Self-portrait [?]

Attributed to Nicolas Mignard
(1606 – 1668)

Self-portrait [?]

Painted circa 1660s

Oil on canvas: 29 ¼ x 26 ½ in. (74 x 67.5 cm.)


Private collection, Switzerland, until 2016.

This portrait which once falsely bore the signature of Jacob van Loo, can be re-attributed to the artist Nicolas Mignard. The sitter’s pose, and singular engagement with the viewer would suggest it could be a self-portrait. It compares favourably with the artist’s self-portrait as the Apostle John within a painting of L’Assomption, signed and dated 1633 (Notre-Dame des Doms, Avignon, Vaucluse), and with a portrait of the artist by his son Paul (1641 – 1691) in the Musée Calvet, Avignon, another version of which is in the Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon, dated 1672.

Nicolas Mignard (1606 – 1668) was a successful painter of religious subjects, decorative schemes and portraits, first in Avignon and then in Paris. He came from a dynasty of artists: he was the elder brother of the perhaps better known Pierre Mignard (1612 – 1695),[1] and the father of Pierre Mignard II (1640 – 1725). Nicolas spent most of his active life in Avignon, which meant that his career was somewhat overshadowed by his younger brother Pierre, who was court painter to Louis XIV.[2]

Nicolas was born in Troyes in 1606 and initially studied painting with a local master in Avignon. His work, which at first displayed Mannerist tendencies, changed after a two year stay in Italy, (1635 – 1637), to reflect the influence of the Italian painters: his style is typical of the Italianate classicizing aesthetic that dominated seventeenth-century France. He was particularly influenced by Annibale Carracci and the likes of Domenichino and Guido Reni.[3]

Having executed multiple series of etchings in Rome, Mignard returned to Avignon, where he mostly painted for religious institutions. There he achieved great success working for convents and notable patrons. His fame spread to such an extent that in 1660 the statesman Mazarin called him to the Court of Louis XIV. He was elected an Academician in March 1663, assistant teacher then teacher in 1664, and assistant rector in August 1664. Mignard undertook important works for the Tuileries Palace: Apollo Crowning the Muses of Poetry; Painting and MusicMercury Giving the Lyre to Apollo; and Apollo and Daphne. Many of his religious paintings can still be found in churches in and around Avignon, however two of his masterpieces are acknowledged to be The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife (1654, Dallas Museum of Art) and Venus and Adonis (c.1650, Minniapolis Institute of Art).[4]


[1] Pierre Mignard, similarly influenced by training in Italy, became the most outstanding portrait painter of his generation. He had trained with Vouet and spent 22 years studying in Rome; indeed, he was known as ‘Le Romain’ to distinguish him from his elder brother Nicolas.

[2] After his death, paintings by Nicolas Mignard mostly stayed in or around Avignon. During the French Revolution, as these paintings were confiscated, many were erroneously attributed to Pierre Mignard. See: Nicolas Mignard at Avignon, catalogue of the 1979 Avignon exhibition, by Antoine Schnapper (1979).

[3] Anthony Blunt, The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 121, No. 918 (Sep. 1979), p.604.

[4] Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Grove Art Online, accessed 14th February 2017.

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