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

115 x 161,5 cm
Oil on canvas


Artwork profile

Dinner at the House of the Pharisee

Valentin Lefèvre

The Expertise

Already at a first inspection it appears clear that this picture is from a painter working in the heart of the 17th century – the extremely emphatic pictorial handling in the description of the drapery and the chromatically intense palette do not leave any doubts – who grew up studying the great Venetian masterpieces of the 16th century, admiring namely the grand “Dinners” with scenographic architectonic backdrops painted by Paolo Veronese which, at the time, were on display in the most important churches of Venice. Furthermore, some formal features like the figures’ strong physiognomic characterization, the peculiar iridescences that turn to bright yellow, the purplish tunic of the Magdalene and calligraphic precision with which the food on the table is described, lead to think of a Northern painter, most probably Flemish. And, in mid 17th century Venice, the artist who summarised best all these different cultural elements (Veronese and the refined 16th century Classicism on one side, the Flemish accuracy on the other) was beyond any doubt Valentin Lefèvre. Born in 1642 in Brussels, the master moved to the Lagoon already towards the end of the 1650s – as certified by his being attested in 1644 in the church of the Serviti di San Francesco della Vigna to study Veronese’s masterpieces – and there he lived and worked for the rest of his life. This canvas, in excellent state of preservation, is to be considered as one of the highest achievements of the artist, a significant unedited painting that stands as a relevant addition to Lefèvre’s scanty catalogue whose body, to the present day, is made of fifty original works. In fact, he prematurely died in Venice in 1677 at the age of 35. This work should therefore be dated to the year 1670, as suggested by the comparison with several more or less contemporary canvases by Lefèvre, such as the pair of paintings in the Civic Museum of Bassano with “Achilles amongst the Daughters of Lycomedes” and the “Transportation of the Wounded Marc Anthony”, where it recurs the idea of the architectonic wings covered in light and the columns exceeding in height the pictorial field so to suggest an expanded spatiality; the “Paul and Barnabas at Lystra” in Greenville’s Bob Jones University and “Esther before Ahasuerus” in the Hermitage of St. Petersburg. (9th December 2009, Davide Dotti)