An early 18th century Old Master oil study of St Jerome by the French artist Pierre Subleyras (1699-1749) has just sold at Toovey’s for £80,000.
The painting had been known to Toovey’s head of fine art, Nicholas Toovey, for many years before it was recently consigned for sale. Quality and provenance with Old Master paintings is always important and this painting was purchased by the family from the prestigious Hazlitt Gallery in London in the 1960s.
Pierre Subleyras was born in Saint Gilles du Gard in Provence. He moved permanently to Rome in 1728 having won the Prix de Rome in 1727 painting a variety of subjects including still lifes and portraits. However, it is his religious paintings which are most highly regarded. They are notably more serious in tone than many French works of the Rococo period.
He attracted the attention of many prominent patrons painting a portrait of Pope Benedict XIV. The Pope would commission Subleyras to paint both ‘The Marriage of St Catherine’ and the ‘Ecstasy of St Camilla’ for his private apartments.
Subleyras’ talent as an incisive portraitist is brilliantly employed in this study of St Jerome which is heavily influenced by the solemnity of 17th century Italian Baroque. The study contrasts with the early 18th century French taste for the playful Rococo which developed in reaction to the Baroque which preceded it.
Subleyras’ study is beautifully considered showing St Jerome’s concern and wonder as he is blessed with a vision from God. It is a subject the artist would return to on several occasions. The paint is applied in a series of thin washes using oil glazes which lends the work a remarkable depth and life particularly to the face and skin.
Cardinal Valenti Gongoza arranged the commissioning of the ‘Mass of St Basil’ for St Peter’s in Rome. This huge painting was highly acclaimed when it was unveiled in 1748. It can still be seen at St Maria degli Angeli in Rome. But Subleyras was too exhausted by overwork to enjoy the success of his most famous work. He moved to Naples seeking respite but returned to Rome and died soon after on 28th May 1749.
Today Pierre Subleyras’ work is represented in many of the world’s international collections including the National Gallery, London and the Louvre, Paris.
Entries are already being received by Toovey’s for their next curated sale of fine art which will be held on Wednesday 28th November 2018. Nicholas Toovey is always keen to share his passion for art with collectors. If you would like his advice Nicholas can be contacted by telephoning 01903 891955 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rupert Toovey, a senior director of Toovey’s, the leading fine art auction house in West Sussex, based on the A24 at Washington. Originally published in the West Sussex Gazette.