An Analysis on the “Saint Augustine” painting of Philippe de Champaigne by Selen Kaptan

Most of the paintings of Philippe de Champaigne, similar to many artists of the Baroque Era, are religious and allegorical; however, in 1643, when Philippe de Champaigne got influenced by Jansenism, he almost abandoned the Baroque style which consists of angels and miraculous lights. He used cold colors instead of lucid colors to make his paintings more realistic. Because of that, his paintings became devoid of colors. Although Champaigne painted “Saint Augustine” in 1650 when he was under the influence of Jansenism, the painting does not lack colors because he created the painting with his own unique style which is a mix of both the Baroque style and Jansenism influences.

Saint Augustine, who is depicted in the painting, was a Christian bishop and a theologian. He lived between the late fourth and fifth centuries. He helped in shaping both medieval and contemporary Christian thought through his numerous written works. Even if his written works had not lasted, he would still have been a recognized figure because of his unique approaches on religion.

In the painting, Saint Augustine is depicted with a quill in one hand, as if he was writing a book, and a burning heart in the other hand. He looks above where a light flows and says “veritas” which means “truth.” While his heart burns with the love for the God, it also burns with the thirst for the truth. Therefore, he writes only the truth with the love of God in his heart. Besides, Saint Augustine in his one of the most important book called “Confessions” says: “For thou hast created us for thyself, and our heart cannot be quieted till it may find repose in thee” (Saint Augustine). Meaning, the human heart is restless until it unites with the God. That is why the most important aim of the souls is to unite with the God according to Saint Augustine. So the burning heart in the painting shows the divine energy of God that dwells in the humans’ hearts. It leads people’s souls instinctively towards God.

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