By the Light of a Single Candle - The "Painter of the King" Georges de la Tour

13 March 1593, the French Baroque painter  Georges de la Tour was born in Vic-sur-Seille near Metz in Lorraine.

“I wonder if that's the reason insects are so fond of flying into candles - because they want to turn into Snap-dragon-flies!“ (Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking-Glass“) 

De La Tour’s “Fortune Teller”, between 1633 and ‘39, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

It was probably Caravaggio who came up with the idea of depicting a scene by the dramatic light of a single candle, late in the 16th century, when the Cinquecento drew to an end and his followers and emulators began to mushroom all over Europe, and some great ones even developed a very distinctive own style under the influence of the great Italian painter, when the Baroque school of painting began to emerge. Artemisia Gentileschi was one of them in Italy, the great Velázquez in Spain, van Honthorst and Rembrandt in the Netherlands and their use of hard contrasts between light and dark, the chiaroscuro, and the apparent three-dimensionality of their figures emerging from a non-descript background in often quite racy or glitzy religious contexts in an almost naturalistic vividness creates the appeal of Caravaggio’s legacy over the centuries. And the French “Painter of the King” Georges de La Tour was quite receptive in following the footsteps of colourful, larger than life Caravaggio, especially while painting the dregs of society in chiaroscuro.

Georges de la Tour: "The Musicians' Brawl" (1625 - 1630)

Born in a rather middle class environment in Lorraine, young de La Tour managed to study the arts and soaked up Caravaggio’s grasp of light and dark either in Italy or in the Netherlands among the Caravaggisti of the Utrecht school – and became a bit of an enfant terrible himself, besides his topics. After having achieved considerable success, with the Duke of Lorraine as well as King Louis XIII, whose peintre ordinaire he became, de La Tour set up shop in the Lorrainese town of Lunéville, the good people there complaint to the duke that George gave himself the airs of a lord, keeping a large pack of dogs, hunting hares through their fields, destroying their harvests and was involved in several brawls, just like his paragon, even though George died in his bed at the age of 61.

Georges de la Tour: "The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs" (late 1620s)

Forgotten after his death, de La Tour was rediscovered early in the 20th century, probably for the characteristic slight simplification of his otherwise quite naturalistic figures, giving his paintings a deceptively modernist appearance.

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