Iconography and Iconology of Georges De La Tour’s Religious Paintings (1624-1650)

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This is a semiotic study of the artist’s twenty-one religious paintings. Like the art historians Panofsky and Gombrich, the author is particularly interested in establishing La Tour’s intentions and meaning in his work by examining his personal use of symbols. The study interprets the paintings in terms of the artist’s religious, political, artistic, and geographical background. Its cross-disciplinary methodology identifies and synthesizes a wide range of elements that must have influenced the painter, elements which have not previously been seen in light of each other. It is also the most thorough recent analysis of his paintings. With color illustrations.


“… McClintock’s sensitive and systematic analysis of art as a mirror of religious thought is as refreshing as it is rare in this era of deconstructionism and hyper-specialization. McClintock does for de La Tour what Friedlaender did for Caravaggio a half century ago: he takes a major painter and, undeterred by the absence of any writings or comments by the artist himself, explores the area of meaning, interpretation, and illumination of religious themes in the context of the time and place of creation…..succeeds in offering a synthesis of art and theology, of painting and piety, that provides original and meaningful insights into the masterpieces by this much-beloved artist…. The effectiveness of McClintock’s methodology – his systematic exploration of style and content – is epitomized by his comparative analysis of the five ‘Magdalens’ by La Tour; he leads us through that favorite saint’s spiritual journey as he traces the artist’s subtle variations on a popular devotional theme of the Counter-Reformation…. McClintock’s rich, evocative study of Georges de La Tour as an artist in the service of faith effectively ties together all the visual details – binding meaning with illusion, intention with expression – so that we may gain a holistic sense of this holy art. It is no small achievement to shed new light on a master of light.” – Charles Scribner III, author of Rubens (Abrams, New York, 1989) and Bernini (1991).

“…a significant contribution to the current understanding of Georges de La Tour’s art…. fills a major lacuna. It builds upon the recent work of Choné and Conisbee but provides a more comprehensive, and synthetic view of the artist’s unique vision as a religious painter of stature outside of the major cultural centers of Paris and Rome. The applications of a Panofskian analysis to La Tour’s evocative series of Mary Magdalene’s, in which the traditional symbolism of the costumes and attributes are evaluated in terms of the artist’s special compositional and lighting effects, is particularly apposite…. Also include(s) some interesting observations about the role of Caravaggio and Bellange in La Tour’s development…. a fascinating and most readable monograph, which will be of interest to students as well as general readers.” – Dr. Edmund P. Pillsbury, Pillsbury and Peters Fine Art

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Preface by Charles Sala
1. Background for the Study of La Tour (La Tour’s Life and Career; Political and Religious Situations in Lorraine in the 17th Century)
2. Problems in the Study of La Tour
3. Iconography and Iconology
4. Remarks on La Tour’s Style
5. The Study of the Paintings:
The Apostle Series: Saint James the Lesser; Saint Thomas
The Church Fathers: Saint Jerome Reading
The Penitent Saints: The Penitent Saint Jerome; the Magdalene Series; Denial of Saint Peter; Tears of Saint Peter
The Holy Family: Adoration of the Shepherds; Education of the Virgin; Newborn Child; Christ with Saint Joseph in the Carpenter’s Shop; Dream of Saint Joseph
The Martyrs: Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene holding a Lantern; Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene holding a Torch
The Mystics: The Ecstasy of Saint Francis
Other Saints: Discovery of the Body of Saint Alexis; Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness
The Old Testament: Job Mocked by his Wife
Conclusion: La Tour’s Message
Bibliography; Index

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