Veritas: Saint Augustine
Truth is changing shape
Has become long and very
Thin, almost invisible
Slipped right by me where
I stand, caught between two
Flames, waiting for the call
To leap into bliss, hand flung
Out in sharp surprise to grasp
A luminous heart whose fire
Halos my head, eyes riveted
Startled at God’s hard joke
Truth, held out and up
Shining with humanity, ignited
By the holy breath of ghosts
© 2014 Karen Holden
The artist, posthumous inventory(1), 1674, no. 40, by inheritance to his nephew;(2) Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne, by inheritance to his widow; Geneviève Jehan, in 1694, by inheritance to; the family of her second husband, Pierre Hamelin,(3) by inheritance to; Breda family.(4) Possibly Germain-Louis Chauvelin (1685–1762), Versailles(5) (sale, Paris, 21 June 1762, lot 24, sold for 145 livres to);(6) Joullain. [Deviers, Paris (sale, Paris, Hôtel de Bullion, 4 Apr. 1810, lot 25, "Saint Augustin. Très-bonne production de ce grand maître," sold for 30 frs.)].(7) Possibly Marcille (estate sale, Paris, 16–17 Jan. 1857, lot 419, "Saint Augustin," sold for 25 frs. to);(8) Anguiyot. Anonymous (sale, Monaco, Sotheby’s, 27 Nov. 1986, lot 338, sold together with lot 339, Philippe de Champaigne, St. Jerome, to); [Bruno Meissner, Zürich, sold 1987 to]; LACMA.
(1) Dorival 1972, pp. 43–44, no. 62 (print by Poilly), mentions numerous copies of the composition and identifies sales in which the painting appears without measurements. The painting also cannot be identified as that sold in Paris, 20 March 1758. See note 4 below.
(2)Grouchy and Guiffrey 1892, p. 184, no. 40, "Item, un saint Augustin, de la mesme main [dudit deffunt, i.e., Philippe de Champaigne], prisé 100 l." Number 39, "Item, un saint Jerome, ouvrage dudit deffunt, prisé 100 l."
(3) The inventory of Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne, made 29 October 1681 at the request of Geneviève Jehan, widow of Jean-Baptiste Champaigne, was attached to that of her second husband, Pierre Hamelin (Grouchy and Guiffrey 1892, pp. 193ff.). Philippe de Champaigne’s Saint Augustine does not, however, appear in the inventory made after the death of Jean-Baptiste, although the painting Saint Jerome does. Pierre Hamelin was conseiller du roi au Châtelet de Paris.
(4) According to Dorival 1992, p. 12, "Au témoignage d’une etiquette collée sur le chassis, à la famille Breda via la famille Hamelin dont un membre avait épousé la veuve de Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne." That label was not attached to the stretcher when it was acquired by LACMA. Conisbee, Levkoff, and Rand 1991 incorrectly includes in the provenance Louis-Joseph Le Lorrain (1715–1759), Saint Petersburg (sale, Paris, une Salle des Grands Augustins, 20 Mar. 1758, lot 20, "Un Saint Jérôme; Tableau de deux pieds & demi de hauteur, sur 2 pieds de large. Ce Tableau est d’un très-beau fini & très-bien conserve," sold to); Aubry. That painting was sold by Debias-Aubry (sale, Paris, 9 Feb. 1773, lot 70a, as "Saint Jérôme en prieres, par Champagne, connu par la belle estampe qu’en a gravé Edelinck") and sold again by Conti (sale, Paris, 8 Apr. 1777, lot 201). The reference to the engraving by Edelinck (Dorival 1972, p. 49, no. 77) confirms that it is not an image of Saint Augustine mistakenly identified as Saint Jerome. No print by Gérard Edelinck (1640–1707) of Saint Augustine is recorded by Dorival.
(5)The marquis de Grosbois, who was general counselor to parliament and keeper of the seals.
(6) "S. Augustin qui terrasse l’Hérésie, aussi par Philippe Champagne. Ce père de l’Eglise est assis, le bras gauche appuyé sur une table, il a sous ses pieds des hommes, dont on ne voit que les bustes & les mains; un Serpent s’entrelasse autour d’eux. Ce Tableau, qui a des beautés distinguées, est peint sur toile colée sur bois, il porte 3 pieds de haut, sur 2 pieds 5 pouces de large. Il a été grave par N. Poilly; on lit au bas de l’Estampe: Unde ardet inde lucet." The description of that painting as having busts and hands of men beneath the feet of Augustine and a serpent wound around them does not agree with LACMA’s painting. The print by Poilly, however, closely follows the painting at LACMA.
(7) The sale was said to have been after the cessation of business of "M. Deviers." According to the analysis of the sale in the Getty Provenance Index, Sales Contents Database, it appears that the majority of the important paintings in the sale were retired.
(8) LACMA’s painting has previously been associated with lot 417, "Saint Jerome. Gravé par Poilly." It is difficult to believe that the two saints could have been confused, especially since each print properly identifies them. More likely the editor of the catalogue entry incorrectly identified the author of the print after Saint Jerome, which was actually Gérard Edelinck.