Resurrection of the Son of the Widow of Nain
Artists: Eustache Le Sueur
Canvas, 210 x 1 35 cm
Eglise Saint-Roch a Paris, France
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Eustache Le Sueur was born in Paris, France on November 19, 1617. His father, Cathelin Le Sueur, was a wood sculptor who put his son under the apprenticeship of Simon Vuoet. From an early age it was evident that he was a great painter and so he was admitted at a young age to the guild of master painters in Paris but he soon left them to establish the Academie Royale de Peinture (painting and sculpture academy), at which he was one of the first twelve professors.
His reproduction of illustrations from the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Poliphilo’s Strife of Love in a Dream) got the attention of the general public and he gained even more fame from a series of decorations that he did in the Lambert de Thorigny’s mansion. These decorations were left unfinished because Le Sueur was continually interrupted by other commissions and projects. His style is said to be largely influenced by Pouissons, Vouet, and Raphael.
Sometimes Le Sueur is referred to as the “French Raphael.” He regretted not going to Italy to study Italian art, but he did study the Raphael works which were available to him in the Royal Collection. Towards the end of his life he showed signs of great influence from Raphael.
Le Sueur’s Resurrection of the Son of the Widow of Nain is in the French classical baroque style. Comparatively to Italian Baroque, French Baroque is much lighter in color usage and more optimistic. Le Sueur paints Luke 7:11 – 16 in the middle of the action as the son of the widow sits up and peers out from under the sheets. Le Sueur used very bright and vibrant colors in his painting, signifying the joyous moment when the widow was no longer alone. He makes Jesus the focal point of the work by distinguishing His wardrobe in a dramatic blue and pink shade that contrasts with the oranges and yellows of those surrounding Him. The dramatic and emotional style of the Baroque era is evident in Le Seur’s interpretation of Luke 7:11-16 because of the combination of shock and relief apparent on the faces of the witnesses, the resurrected son in particular. As the resurrected son peeks out from under the white sheets (which symbolize his new found purity and salvation), the first face that he sees is that of Jesus Christ. Le Sueur positioned the man so that the first face that he saw after he was brought back from death was the face of his savior, which is symbolic of the eternal life that we find in Jesus Christ. Luke 7:16 says that “God had visited his people.” All of the witnesses knew this now. They were in the presence of their living God; the angels watching the scene unfold overhead are a symbolic of the power that Jesus possessed. He had just healed the son of the widow and through this action the people believed that he truly was the son of God and would follow him and be saved.