The Old Cathedral, Interior

I already discussed the copy of the Velázquez two days ago, so we’re going to go around the church and look at some of the other works of art in the newly refurbished interior of the Old Cathedral. While the high altarpiece Crucifixion is not one of them, many of the others are gifts of various kings of France whose patron saint was St. Louis.

The Sculpture of St. Joan of Arc is still in the sanctuary, but it has been moved from its location where it could be seen in the photograph from 1940 that we saw two days ago. Also, if it is in fact the same sculpture, its later polychrome paint scheme has been removed. She is a logical inclusion since she is the female patron saint of France.

Likewise, St. Joseph holding the Christ Child is an ubiquitous composition in the majority of Catholic churches, and the Old Cathedral is no different. It seems the original dedication of St. Joseph and Mary for the West and East chapels are now removed, and dedicated to two other saints.

In the west chapel is an altar dedicated to St. Bartholomew, one of the original twelve Apostles, and who was martyred by being flayed alive. It was a popular subject matter in Catholic Reformation art.

A gift in 1818 of Louis XVIII (yes, the Bourbons regained power after Napoleon for a little while), the painting is the work of a late French Baroque painter named Nicholas Bertin. It shows the influence of Italian tenebrism, and also the the work of Nicholas Poussin, a Seventeenth Century Classicist who worked for much of his career in Italy. Poussin’s work, the Martyrdom of St. Erasmus, where the saint was killed by having his intestines pulled from his body by a capstan, was originally in St. Peter’s Basilica. I first mistook the Berthel work for St. Erasmus, for the notable placement of a capstan; but it is clearly St. Bartholomew due to the executioner cutting at the saint’s arm and not his abdomen! I am actually wondering if the painter started the composition as a St. Erasmus and then changed it to a St. Bartholomew.

On the other side, where we saw two days ago was a chapel dedicated to St. Mary, is now an altar piece dedicated to St. Louis IX of France.

Depicting the saint king kneeling before an altar with the Crown of Thorns, which he brought back from the Holy Land, it is the work of Charles-Antoine Coypel, another one of the gifts from Louis XVIII to Bishop Louis DuBourg. It dates from 1751, at a time when the Rococo was still in vogue in France. The altar below still contains Marian imagery.

This is a top-notch painting, as are the others given by Louis XVIII; they are by famous artists and are of considerable value today.

Update: Thanks to longtime reader Bob Shea, the following painting has been identified as a high quality copy of The Hospitality of St. Julian by Italian Baroque painter Cristofano Allori from 1615 on display in the Pitti Palace, which was the last residence of the Medici family after they had become the Archdukes of Tuscany. The St. Louis version is an exemplary copy after the original work. I’m sure this was another work in the gift from Louis XVIII.

This next painting hangs between two windows, so there’s a bit of a glare on it, but it’s another high quality work that probably dates to the late Seventeenth Century. I did not see a label or other explanation of who the artist is. I do not know the subject either. The boatman’s pose on the left is famous, and comes from other paintings in the early 1600s.

This final painting is in the Italian Mannerist style, and is probably from Rome or Florence in the early to mid-Sixteenth Century, influenced by the painter Raphael. You can see in this famous work by Raphael how the artist of our work copied the temple in the background. The Mannerist style developed on the heals of the great works of Michelangelo and Raphael in Rome, and is typified by elongated bodies and light colors, like we see below. I do not know the story of where the composition below comes from, which is a St. Mary, Christ and St. John the Baptist.

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