VALENTIN DE BOULOGNE
(b. 1591, Coulommier-en-Brie, d. 1632, Roma)
Martyrdom of St Processus and St Martinian1629
Oil on canvas, 308 x 165 cm
The painting was commissioned for the St Peter's, and it was the only important commission of the whole career of Valentin. It is of interest because the artist modified his largely tenebrist style to suit the situation. The subject, a gruesome one, is of the Martyrdom of St Processus and St Martinian. It was subsequently replaced by a mosaic, the original being moved to the Pinacoteca Vaticana.
A possible reason for the lightening of the artist's style is the fact that the picture had to match the already completed Martyrdom of St Erasmus by the young Nicolas Poussin, who had in turn modified his style towards a much more Caravaggesque approach, especially in his realistic treatment of the gruesome subject-matter. Neither painter received such a commission again, and these two altarpieces stand out in their respective careers, proving that young French artists did appeal to influential people - in this case officials of the Papacy - with the money to give commission. It could also be argued that this was because by the end of the 1620s pure Caravaggism as such was already out of fashion among all successful Italian painters working in Rome.