The Artist Simon Vouet

Born in 1590, the French painter Simon Vouet was influential for helping to propel the Italian Baroque style of painting into France. Among his illustrious patrons were the French King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. Today his best known works hang in the most prestigious art museums and galleries around the world.

Vouet received much of his training from his father who was also a painter. He was born in Paris and his brother, Aubin, also grew up to become a painter. With his early training, Vouet developed quickly into a fine portrait painter and was allowed to travel abroad to England and from thence to Venice and Rome where he was influenced by the art he studied. Vouet was particularly influenced by artists like Caravaggio and Paulo Veronese. He was additionally influenced the Italian Mannerism style.

Vouet’s stay in Italy, from 1613 to 1627, profoundly influenced his continued development as an artist. During this period in Italy the Baroque style began to emerge and Vouet became one its early devotees and later helped to advance the style through his native France. While in Italy Vouet was supported by a pension from the King of France. Additionally, he earned income through important Italian patrons such as Paolo Giordano Orsini, Cassiano dal Pozzo, and the Barberini family. He also traveled to other important cities of the Italian Peninsula like Bologna, Naples, and Genoa where he painted for the Doria princes.

Due to his great success in Rome, Vouet was elected the President of the Accademia di San Luca in 1624. Two years later he wed Virginia da Vezzo who had worked as a model for some of his religious works. After receiving a request to return to France in 1627, Vouet left Rome where he had garnered great prestige and fame. Upon his return Vouet was named the premier peintre du Roi. Vouet painted many works for the French king—several for the Palais du Louvre. Vouet also accepted private commissions where his art had a great impact on other French painters. Among the artists he influenced most are Pierre Mignard, Charles le Brun, and Abraham Willaerts.

Vouet died in 1649. Some of his most important works include a work of his daughter called Portrait of Angelique Vouet (1635-1638), Allegory of La Richesse (1630-1635), Hesselin Virgin and Child (date unknown), Sleeping Venus (1639-1640), Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (1641), Apollo and the Muses (1640), and Crucifixion (1622). During his career in France Vouet was also responsible for the decoration of illustrious residences like the Chateau de Malmaison.