Georges de La Tour

Georges de La Tour (March 13, 1593 – January 30, 1652) was a French Baroque painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was temporarily absorbed into France between 1641 and 1648. He painted mostly religious chiaroscuro scenes lit by candlelight.

Personal life

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The Penitent Magdalene, 1625–1650, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Georges de La Tour was born in the town of Vic-sur-Seille in the Diocese of Metz, which was technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, but had been ruled by France since 1552. Baptism documentation revealed that he was the son of Jean de La Tour, a baker, and Sybille de La Tour, née Molian. It has been suggested that Sybille came from a partly noble family.[1] His parents had seven children in all, with Georges being the second-born.

La Tour's educational background remains somewhat unclear, but it is assumed that he traveled either to Italy or the Netherlands early in his career. He may possibly have trained under Jacques Bellange in Nancy, the capital of Lorraine, although their styles are very different. His paintings reflect the Baroque naturalism of Caravaggio, but this probably reached him through the Dutch Caravaggisti of the Utrecht School and other Northern (French and Dutch) contemporaries. In particular, La Tour is often compared to the Dutch painter Hendrick Terbrugghen.[2]

In 1617 he married Diane Le Nerf, from a minor noble family, and in 1620 he established his studio in her quiet provincial home-town of Lunéville, part of the independent Duchy of Lorraine which was occupied by France, during his lifetime, in the period 1641–1648. He painted mainly religious and some genre scenes. He was given the title "Painter to the King" (of France) in 1638, and he also worked for the Dukes of Lorraine in 1623–4, but the local bourgeoisie provided his main market, and he achieved a certain affluence. He is not recorded in Lunéville between 1639 and 1642, and may have traveled again; Anthony Blunt detected the influence of Gerrit van Honthorst in his paintings after this point. He was involved in a Franciscan-led religious revival in Lorraine, and over the course of his career he moved to painting almost entirely religious subjects, but in treatments with influence from genre painting.[2]

Georges de La Tour and his family died in 1652 in an epidemic in Lunéville. His son Étienne (born 1621) was his pupil.


Georges de La Tour (atelier) Saint Jerome lisant Musee Lorrain
Saint Jerome reading

La Tour's early work shows influences from Caravaggio, probably via his Dutch followers, and the genre scenes of cheats—as in The Fortune Teller—and fighting beggars clearly derive from the Dutch Caravaggisti, and probably also his fellow-Lorrainer, Jacques Bellange. These are believed to date from relatively early in his career.

La Tour is best known for the nocturnal light effects which he developed much further than his artistic predecessors had done, and transferred their use in the genre subjects in the paintings of the Dutch Caravaggisti to religious painting in his. Unlike Caravaggio his religious paintings lack dramatic effects. He painted these in a second phase of his style, perhaps beginning in the 1640s, using chiaroscuro, careful geometrical compositions, and very simplified painting of forms. His work moves during his career towards greater simplicity and stillness—taking from Caravaggio very different qualities than Jusepe de Ribera and his Tenebrist followers did.[2]

Georges de La Tour - Rixe de musiciens - Google Art Project
Brawl, (Hurdy-gurdy group), c. 1625–1630, Getty Museum

He often painted several variations on the same subjects, and his surviving output is relatively small. His son Étienne was his pupil, and distinguishing between their work in versions of La Tour's compositions is difficult. The version of the Education of the Virgin in the Frick Collection in New York is an example, as the Museum itself admits. Another group of paintings (example left), of great skill but claimed to be different in style to those of La Tour, have been attributed to an unknown "Hurdy-gurdy Master". All show older male figures (one group in Malibu includes a female), mostly solitary, either beggars or saints.[3]

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Dice-players, c. 1651, probably his last work. Preston Hall Museum, Stockton-on-Tees, UK.

After his death at Lunéville in 1652, La Tour's work was forgotten until rediscovered by Hermann Voss, a German scholar, in 1915; some of La Tour's work had in fact been confused with Vermeer, when the Dutch artist underwent his own rediscovery in the nineteenth century.

