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“The Last Supper” But Not by da Vinci

Pratiksha Shome

Philippe de Champaigne was a prominent French Baroque painter who lived from 1602 to 1674. He was born in Brussels, Belgium, and later moved to Paris, France, where he established himself as one of the leading artists of his time. Champaigne’s artworks primarily focused on religious themes, but he also excelled in portraiture. 

Philippe de Champaigne
Courtesy: Wikipedia

One of his most renowned works is “The Last Supper”, not to be confused with da Vinci’s  “Last Supper”, which he completed between 1648 and 1652. This large-scale painting depicts the final meal of Jesus Christ with his disciples. Champaigne’s attention to detail is evident in this piece, as he meticulously captures each disciple’s facial expression and body language, reflecting their emotional state during this momentous event. The painting’s composition, with the figures arranged in a semi-circle around the table, creates a sense of depth and dynamism. Champaigne’s skillful use of light and shadow further enhances the dramatic atmosphere of the scene.

The Last Supper
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

Significant praise was also given to Champaigne’s portrait paintings. His portrait of Cardinal Richelieu, which was finished about 1633, is one of note. Cardinal Richelieu served as Louis XIII’s senior minister and was a strong statesman. The cardinal’s dominating presence is expertly captured in Champaigne’s picture, which also conveys his wisdom and authority by adopting a restrained colour scheme and painstaking attention to detail. In this picture, the artist’s ability to depict textiles and textures is quite impressive.

Cardinal Richelieu
Courtesy: Wikipedia Commons

In addition to religious and portraiture works, Champaigne is also recognized for his series of paintings known as the “Ex-Voto” series. These paintings were commissioned as votive offerings by individuals to express gratitude for miraculous cures or escapes from danger. The “Ex-Voto” series often depicted scenes of suffering and redemption, showcasing Champaigne’s ability to convey powerful emotions. These works combine his technical prowess with a profound sense of spirituality and introspection.

Ex voto de 1662
Courtesy: Wikipedia commons

Flemish and Italian Baroque customs have had an impact on Champaigne’s style. He is influenced by Flemish painters like Peter Paul Rubens in terms of his rigorous attention to detail, deft handling of light and shadow, and restrained use of colour. At the same time, Caravaggio and other Italian painters, specifically, are evident in Champaigne’s compositions and emphasis on spiritual topics.

Presentación de Cristo en el templo
Courtesy: wikipedia commons

Champaigne’s paintings were distinguished by an atmosphere of serenity and reflection. He was a part of the Catholic reform movement known as the Jansenists, which placed a strong emphasis on moral rectitude and austerity. His paintings, which frequently emanate a sense of serenity and introspection, are clearly influenced by this. Philippe de Champaigne’s works are still regarded for their aesthetic appeal, technical skill, and capacity to arouse a sense of spirituality and emotional profundity. His status as one of the most important painters of his period is cemented by his contributions to French Baroque art, particularly in the genres of religious and portraits.



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