Valentin de Boulogne
Abraham Sacrificing Isaac
Oil on canvas
Gift of Lord Strathcona and family
The dramatically innovative works of Caravaggio were an exciting source of inspiration for the impressionable young artists arriving in Rome from France and Holland in the early seventeenth century. Among the most talented and esteemed of them was Valentin de Boulogne. Valentin spent his entire brief career in Rome, his style enriched by exposure to such contemporaries as Saraceni, Honthorst and Ribera. His patrons included the eminent Cardinal Francesco Barberini. Abraham Sacrificing Isaac, one of Valentin’s last works, executed at the peak of his artistic powers, employs a rich Caravagesque chiaroscuro to underline the emotional intensity of this highly dramatic moment. Theologically prefiguring the sacrifice of Christ, the painting juxtaposes the passive acceptance by Isaac to his fate with the interruption of Abraham’s violent act by the descending angel. This large-scale masterpiece on canvas entered the great seventeenth-century collection of Cardinal Ascanio Filomarino after the artist’s death. Still not quite finished in its details, it fascinatingly reveals both the artist’s working method and the evolution of the final composition.