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Georges de La Tour


Adoration of the Shepherds

Adoration of the Shepherds , detail

Lamentation of St. Sebastian by Irene

Lamentation of St. Sebastian , detail

Lamentation of St. Sebastian by Irene

Penitent Mary Magdalene

Penitent Mary Magdalene

Penitent Mary Magdalene , detail

Penitent Mary Magdalene

Penitent Mary Magdalene , detail

Penitent St Jerome

Penitent St Jerome , detail

Penitent St Jerome , detail

Penitent St. Jerome , with a cardinal's hat

Penitent St. Jerome , with a cardinal's hat , detail

The good fate (The Fortune Teller)

The good fate detail

The good fate detail: Head of a Woman frontal

The good fate detail: woman head in profile

The newborn child ( birth Christi?)

The newborn child ( birth Christi?) , Detail

The Angel Appearing to St. Joseph in a dream

The Angel Appearing to St. Joseph in a dream , detail

The Angel Appearing to St. Joseph in a dream , detail

The cheaters , with the ace of spades

The cheaters , with the ace of spades , detail

The cheaters , with the ace of spades , Detail: Head of a Woman

The cheaters , with the ace of spades , detail : boy's head

The cheater , with cross -As

The cheater , with cross -As , detail

The cheater , with cross -As , detail

Repentance of St. Peter

Repentance of St. Peter , detail : Rooster

Ecstasy of St. Francis

The dice players

The dice players , detail : Young man frontal

The dice players , detail : Young man in profile

Woman with the Flea

Woman with the Flea, detail: candle

Ghironda Player ( Hurdy-Gurdy )

Ghironda player ( hurdy-gurdy ) , detail

Ghironda player with dog

Ghironda player with dog detail

Job and his wife
Job and his wife , Detail: woman in profile
Job and his wife , detail : Candle
St. James the Younger
St. Joseph as a carpenter
St. Joseph as a carpenter , detail
St. Joseph as a carpenter , detail
St. Joseph as a carpenter , detail
St. Jude Thaddeus
St. Philip
Boy blowing into a lamp
Portrait of an old woman ( old )
Portrait of an old man (age)
Brawl of Musicians
Brawl of Musicians, Detail: Old
Brawl of the musicians , detail : Knife
Brawl of the musicians , detail : Musician

Georges de La Tour (March 13, 1593 – January 30, 1652), was a painter, who spent most of his working life in the Duchy of Lorraine, which was absorbed into France between in 1641 and 1648, during his lifetime. He painted mostly religious chiaroscuro scenes lit by candlelight, and after centuries of posthumous obscurity, during the 20th century, he became one of the most highly regarded of French 17th-century Baroque artists.


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 reveal 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 travelled 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 absorbed into France, during his lifetime, in 1641. 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 in 1639–42, and may have travelled 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.

Hurdy-gurdy player, Nantes. By "the Hurdy-gurdy" master?, c.1624-1650, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
Dice-players, ca. 1651, probably his last work. Preston Hall Museum, Stockton-on-Tees, UK.

His 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. he started his work in the year 1597.

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]

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]

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 1935 an exhibition in Paris began the revival in interest among a wider public. In the twentieth century a number of his works were identified once more, and forgers tried to help meet the new demand; many aspects of his œuvre remain controversial among art historians.

In film

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

A reference to a work purportedly by de 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.

Galleries containing de La Tour's works

* Canada
o Art Gallery of Ontario, Musée des Beaux-Arts de l'Ontario, Toronto, Ontario
* France
o The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy in Nancy, former capital of Lorraine, has the largest collection.
o Musee du Louvre, Paris, and many provincial galleries (Nantes, Rennes etc).
o Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rennes
o Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes
o Museum of Grenoble
o Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon
o Musée de Bergues
o Musée d'Epinal
o Musée Toulouse Lautrec, Albi
o Musée Georges de La Tour, Vic-sur-Seille
* UK
o Preston Hall Museum in Stockton-on-Tees, England, has The Dice Players.
o Leicester's New Walk Museum holds 'The Choirboy'
o Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
o Getty Center, Los Angeles, California
o Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
o Frick, New York
o De Young, San Francisco
o National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
o Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
* Japan
o The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
* Germany
o Gemaldegalerie, Berlin
* Sweden
o Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

See also

* Tenebrism
* Joseph Wright of Derby


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


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

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