Simon Vouet
Self-portrait (c. 1626–1627)
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Born(1590-01-09)9 January 1590
Paris, France
Died30 June 1649(1649-06-30) (aged 59)
Paris, France
EducationFather's studio, years in Italy (1613–1627)
Known forPainting, Drawing
Patron(s)Louis XIII, Cardinal Richelieu

Simon Vouet (French: [vwɛ]; 9 January 1590 – 30 June 1649) was a French painter who studied and rose to prominence in Italy before being summoned by Louis XIII to serve as Premier peintre du Roi in France. He and his studio of artists created religious and mythological paintings, portraits, frescoes, tapestries, and massive decorative schemes for the king and for wealthy patrons, including Richelieu. During this time, "Vouet was indisputably the leading artist in Paris,"[1] and was immensely influential in introducing the Italian Baroque style of painting to France. He was also, according to Pierre Rosenberg, "without doubt one of the outstanding seventeenth-century draughtsmen, equal to Annibale Carracci and Lanfranco."[2]


Simon Vouet was born on January 9, 1590, in Paris.[3] His father Laurent was a painter in Paris and taught him the rudiments of art. Simon's brother Aubin Vouet was also a painter, as also was Simon's wife Virginia da Vezzo, their son Louis-René Vouet, their two sons-in-law, Michel Dorigny and François Tortebat, and their grandson Ludovico Dorigny.

Virginia da Vezzo, the Artist's Wife, as the Magdalen (c. 1627), LACMA

Simon began his career as a portrait painter. At age 14 he travelled to England to paint a commissioned portrait and in 1611 was part of the entourage of the Baron de Sancy, French ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, for the same purpose. From Constantinople he went to Venice in 1612 and was in Rome by 1614.[4][5]

David with the Head of Goliath (1620–1622), Palazzo Bianco, Genoa

He remained in Italy until 1627, mostly in Rome where the Baroque style was becoming dominant. He received a pension from the King of France and his patrons included the Barberini family, Cassiano dal Pozzo, Paolo Giordano Orsini and Vincenzo Giustiniani.[4] He also visited other parts of Italy: Venice; Bologna (where the Carracci family had their academy); Genoa (where, from 1620 to 1622, he worked for the Doria princes); and Naples.

He was a natural academic, who absorbed what he saw and studied, and distilled it in his painting: Caravaggio's dramatic lighting; Italian Mannerism; Paolo Veronese's color and di sotto in su or foreshortened perspective; and the art of Carracci, Guercino, Lanfranco and Guido Reni.

While in Rome he befriended artist Artimesia Gentileschi and painted her portrait in 1623.[6]

Vouet's immense success in Rome led to his election as president of the Accademia di San Luca in 1624.[7] His most prominent official commission of the Italian period was an altarpiece for St Peter's in Rome (1625–1626), destroyed at some time after 1725 (though fragments remain.)[8]

Judith with the Head of Holofernes (c. 1624–1626) painted by Virginia da Vezzo, the first wife of Simon Vouet, at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes

In response to a royal summons, Vouet returned to France in 1627, where he was made Premier peintre du Roi. Louis XIII commissioned portraits, tapestry cartoons and paintings from him for the Palais du Louvre, the Palais du Luxembourg and the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In 1632, he worked for Cardinal Richelieu at the Palais-Royal and the Château de Malmaison. In 1631 he decorated the château of the président de Fourcy, at Chessy, the hôtel Bullion, the château of Marshal d'Effiat at Chilly, the hôtel of the Duc d’Aumont, the Séguier chapel, and the gallery of the Château de Wideville.

