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Charles Poerson

The Nativity


Charles Poerson
Vic-sur-Seille, France, 1609 – Paris 1667


The Nativity


About 1655


Oil on canvas


54 x 64.3 cm


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, inv. 2008.44


Western Art

Poerson moved to Paris to enter the most advanced and prosperous studio in France, that of Vouet which profoundly influenced him. Poerson received numerous commissions for religious works, as well as for large secular, mythological, and historical decoration cycles. He also became a specialist in designing cartoons for tapestries, the most famous being a cycle entitled Life of the Virgin. The tapestries, produced by Pierre Damour of Reims over the course of more than a decade and among the most important of the age in France, were created to decorate the choir of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Begun in 1638 by the painters Philippe de Champaigne and Stella, in 1652 Poerson was commissioned to complete the cycle. For the vast enterprise of the Life of the Virgin, Poerson left much documentation, including preparatory drawings, cartoons and small paintings which preceded the cartoons for the tapestries. The success of the small paintings apparently encouraged him to produce both replicas and variants of many of the compositions for private collectors, such as this one. Poerson clearly was profoundly influenced by Vouet’s 1639 altarpiece La Nativité aux anges. This painting belonged to Michel Le Masle, secretary to Cardinal Richelieu and canon and cantor at Notre-Dame.

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