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Laurent de la Hyre

(1606–1656, Paris)

The Conversion of Paul. Etching. 41.8 x 30.6 cm. Robert-Dumesnil 16 I (of III), Pierre Rosenberg/Jacques Thuillier, Laurent de la Hyre 1606–1656: L’homme et l’oeuvre, Geneva 1988, no. 138 I (of IV). Watermark: Grapes with countermark.

Laurent de La Hyre made a name for himself in his native Paris in the first half of the 17th century above all as a painter of religious and mythological scenes, although he also took an interest early on in printmaking and left an exquisite oeuvre of high-quality etchings. After studying in Fontainebleau he was active for a while in Paris in the flourishing studio run by Georges Lallemand.

In 1637 de La Hyre received an important commission from the guild of Parisian goldsmiths. Every year from 1630 to 1707 the guild donated a monumental painting to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame on the first of May in honour of the Virgin Mary. De La Hyre thus joined the list of painters of these “grands Mays”, as they were called. His Conversion of Paul (oil on canvas, 340 x 220 cm) is thus one of the earliest donations of this kind and has remained in the cathedral almost without interruption ever since, being hung most recently in St. Anne’s Chapel. The artist naturally wished to propagate this prestigious work by other means and so shortly after completing the painting he made an etching of the same motif. Unusually large for de La Hyre at first sight, it is distinguished by its exceptionally fine linework and meticulous execution. The scene has diagonals crossing in different directions and radiates a tremendous dynamism. The work can undoubtedly be regarded as de La Hyre’s masterpiece. The fact that he succeeded in expressing this biblical theme in such exemplary fashion not only in oils but also with a delicate etching needle serves as proof of his abundant talent.

A superb, nuanced and crisp early impression before the address of Herman Weyen, with even margins. A tiny pinhole top left, other minor traces of ageing and handling, otherwise in excellent condition. From the “Würtemberg” collection, Danzig (Lugt 2606).

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