The painting offered for sale measures 30 ¾" x 24 ½" in size and is in a handsome frame of the period measuring 43” x 34”.
It was purchased in London in 1972 by a collector who, in his extensive travels, has visited most of the major art museums of the world and studied the paintings therein. The painting was sold by Sotheby’s under the title “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, painted by C. LeBrun.
The hand that painted this piece of art was Charles LeBrun, a designer of Versailles and court painter to Louis XIV, who painted in the seventeenth century and has many paintings exhibited in leading museums of the world, including the Hermitage and the Louvre.
Charles LeBrun was the court painter for King Louis XIV and was one of the dominant painters and designers of that lush period of French art.
The painting is a very lovely painting and is in excellent condition.
Many painters, including Rembrandt, painted “The Return of the Prodigal Son”. There is no other work by LeBrun on the subject.
If one pulls up Google on the Internet and goes to Images, and types in “Charles LeBrun paintings”, the Return of the Prodigal Son can be found together with other paintings of LeBrun. Charles LeBrun was a man of such widespread talents that it is difficult to properly describe his work. A good place to start is in the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 85, No. 497 (Aug. 1944), pp(186-194) with an article by Anthony Blunt, a brilliant art analyst, in addition to his other attributes. He discusses among other paintings “Christ in the House of Simon” and “Silence”, which is presently located in the Louvre.
An excerpt of the article, to give one the flavor of it, is as follows:
"Of the religious pictures the first three to be considered are directly related to the works of the late forties. They are variations on Poussinesque themes, but Lebrun is now using a different group of the master’s works. Up till now we have mainly found him borrowing either from the religious and classical works of the thirties or from the heroic compositions of the forties. Now he turns to the “sacraments” painted for Chantelou during the forties and to a group of Holy Families dating from the forties and fifties. Christ in the House of Simon, painted for the Carmelites of the Faubourg St. Jacques at the order of Le Camus, probably about the middle of the fifties, is a little more than a free variant of Poussin’s Penitence...
"In two Holy Families of the same period the influence of Poussin is no less strong, although it is not exclusive. The first of these, well-known Silence in the Louvre, signed and dated 1655, goes back in theme to the painting by Annibale Carracci at that time in the Royal collection and still in the Lourve. Even the gesture and the head of the Virgin are taken form there, though the head is made even sweeter and rendered more in the convention of such Roman near-classicist as Sassoferrato. The two figures of St. Anne and St. Elizabeth, however, are both familiar in Poussin’s Holy Families of the late forties and fifties. On the other hand the naturalistic background and rather picturesque grouping of the figures are foreign to the spirit of Poussin at this period. The second Holy Family was executed, according to Nivelon, for M. Poncet at about the same time as the Silence. It shows the Virgin in Egypt watching the Christ child explaining the figures of the Hebrew Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and a drawing for it is in the Louvre. The elements are here the same as in the Silence: Poussin and Roman classicism. The general conception for the painting is taken from Poussin’s Roccatagliata Madonna of 1642, but the type of the Virgin and the Christ child are markedly Roman.
"It is however in another group of paintings executed about this time, that is to say, in the middle and late fifties, that Lebrun really develops his new style. The best known of these is the Christ in the Desert, executed, like the Feast in the House of Simon, for the Carmelites to the order of Camus, and now in the Louvre. This is a real example of Lebrun’s grand manner. It is no less eclectic than his earlier works, but the borrowed elements are now completely fused."
One of the most striking attributes of the LeBrun paintings is its use of the same glamorous models in a number of his paintings. The models in “The Return of the Prodigal Son” are the same as in “Holy Family with the Adoration of the Child” and various other paintings.
Another very apparent technique is the use of the outstretched arms as in “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and many of his other paintings. Lebrun’s unique use of gesture, often in the form of an outstretched arm and the detail of the hands and fingers, is consistent in his paintings.
LeBrun, because of his admiration of Roman architecture, often included a portion of a Roman edifice in the painting as in “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and other works. He often included one dress or tunic painted in an outstanding red color and one in an outstanding blue as in “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and various other works. LeBrun often had a dark portion of the painting and nearly always provided a glimpse of blue sky as in “The Return of the Prodigal Son” and various other paintings.
A comparison of “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, and other Lebrun works located in various museums leaves no doubt as to the hand of the artist.
Among the paintings studied were “The Battle of Arabella”, “Meleager and Atalanta”, “The Crucifixion”, “The King of Persia Kneels before Alexander”, “The Death of Meleager”, and the magnificent “Entry of Alexander into Babylon”.
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