Today, a number of Vouet's paintings are lost, and "only two major decorative schemes survive, those for the chateaux of Colombes and Chessy,"[9] but the details and imagery of many lost works are known from engravings by Michel Dorigny, François Tortebat, and Claude Mellan.[4]

Personal life

Vouet family tree, simplified to show those known to be artists: Simon and his father, brother, wife, son, sons-in-law, and grandson

In 1626 he married Virginia da Vezzo, "a painter in her own right... known for her beauty,"[10]: 10  who modeled as the Madonna and female saints for Vouet's religious commissions. The couple would have five children. Virginia Vouet died in France in 1638. Two years later Vouet married a French widow, Radegonde Béranger, with whom he had three more children.[10]: 13 


St Francis of Paola Resuscitating a Child (1648), L'église-Saint-Henri de Lévis, Quebec, "the apogee of French seventeenth-century painting."

As one art historian writes, "When Vouet returned to Paris in 1627, French art was painfully provincial and, by Italian standards, more than a quarter of a century behind the times. Vouet introduced the latest fashions, educated a group of talented young artists—and the public as well—and brought Paris up to date."[1]

Vouet's style became uniquely his own, but was distinctly Italian, importing the Italian Baroque into France. A French contemporary, lacking the term "Baroque," said, "In his time the art of painting began to be practiced here in a nobler and more beautiful way than ever before." In his anticipation of the "two-dimensional, curvilinear freedom of rococo compositions a hundred years later...Vouet should perhaps be counted among the more important sources of eighteenth-century painting."[10]: 60  In his works for the French royal court, "Vouet's importance as a formulator of official decorations is in some ways comparable to that of Rubens."[10]: 85 

An engraving by Michel Dorigny reproduces a section of the elaborate murals Vouet painted in the Palais-Royal in Paris for Anne of Austria, a decorative scheme no longer extant.

Vouet's sizeable atelier or workshop produced a whole school of French painters for the following generation. His most influential pupil was Charles le Brun, who organized all the interior decorative painting at Versailles and dictated the official style at the court of Louis XIV of France, but who jealously excluded Vouet from the Académie Royale in 1648.

Vouet's other students included Valentin de Boulogne (the main figure of the French "Caravaggisti"), François Perrier, Nicolas Chaperon, Michel Corneille the Elder, Charles Poërson, Pierre Daret, Charles Alphonse du Fresnoy, Pierre Mignard, Eustache Le Sueur, Claude Mellan, the Flemish artist Abraham Willaerts, Michel Dorigny, and François Tortebat. These last two became his sons-in-law. André Le Nôtre, the garden designer of Versailles, was a student of Vouet. Also in Vouet's circle was a friend from his Italian years, Claude Vignon.

During his lifetime, writes Arnaud Brejon de Lavergnée, "Vouet's stature increased continually, his paintings becoming ever more beautiful, particularly in the last decade." But, "although his career was as brilliant as can be imagined," Vouet "played no role in the foundation of the Académie Royale" that was to be so dominant after his death, "and was neglected by the biographers and more influential amateurs. Between 1660 and 1690 only Poussin and Rubens were taken seriously...and later generations drew their own conclusions from this." Further eroding his legacy, "Vouet was undoubtedly at his greatest in these ensembles [his magnificent decorative schemes for chateaux and churches], most of which were destroyed during the Revolution" of the next century.[9]

Though never entirely forgotten by connoisseurs and collectors (such as William Suida), Vouet fell into a relative obscurity that was not remedied until William R. Crelly's monograph of 1962,[10] and then by the major retrospective of Vouet's work at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1990–1991 with its colloquium[11] and catalogue,[12] which Brejon de Lavergnée says fulfilled "its aim of rehabilitating the artist."[9] "The Simon Vouet retrospective…is still vividly remembered. Since then, studies of the painter, his circle and his students have abounded, defining the image of the artist and his workshop ever more clearly."[13]

The exhibition's organizer, Jacques Thuillier, "is surely justified in claiming the altarpiece of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as among the greatest masterpieces of seventeenth-century monumental painting," writes Brejon de Lavergnée, who further asserts that in the artist's works of the 1640s, such as Saint Francis of Paola Resuscitating a Child, "one can see Vouet concluding his career with pictures of an immense gravity informed by an intense spiritual energy. Images of the greatest force, these paintings constitute the apogee of French seventeenth-century painting."[9]


Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (1641), Louvre, "among the greatest masterpieces of seventeenth-century monumental painting."[9]
Crucifixion (1636–1637), Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
Apparition of the Virgin and the Infant Jesus to Saint Anthony (1630–1631), L’église Saint-Roch de Quebec; displayed in Canada in 2017 and in France in 2018 in the exhibition The Fabulous Destiny of the Paintings of the Abbés Desjardins /Le Fabuleux Destin des Tableaux des Abbés Desjardins. A Can$30,573 restoration in 2016 removed a 19th-century Canadian artist's overpainting, including a dog and a pilgrim's flask that had changed Saint Anthony into Saint Roch.[14][15]



Crelly's catalogue raisonné of 1962[10]: 147  lists more than 150 preserved paintings by Vouet. Since that publication, "a number of paintings, some of them of considerable importance, have turned up in various parts of the world and the list of his work continues to grow."[16] A new catalogue raisonné, by Arnauld and Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée, is forthcoming.[17] This is a partial list by present location, and then, as possible, by date.

Louvre, Paris

Elsewhere in France


Elsewhere in Europe

United States



Chariclea Led Away by Pirates (c. 1634–35), one of six Vouet tapestries at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco


Compositions by Vouet preserved in tapestries[10]: 266  include:

Gallery of paintings (chronological)

Gallery: Images of Vouet and his family


  1. ^ a b Posner, Donald. "The Paintings of Simon Vouet " (book review), The Art Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Sept., 1963), pp. 286–291.
  2. ^ Rosenberg, Pierre."Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins, Inventaire général des dessins, École française, Dessins de Simon Vouet 1590–1649 by Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée" (book review). Master Drawings, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Winter, 1987), p. 414.
  3. ^ Simon Vouet at the Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ a b c Brejon de Lavergnée, Barbara. 'Simon Vouet', Oxford Art Online.
  5. ^ "Artist Info". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  6. ^ Universalis, Encyclopædia. "ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI". Encyclopædia Universalis (in French). Retrieved 2022-12-11.
  7. ^ Bissell, R. Ward (2011). "Simon Vouet, Raphael, and the Accademia di San Luca in Rome". Artibus et Historiae. 32 (63): 55–72. JSTOR 41479737.
  8. ^ Schleier, Erich. "A Bozzetto by Vouet, Not by Lanfranco." The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 109, No. 770 (May, 1967), pp. 272, 274–276.
  9. ^ a b c d e Brejon de Lavergnée, Arnauld. "Paris: Vouet at the Grand Palais" (review of the exhibition). The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 133, No. 1055 (Feb. 1991), pp. 136–140.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Crelly, William R. The Paintings of Simon Vouet. Yale University Press, 1962.
  11. ^ Loire Stéphane, editor. Simon Vouet: actes du colloque international Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 5-6-7 février 1991, Paris: Publication Information, c1992.
  12. ^ Thuillier, Jacques. Vouet: Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 6 novembre 1990-11 février 1991 (catalogue of the exhibition). Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, c. 1990.
  13. ^ Rykner, Didier. "Simon Vouet: The Italian Years 1613/1617 (review of the exhibit)". Retrieved 2019-10-24.
  14. ^ Durox, Solenne. "Confisqués pendant la Révolution, ces tableaux ont beaucoup voyagé." Le Parisien, 4 November 2017.
  15. ^ "Patrimoine religieux : aide financière pour les églises Saint-Roch et Saint-Sauveur". 10 March 2017. Retrieved 2019-10-16.
  16. ^ a b Fredericksen, Burton B. "Two Newly Discovered Ceiling Paintings by Simon Vouet." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, Vol. 5 (1977), pp. 95–100.
  17. ^ "Simon Vouet, Study of a Young Woman as the Virgin". Retrieved 2019-10-18.
  18. ^ "Loth et ses filles de Simon Vouet: Éclairages sur un chef-d'œuvre".
  19. ^ "The carvings on the exterior doors may derive from Simon Vouet," according to Renée Dreyfus, Legion of Honor: Selected Works, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: 2007, p. 51.