Nicolas Mignard, called Mignard d'Avignon
Troyes 1606 - 1668 Paris
A Study for St. Anne with a subsidiary study of a draped shoulder
Black and red chalk heightened with white on beige paper.
15 ½ x 10 ¼ inches (393 x 261 mm.).
Nicolas Mignard’s studio, thence by descent; Paris, Drouot, Monday 14 December 1998, lot 129.
This drawing is an early study for the figure of St. Anne of the Visitationpainted in 1639 for the Marquis de Gonzague (Fig. 1).[i]According to an inscription on the picture, and to records dated 1670, the work was presented to the Recollets in 1639 for their Montfavet house in Avignon, to be hung above their staircase. It was a gift from Gonzague and the future John-Casimir VII, King of Poland. After having changed hands, it was confiscated during the French Revolution. The picture is today at the Chapelle des Pénitents Gris in Avignon. Mignard executed several pictures of the Visitation,all of which are currently in Avignon.[ii]
Nicolas Mignard was born in Troyes in 1606. He was the brother of Pierre Mignard (1612-1695), who in 1690 became First Painter to King Louis XIV. Nicolas Mignard left for Rome in 1632, and was captivated by the grand Roman decors of Annibale Carracci and Giovanni Lanfranco. He was the first to engrave Carracci’s Farnese frescoes. In 1636, on his return to France, he stopped in Avignon where he remained until 1660. During these years, he painted numerous altarpieces for local churches as well as canvases for interior decoration, all in the grand manner he learned while working in Rome. Louis XIV was impressed with his work during a visit to Avignon in 1660 and summoned Mignard to Paris. He was soon named Painter to the King and was received at the Academy in 1663 without having to present a morçeau de réception, a rare exemption. He decorated the small apartments of the King in the Tuileries but died a short time later, in Paris in 1668.
Mignard’s drawings combine the robustness found in the works of the Bolognese painters he so admired with the greater realism found in the French tradition. His style has one precise characteristic, which differentiates him from most contemporary artists: he was left-handed. This is particularly visible in drawings like the present sheet, with the hatching moving from left to right. A portrait by his son, Paul Mignard, shows him at work, holding the brush in his left hand.