VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE
(b. 1591, Coulommier-en-Brie, d. 1632, Roma)
Oil on canvas, 95 x 137 cm
Of all French painters active in Rome in the 1620s, the most consistent, and the only one who can be claimed to have genius, is Valentin. He died relatively young, without leaving Rome. Many of his earlier pictures, painted when he was much closer in spirit to Caravaggio, have remained unidentified until recently. The best example of his early work is the Dresden Card-sharpers which is based on a similar composition by Caravaggio (unfortunately missing since the late nineteenth century).
In the Dresden painting Valentin has seized on the evil nature of the villain, creating an obvious story completely lacking in subtlety, but delicacy is shown in his handling of the paint which, as always in his work, is very much more refined than that of Caravaggio.