Famed Italian painter Michalengelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) developed a unique style of painting in which he combined the naturalistic portrayal of the human form and emotions with dramatic light and shadows to create a sense of theater, which later influenced Baroque painting. Caravaggio’s most notable French follower, Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632), emerged as one of the most original protagonists of the new style of naturalistic painting championed by the artist he emulated.
Little known in today’s art world, Valentin died at the young age of 41, and as few as sixty of his paintings survive today. The subject of The Met’s exhibition, “Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio,” the show will feature 45 works from collections around the world, most notably the Musee du Louvre, which is loaning its entire collection of Valentin’s works.
Born in France in 1591, Valentin’s early life is obscure; few details are known other than that he was the son of a painter with whom he likely apprenticed as a young man. When Valentin arrived in Rome (sometime by or before 1614), he still had little training but followed in Caravaggio’s footsteps by painting works from life. Viewers will find many similarities in the subject matter of both artists, though Valentin’s works feature an even more striking juxtaposition of light and shadow that Caravaggio, and an intense, even melancholy, sense of emotion and humanity.
Though his life was cut short by a fever in 1610, Valentin’s work served as a reference for the great realist painters of the nineteenth century, from Courbet to Manet.
Our exhibition catalogue on the artist, written by Annick Lemoine and Keith Christiansen, discusses nearly fifty of Valentin’s works, representing his entire life’s work. Discussing both the artist’s exceptional depictions of daily life and the tumultuous setting of fifteenth-century Rome in which he lived and worked, this essential volume features essays by scholars from around the world, considering the artist’s legacy, subject matter, and techniques.
Click here to shop the exhibition catalogue online, and visit our exhibition store at The Met Fifth Avenue to shop a selection of postcards, additional books on Valentin and the Baroque period, and a print of his 1625–26 painting, The Lute Player.
lead image credit: Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632). Denial of Saint Peter, ca. 1615–17. Oil on canvas; 67 1/2 x 94 7/8 in. Fondazione di Studi di Storia dell’Arte Roberto Longhi, Florence