In film

Director Peter Greenaway has described La Tour's work as a primary influence on his 1982 film The Draughtsman's Contract.

Job Mocked by His Wife by La Tour appears in the 2003 Francis Veber film Le Dîner de Cons.

A reference to a work purportedly by La Tour is featured prominently in the 2003 Merchant Ivory film Le Divorce.

Magdalene with the Smoking Flame (not Penitent Magdalene) is the painting in Ariel's grotto she longingly motions toward when she yearns to know about fire while singing "Part of Your World" in Disney's 1989 film The Little Mermaid.


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Job Mocked by his Wife, c. 1625–1650

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The Dream of St. Joseph, c. 1628–1645, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes

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St Sebastian tended by St Irene, 1649, Parish Broglie France

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Nativity, 1644, Louvre

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The denial of Saint Peter, 1651

Georges de La Tour L'Education de la Vierge The Frick Collection

The education of the Virgin

Georges de La Tour - Smoker

The smoker

Femme à la puce, Georges de la Tour

The Flea-Catcher

Georges de La Tour Saint Andre collection privee

Saint Andrew

Georges de La Tour - The Repentant Magdalen - Google Art Project

The Repentant Magdalen

Georges de La Tour - The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs - Google Art Project

The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs, c. late 1620s, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. Another version (with Diamonds and slightly different clothes) is in the Louvre.

Ciego tocando la zanfonía (Georges de La Tour)

The Hurdy-Gurdy Player, c. 1610–1630, Prado Museum

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Portrait of an Old Man, c. 1624–1650, De Young Museum, San Francisco

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Portrait of an Old Woman, c. 1624–1650, De Young Museum, San Francisco

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St Jerome, c. 1630–1632, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Galleries containing La Tour's works

See also


  1. ^ [1] Crissy Bergeron Thesis – page 7, and note 4, quoting Thuillier p.19
  2. ^ a b c Anthony Blunt, "Art and Architecture in France, 1500–1700", 1953, Penguin
  3. ^ Wright, 35, 44–46


  • Le Floch, Jean-Claude. La Tour, Le Clair et L'Obscur, Herscher, 1995.
  • Le Floch, Jean-Claude. Le signe de contradiction : essai sur Georges de La Tour et son oeuvre, Presses Universitaires de Rennes 2, 1995.
  • Thuilier, Jacques. Georges de La Tour, Flammarion, 1992.
  • Wright, Christopher. The Art of the Forger, 1984, Gordon Fraser, London. ISBN 0-86092-081-X.

External links

Albi Apostles

The Albi Apostles was a c.1620 set of thirteen paintings of Christ and his apostles by Georges de La Tour. Around 1690 they were bought by Jean-Baptiste Nualard, a canon of Albi Cathedral, for one of the cathedral's chapels. However, they were split up after 1795 and only five of the works survive, two at the musée Toulouse-Lautrec (with copies of the lost paintings), two more in private collections and one at the Chrysler Museum of Art.

Joseph the Carpenter

Joseph the Carpenter is an oil painting by Georges de La Tour created circa 1645. The painting depicts a young Jesus with Saint Joseph, his earthly father.Joseph drills a piece of wood with an auger. The shape of the auger reflects the shape of the Cross and the geometry of the wood arrayed on the floor, set cross-wise to the seated child Christ, is a foreshadowing of the crucifixion. John Rupert Martin writes that Jesus' patience represents "filial obedience and the acceptance of his destiny as martyr".This painting, created around the year 1645 is one of several tenebrist paintings by La Tour. Others include The Education of the Virgin, the Penitent Magdalene, and The Dream of St. Joseph. In all these works, a single, strong light source is a central element, surrounded by cast shadows. In both Joseph the Carpenter and The Education of the Virgin, the young Christ is represented, hand raised, as if in benediction, with the candlelight shining through the flesh as an allegorical reference to Christ as the "Light of the World."

