An unexpected rediscovery

On 12 June 2019, by Caroline Legrand

Long out of sight in a private home near Pau, this painting by the Renaissance Troyes-born artist Nicolas Cordonnier opens up a new vein of research for specialists to explore and will undoubtedly trigger a fierce bidding war.

Nicolas Cordonnier, known as the Master of the Legend of the Santa Casa (active in Troyes from 1497 to 1531), Saint Vincent Ferrier Preaching, ca. 1515-1520, oil on oak panel, three vertical boards, 87.5 x 91 cm (detail).
Estimate: €10,000/15,000

Several decades ago, art historian Charles Sterling, the Louvre’s curator from 1929 to 1961, kept a photocopy of a photograph of Saint Vincent Ferrier Preaching in the "Burgundy-Champagne" section of the museum’s very rich archives. More recently, the Troyes Renaissance painting specialists Frédéric Elsig and Dominique Thiébaut gave this photograph prominent place in their publications. But nobody knew the whereabouts of this work until it was recently found near Pau. Its owners had no idea that they had one of the few works by one of Troyes’ leading early 16th-century artists in their possession. This was a key period in French painting, when artists began working in the Renaissance style. After some careful research, expert Patrice Dubois established the link with Cordonnier.

The first stirrings of a renewal
Cordonnier is also known as the Master of the Legend of the Santa Casa, the eponymous triptych at the Vauluisant Museum Troyes. He painted it around 1525-1530 for the Our Lady of Lorette chapel in Saint-Nicholas church, which was being restored after a fire. After an in-depth technical and stylistic analysis, in 2011 Frédéric Elsig from the University of Geneva established the connection between this work and Cordonnier, a very prominent artist in Champagne at the time. Born into a family of painters, Cordonnier made patterns for glassmakers, embroiderers, enamellers and sculptures while painting compositions for churches. Few paintings are attributed to him. One, the Announcement to the Virgin of Her Impending Death, is at the Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Art Museum in the United States. This panel opens up a new field of research for specialists. Its theme is the life of the Dominican preacher Vincent Ferrier, who travelled throughout France, Italy and Spain warning people that the end of the world was near in order to convert them to his faith.

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