The artistic history of the Paris region is dense and treasures are still discovered today. A dull and dark painting covered by a thick varnish and representing the Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist hung in the parochial church of Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul in Fontenay-aux-Roses near Paris. Jean-Claude Boyer, the specialist of Pierre Mignard, the great 17th century painter, having a look a few years ago at a photo of the painting, immediately identified it as a masterpiece by Pierre Mignard. The painting has been restaured by Geneviève Guttin, a specialist working in the Palace of Versailles. In 2019, it has been scrutinized in the specialized laboratory in the Louvre Museum. Its authenticity makes no doubt althought it is not signed. The painting is stored in a safe place until the church is restaured.
The quality of the painting equals that of the masterpiece by Pierre Mignard in the Louvre called the Virgin of the grapes. Check French paintings in Louvre Museum for details on the Virgin of the grapes.
Pierre Mignard was born in Troyes in Champagne on November 17, 1612. He entered in 1624 in the studio of the painter Jean Boucher in Bourges. Back in Troyes, he worked at a sculptor named François Gentil before leaving for Fontainebleau, capital of the arts of the time, where he studied Primatice, Rosso Fiorentino and Martin Fréminet. He became a student of Simon Vouet in Paris, and met Charles Le Brun and Eustache Le Sueur. In 1635 he left for Rome where he met Nicolas Poussin and Anna Avolara, daughter of an architect, with whom he fell in love but married only in 1660. He became famous in Rome and was recalled to France by Louis XIV in 1657. On his way to Paris, he met Molière in Avignon at his brother Nicolas Mignard’s home. The two men became friends. In 1669, Molière composed The Glory of Val-de-Grace, a eulogy in verse of the masterpiece of Mignard, The Glory of the Blessed, the fresco decorating the dome of the Val-de-Grace Church in Paris, commissioned in 1663 by Queen Anne of Austria.
Pierre Mignard shared his career between portraits, especially with the aristocratic society of the kingdom, and large decorative compositions. He painted in particular at the Palace of Versailles. His masterpiece, besides the Val-de-Grace, is the painted ceiling of the gallery of the castle of Saint-Cloud for Monsieur, brother of Louis XIV, completed before the gallery of mirrors of Versailles, unfortunately lost today. Pierre Mignard was responsible for the decoration of the chapel of the Baptism of the Church Saint-Eustache in Paris (1667-1670), later destroyed. In June 1687, he was ennobled by Sun King who, in 1690, at the death of Charles Le Brun, named him his first painter, in fact the director of the royal manufactures and made him enter the Royal Academy of painting and sculpture at the Director’s position. When he died on May 30, 1695, Pierre Mignard was given a great funeral at Saint-Roch church. He had four children.