(Paris, 9 January 1590 – Paris, 30 June 1649)
Portrait of a Young Woman
Oil on canvas
The young woman in Simon Vouet’s painting turns her sweet, friendly gaze upon the viewer, her hand resting on her heart, the hint of a smile on her lips. Her head is slightly cocked, possibly a sign that she is engrossed in the booklet in front of her, or rather, as has been speculated in the past, because the artist has captured her in the instant in which she is about to start singing.
This painting reinterprets and renovates the mastery of 16th century Venetian painting, and is stylistically reminiscent of Paolo Veronese in the delicacy of the figure and the lavishness of the cloth and lace. Here the painter captures a face and a countenance which often recur in his works and are quite likely those of his wife, Virginia del Vezzo, or Vezzi, daughter of the painter Pompeo Vezzi and trained by her father in the trade. When Simon and Virginia met during his stay in Rome, Virginia was a student at Vouet’s drawing school in the capital. They fell in love, and were married in 1626. One year later they moved to France, to the court of Louis XIII. They had three children, one of whom followed in their footsteps.
Simon Vouet (Paris, 9 January 1590 – Paris, 30 June 1649) spent nearly twenty years in Italy, where he lived in Rome for quite a long time and visited several sites and cities, among which Venice and Genoa. When he arrived in the capital, he at first joined the Caravaggeschi, who were very popular at the time, embracing the naturalism and iconography of the genre derived from Caravaggio. He thus garnered the favour and the support of the Roman aristocracy, and worked extensively in the service of Cardinal Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII.
During his stay in Rome he met Virginia del Vezzo, the daughter of an artist and a painter herself, who became his disciple, model, and wife. In 1627 he returned with her to France and together they founded a drawing academy which was extremely successful. Vouet was nominated the official painter of King Louis XIII and was instrumental to the diffusion beyond the Alps of the Baroque style he had mastered in Italy.