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A woman stands in front of a landscape holding a book

This work is painted on a wooden panel shaped like a rectangle with a semicircle on top. A light-skinned woman stands on a patch of dirt. She is dressed in an orange robe with a long pink cloak. In her hands she holds a beige book, which she looks down into. Her cloak is tucked under her left arm, creating gathers and folds. Behind the woman is a bright landscape of green hills, trees, and a bright blue sky. Behind her head is a circular crowd with the sun peeking in just behind her head, giving her a bright halo.

Gallery Text

The Flemish master Philippe de Champaigne pursued a successful career in France, where he produced altarpieces, devotional images, and portraits, served as first painter to the queen, and was a founding member of the French Academy. The emotional restraint typical of the French classical tradition informs Champaigne’s two devotional pictures: The Virgin Mary, at right (1978.546), and Saint Joseph, at left (1978.545). Both are isolated against a softly lit landscape. Champaigne highlights Joseph’s divinity by replacing his carpentry tools, cast on the ground to his right, with a white lily, denoting the purity of Christ’s conception. Draped in a robe and veil of the same rich palette as her husband’s attire, the Virgin reads a book, which underscores her fidelity to scripture. Forming halos around their heads, the light shining through the clouds behind them reinforces their sacred status. The copper support, which concentrates and clarifies the colors, heightens this effect.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Philippe de Champaigne, French (Brussels 1602 - 1674 Paris)
The Virgin Mary
Work Type
c. 1650
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2400, European Art, 17th century, Rome and Its Influence in the Seventeenth Century
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on copper
63.2 x 37.1 cm (24 7/8 x 14 5/8 in.)
framed: 84.5 x 59.5 cm (33 1/4 x 23 7/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Anonymous sale, Paris (March 14-15, 1836). Private Collection, France. [Wildenstein & Co, Inc., New York, NY, sold]; to Fogg Art Museum, 1978.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Colonel C. Michael Paul Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Pierre Rosenberg, France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-Century French Paintings in American Collections, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 1982), p. 348, fig. 11
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 102, fig. no. 220
  • Bernard Dorival, Supplément au catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre de Philippe de Champaigne, Léonce Laget (Paris, 1992), p. 61, fig. 46
  • Elena V. Shabliy, ed., Representations of the Blessed Virgin Mary in World Literature and Art, Lexington Books (Lanham, Maryland, 2017), repr. on p. xiii

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2400 French/Italian/Spanish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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