Another biblical episode portrayed by Bourdon, that of Samson led astray by the beauty of Delilah, is in a similar vein.

France, after Rome and Venice

Dated to 1646-47, this composition is structured around a line running obliquely from the lower right corner upwards to the statue. At the centre of the canvas is the face of one of the wives. Typical of Bourdon's most lyrical works, the picture makes use of procedures borrowed from the Venetians - especially Veronese - such as the dark foreground setting off the lighter colors beyond, and the inclusion of repoussoirs. The suppleness of the figures, the chromatic restraint and the diffuseness of the light also point to a sound knowledge of Roman painting, notably that of Pietro da Cortona and other artists from his circle, like Romanelli. The same characteristics are to be found in other works by Bourdon in the Louvre - A Scene from Roman History (presumed to show the meeting of Antony and Cleopatra), The Flight into Egypt and The Presentation in the Temple - although their palette is lighter and the lyricism even more pronounced.

Technical description

  • Sébastien BOURDON (Montpellier, 1616 - Paris, 1671)

    Solomon Sacrificing to the Idols

    About 1646-1647

  • Oil on canvas

    H. : 1,56 m. ; L. : 1,45 m.

  • INV. 2800

  • Paintings

    Sully wing
    2nd floor
    17th-century Parisian decorative paintings
    Room 911

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