Object Image

The Mass of St. Gregory

According to his long-time friend and biographer, Michel-François Dandré-Bardon (1700 - 1783), Carle Vanloo received the prestigious commission for the vault of the church of Saint-Louis des Invalides in 1762. The chapel was initially decorated by Michel Corneille (1642 - 1708) with paintings of the same subject; however, by the mid- eighteenth century the panels were heavily damaged by humidity and needed to be replaced. Vanloo was the logical choice, having been named Premier peintre du roi this same year and having already proved himself worthy of monumental religious painting in his series of canvases for the choir of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Paris (executed 1746 - 1755). Vanloo borrowed nothing from Corneille and even changed the subjects, giving them a more fluid, narrative style. Vanloo was certainly familiar with Corneille's paintings, for they were engraved by Charles Nicolas Cochin the Elder (1686 - 1754) in 1736. Futhermore, Vanloo cut his sheets and pasted them on top of Cochin's engravings so that they would serve as sculptural frames to his own compositions. In all six sheets, passages of Cochin's burin work are still visible- not entirely covered by Vanloo's compositions. The series was further perfected in seven oil sketches, which were displayed in the Salon of 1765. Vanloo's creation never came to fruition, for he died of a heart attack on July 15, 1765. His pupil, Gabriel-François Doyen, ultimately executed the series, leaving virtually no trace of Vanloo's invention. (Esther Bell 4/25/2007)

Credit: Harry G. Sperling Fund, 1977

18th century
Pen and brown ink, brown and gray wash, heightened with white.
19.7 x 13.9cm
Image and text © Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Permanent collection