The Pontifical Mass
Oil on copper
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The highly individualized faces of the six ecclesiastics processing toward an altar indicate that they must be portraits. The third man from the left has been identified as the famous cleric Jean-Pierre Camus, based on Philippe de Champaigne’s portrait of him with his distinctive bulbous nose, which even he poked fun at. Supremely devoted to the needy, Camus centered his charitable work at the Hôpital des Incurables, located in the same Parisian neighborhood where the Le Nains lived. Although the elaborately embroidered scene on the bishop’s chasuble is difficult to decipher, that of the deacon holding the Gospel who stands beside him shows a bishop with a slain dragon at his feet. This must be Saint Romanus, one of Rouen’s patron saints, famous for saving the city from a murderous dragon that stalked its marshes. Camus was appointed vicar-general of Rouen in 1646, and the painting could commemorate that event.
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