Paintings | 16th Century | Valentin Lefèvre | Dinner at the House of the Pharisee | Artwork profile

115 x 161,5 cm
Oil on canvas



Dinner at the House of the Pharisee

Valentin Lefèvre

The subject

This work depicts an incident in the life of Christ described in the New Testament:


 “…Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him. So he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner." (Luke 7:36-39)


Mary Magdalene is identified here as the repenting sinner, even if in the aforementioned text she is not revealed by name. Further proof of this is the woman’s hairstyle: her hair is left falling loose over her shoulders which was a symbol of wantonness and common among the prostitutes of the time (in contrast the other women present in the scene who have their hair pulled back instead).

The painting
Claudio Strinati attributed this work to a master of the French style, with instruction from Poussin (in particular in compositional structure) and strong influences from the spatial composition of Veronese. This work displays the foundations of that blend of the French and Italian schools of painting which soon after would develop into Neoclassical Art. Davide Dotti (written communication on 9 December 2009) focuses upon the figure of the painter, Valentin Lefèvre, an artist of Nordic origins (born in 1642 in Brussels) who lived in Venice for the majority of his short life. His work blends the diverse cultural characteristics that defined Venice in the 17th century: refined 16th century classicism combined with Flemish precision. Comparing this piece with Lefèvre’s other works suggests that the painting dates from around 1670.