Louis XIII style

The Louis XIII style or Louis Treize was a fashion in French art and architecture, especially affecting the visual and decorative arts. Its distinctness as a period in the history of French art has much to do with the regency under which Louis XIII began his reign (1610–1643). His mother and regent, Marie de' Medici, imported mannerism from her homeland of Italy and the influence of Italian art was to be strongly felt for several decades.

Louis XIII-style painting was influenced from the north, through Flemish and Dutch Baroque, and from the south, through Italian mannerism and early Baroque. Schools developed around Caravaggio and Peter Paul Rubens. Among the French painters who blended Italian mannerism with a love of genre scenes were Georges de La Tour, Simon Vouet, and the Le Nain brothers. The influence of the painters on subsequent generations, however, was minimised by the rise of classicism under Nicolas Poussin and his followers.

Louis XIII architecture was equally influenced by Italian styles. The greatest French architect of the era, Salomon de Brosse, designed the Palais du Luxembourg for Marie de' Medici. De Brosse began a tradition of classicism in architecture that was continued by Jacques Lemercier, who completed the Palais and whose own most famous work of the Louis XIII period is the chapel of the Sorbonne (1635). Under the next generation of architects, French Baroque would take an even greater classical shift.

Furniture of the period was typically large and austere.

Magdalene at a Mirror

Magdalene at a Mirror or Penitent Magdalene is a c.1635-1640 oil on canvas painting by Georges de la Tour. It passed from the Marquise de Caulaincourt to the Comtesse d'Andigné in 1911, before being bought in 1936 by André Fabius - it is sometimes known as The Fabius Magdalene as a result. It was then unattributed but Louvre experts attributed it to de la Tour in 1937. Fabius could not find a buyer in France and so in 1964 sold it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where it still hangs, though this caused a legal case since Fabius had not sought an export licence to remove the work from France.

Magdalene with Two Flames

Magdalene with Two Flames or The Wrightsman Magdalene' is an undated work by the French painter Georges de La Tour. In 1978 Mr and Mrs Charles Wrightsman gave it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it still hangs.

Magdalene with the Smoking Flame

Magdalene with the Smoking Flame (also titled in French La Madeleine à la veilleuse, and La Madeleine à la flamme filante) is an oil-on-canvas depiction of Mary Magdalenee by French Baroque painter Georges de La Tour, painted in 1640. Two versions of this painting exist, one in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the other in the Louvre Museum (La Madeleine a la veilleuse).

Mimara Museum

The Mimara Museum (Croatian: Muzej Mimara) is an art museum in the city of Zagreb, Croatia. It is situated on Roosevelt Square, housing the collection by Wiltrud and Ante Topić Mimara. Its full official name is the Art Collection of Ante and Wiltrud Topić Mimara.

According to Thomas Hoving, "Topic Mimara's hoard of masterpieces are 95 percent fakes produced by him and his hired forgers."Of the total of 3,700 varied works of art, more than 1,500 exhibits constitute permanent holdings, dating from the prehistoric period up to the 20th century. Some of the most famous exhibits include works by Lorenzetti, Giorgione, Veronese, Canaletto, 60 paintings by the Dutch masters Van Goyen, Ruisdael, 50 works by the Flemish masters Van der Weyden, Bosch, Rubens, Van Dyck, more than 30 by the Spanish masters Velázquez, Murillo, Goya, some 20 paintings by the German masters Holbein, Liebermann, Leibl, some 30 paintings by the English painters Gainsborough, Turner, Bonington and more than 120 paintings by the French masters Georges de La Tour, Boucher, Chardin, Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Renoir, Degas. The drawings collection holds some 200 drawings by Bronzino, Guardi, Claude Lorrain, Le Brun, Oudry, Greuze, Géricault, and Friesz.

The museum was opened in 1987. The building itself originates from the 19th century, its conversion to a museum overseen by a Zagreb architect Kuno Waidmann; originally it served as a gymnasium.

Saint Jerome at Prayer (Georges de La Tour)

St Jerome at Prayer is a 1630-1635 painting by Georges de La Tour. He produced it for the abbey of Saint Antoine a Viennois, but it was confiscated by the state on the French Revolution and is now in the Museum of Grenoble. An autograph copy with some variations was produced sometime before 1642 and is now in the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.

Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene (Georges de La Tour, Gemäldegalerie)

Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene is a c.1634-1643 oil on canvas painting of Saint Sebastian having his wounds tended by Saint Irene, which suddenly became a popular subject in the 1620s. It is now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.It was previously thought to be the original composition of the subject by Georges de La Tour, but that is now thought to be the version of the work in the Louvre, with the Berlin work being a copy by his son Etienne with some retouching by Georges.

Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene (Georges de La Tour, Louvre)

Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene is a c.1649 painting by Georges de La Tour. It is the largest known painting by the artist and his most ambitious composition. It was rediscovered in 1945 in the parish church of Bois-Anzeray and acquired by the société des amis du Louvre for the Louvre in 1979 as inventory number R.F. 1979-53.A second version is held in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin - it was long held to be the original work until being compared with the Louvre work in 1972 at an exhibition of the artist's work at the Orangerie des Tuileries. The Berlin work is now considered to be a studio copy - Jacques Thuillier has attributed it to Georges' son Étienne de La Tour with retouching by Georges.It is thought the painter sent the first version to Charles IV of Lorraine (1604-1675) in 1633, before painting a second version for Louis XIII of France, who liked it so much that he hung it alone in a room. A third version was also painted for the governor of Nancy in 1649. There are copies in Ruan, the chapel in Bois-Anzeray and the church in Broglie.

The Adoration of the Shepherds (de la Tour)

The Adoration of the Shepherds is a 1644 oil on canvas painting by Georges de La Tour, now in the Louvre Museum. It was bought it in 1926.

The Card Sharp with the Ace of Diamonds

The Card Sharp with the Ace of Diamonds is a painting produced around 1636-1638 by Georges de La Tour, now in the Louvre, which bought it in 1972. Though its commissioner is unknown, it is signed Georgius De La Tour fecit under the card sharp's elbow and in the shadow of the tablecloth.

The Fortune Teller (de La Tour)

The Fortune Teller is an oil painting of circa 1630 by the French artist Georges de La Tour. The work was uncovered in about 1960 and purchased that year by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. François Georges Pariset described the painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, attributing it to La Tour—a likely choice given the calligraphic signature at top right: "G. de La Tour Fecit Luneuilla Lothar" ("G[eorges] de La Tour made this, Lunéville, Lorraine"). Its authenticity has been questioned in the intervening years, notably by the English art historian Christopher Wright, but The Fortune Teller is generally accepted as La Tour's work. The artist is better known for his chiaroscuro religious compositions, in which the figures are illuminated by a single light source and lack the elaborate costume detail of The Fortune Teller's characters.

The painting catches a moment in which a young man of some wealth is having his fortune told by the old woman at right; she takes the coin from his hand, not only in payment, but as part of the ritual in which she will cross his hand with it. Most or all of the women portrayed are gypsies, and, furthering the stereotype of the time, they are depicted as thieves. As the young man is engrossed in the fortune-telling—an act which, if discovered, would have repercussions for both him and the gypsies—the leftmost woman is stealing the coin purse from his pocket, while her companion in profile has a hand ready to receive the loot. The pale-faced girl on the boy's left is less clearly a gypsy, but is also in on the act as she cuts a medal worn by the boy from its chain. The figures in the painting are close together, as if in a play, and the composition may have been influenced by a theatrical scene.

The modern discovery of the painting is said to be traced to a French prisoner of war who viewed La Tour's works in a monograph and found a likeness with a painting hung in a relative's castle. A knowledgeable priest identified it as a La Tour work and informed the Louvre, which entered negotiations to buy the painting. The art dealer Georges Wildenstein outbid the museum, however, purchasing the painting in 1949 for 7.5 million francs. For a decade it remained with the dealer, until in 1960 the Metropolitan Museum of Art paid an undisclosed but "very high sum of money" for The Fortune Teller. How the painting had been able to leave France became a matter of controversy in the French press, and the writer André Malraux, then French Minister of Culture, attempted to explain to the National Assembly why the work did not end up in the Louvre. It later emerged that the export licence was signed by the art historian Germain Bazin, who was head of old master paintings at the Louvre; Wright speculates that he had sufficient doubt about the work not to want it for the Louvre.

The Hurdy-Gurdy Player

The Hurdy-Gurdy Player (French - Le Vielleur) is an oil on canvas painting by Georges de La Tour. The artist neither signed nor dated it, but it was produced in the first phase of his career, probably between 1620 and 1625. It is also known as The Hurdy-Gurdy Player in a Hat (Le Vielleur au chapeau) or The Hurdy-Gurdy Player with a Fly (Le Vielleur à la mouche). It is now in the musée d'Arts de Nantes.

The Hurdy-Gurdy Player with a Dog

The Hurdy-Gurdy Player with a Dog is an oil on canvas painting by the French artist Georges de La Tour (1593-1652), now in the musée du Mont-de-Piété de Bergues. It belongs to his early period and forms part of a set of works on the same subject, which also includes The Hurdy-Gurdy Player. He is also featured in The Musicians' Brawl.

The Musicians' Brawl

The Musicians' Brawl is an oil on canvas painting by the French artist Georges de La Tour, produced at an unknown date between 1620 and 1630. Previously attributed to Caravaggio, the work was in Lord Trevor's collection by 1928. It was reattributed to de la Tour in 1958 by Charles Sterling and Francois-Georges Pariset and sold in 1972. Its present owner the J. Paul Getty Museum acquired it in 1973.

The Newborn Child

The Newborn Child is a 1645-1648 oil on canvas painting by Georges de la Tour, now in the Museum of Fine Arts of Rennes in France. It is sometimes thought to be a representation of the Madonna and Child (with the left-hand woman as St Anne) in the form of a genre scene - it is thus also known as The Nativity.

Utrecht Caravaggism

Utrecht Caravaggism (Dutch: Utrechtse caravaggisten) refers to those Baroque artists, all distinctly influenced by the art of Caravaggio, who were active mostly in the Dutch city of Utrecht during the first part of the seventeenth century.[1]Painters such as Dirck van Baburen, Gerrit van Honthorst, Hendrick ter Brugghen, Jan van Bijlert and Matthias Stom were all in Rome in the 1610s, a time when the tenebroso of Caravaggio's later style was very influential. Adam Elsheimer, also in Rome at the same time, was probably also an influence on them. Back in Utrecht, they painted mythological and religious history subjects and genre scenes, such as the card-players and gypsies that Caravaggio himself had abandoned in his later career. Utrecht was the most Catholic city in the United Provinces, still about 40% Catholic in the mid-17th century, and even more among the elite groups, who included many rural nobility and gentry with town houses there. It had previously been the main centre, after Haarlem, of Northern Mannerist painting in the Netherlands. Abraham Bloemaert, who had been a leading figure in this movement, and taught the Honthursts and many other artists, also was receptive to the influence of his pupils, and changed his style many times before his death in 1651.

The brief flourishing of Utrecht Caravaggism ended around 1630. At that time, major artists had either died, as in the case of Baburen and ter Brugghen, or had changed style, like Honthorst's shift to portraiture and history scenes informed by the Flemish tendencies popularized by Peter Paul Rubens and his followers. They left a legacy, however, through their influence on Rembrandt's use of chiaroscuro and Gerrit Dou's "niche paintings" (a genre popularized by Honthorst).

Along with other Caravaggisti active in Italy and Woerden, they set the stage for later artists who worked in a Caravaggesque-inspired manner such as Georges de La Tour in Lorraine and Jan Janssens in Ghent.


Vic-sur-Seille (German: Wich) is a commune in the Moselle department in Grand Est in north-eastern France.

Georges de La Tour
Dutch Caravaggisti
Flemish Caravaggisti
French Caravaggisti
Italian Caravaggisti
Spanish Caravaggisti

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