"The Identity of the 'Young Prelate' by Ferdinand Voet or Pupil"


by Francis A. Burkle-Young


                To identify the young prelate in cardinal's robes portrayed by Ferdinand Voet or one of his school, recently at Bigli Art Broker, Milan (figure 1), the viewer must decode three images in the work, with a view to determining which cardinal in the period between 1660 and 1690 can be associated with all three.[1]

                First, the prelate is depicted wearing the Ordre du Saint-Esprit, the cordon bleu and star of France's highest order of chivalry. Second, the cardinal's arms, in the form of armes volantes, are shown in the upper left of the painting. Finally, the appearance of the man himself shows him to be quite young, although, as we shall see, perhaps not as young as the modern viewer might expect on first viewing the image.

                To determine a list of possible subjects by age is not difficult. Between the accession of Alexander VII in 1655 and the death of Innocent XI in 1689, four popes created a total of one hundred thirteen cardinals.[2] Of those men, none of the cardinals that Alexander VII had created before 1663, the year Voet arrived in Rome, were still under thirty years of age; and none of those he would create in later years of his reign were as young as that when they were elevated to the College of Cardinals. Clement IX, however, created two cardinals under thirty: Sigismondo Chigi, a great-nephew of his predecessor, who was only twenty-two when he was elevated on December 12, 1667; and Emmanuel Théodose de la Tour d'Auvergne de Bouillon, known as the Cardinal de Bouillon, who was twenty-five when he was made a cardinal on August 5, 1669.[3] Clement X likewise created two cardinals under thirty: Vincenzo Maria Orsini di Gravina, the future Pope Benedict XIII, was twenty-one at his elevation on August 24, 1671; while Felice Rospigliosi was twenty-nine when he was created on January 16, 1673.[4] Innocent XI (1676-1689) created no cardinals who were less than thirty years old.

                Since the youth of the subject reduces possible attributions to only four, we can now examine a list of the cardinals who received the Saint-Esprit during the period between 1660 and 1690. Here we find that the Cardinal de Bouillon was received into the Order on December 12, 1671. None of the other youthful cardinals were ever admitted to the Order; and no more cardinals were admitted until December 31, 1688, when four were inducted.[5]

                The two items of evidence seem conclusive, but additional support will fortify the recognition of the work as a portrait of Cardinal Emmanuel Théodose de la Tour d'Auvergne de Bouillon. Any artist's representation of a blazon as armes volantes makes the identification of the arms difficult, because of the necessary distortion of the image for effect. The image here is sufficiently clear for the viewer to determine that the blazon is quartered, however. In this period, only nine cardinals used quartered arms, and only one, the Cardinal de Bouillon, used arms with four different quarterings (figure 2).[6]

                The Cardinal de Bouillon, although more Dutch than French, and from a Protestant background, not a Catholic one, belonged to one of the highest families of the French aristocracy.[7] Because of his status, the researcher should find other portraits of him with which to compare the likeness. In fact, there are two paintings of particular importance in this regard. The first, and more important, is a three-quarter portrait of the Cardinal in full robes executed by Giovanni Battista Gaulli (called Baciccio, 1639-1709), and now exhibited at Versailles (figure 3).[8] Painted in 1669 to commemorate de Bouillon’s elevation to the cardinalate, its resemblance to the work in Milan is instantly visible. The cardinal’s face and hand in Gaulli’s work particularly shows the remarkable quality of almost adolescent youth, not often retained in a man of twenty-five, which also characterizes the portrait in Milan. Of importance also is the huge depiction by Hyacinthe Rigaud of the Cardinal de Bouillon ceremonially opening the Porta Santa at Saint Peter’s Basilica to inaugurate the Jubilee of 1700.[9] In this work, now in the Musée Hyacinthe Rigaud in Perpignan and dated “1708,” the artist portrays the Cardinal at the age of fifty-six from his appearance at about the age of sixty-four. Rigaud did not flatter the faces of his subjects, which we know so well from his famous regal portrait of Louis XIV alone. It is remarkable, then, that here the image of the Cardinal still retains some of that appearance of youth which seems so prominent in the portraits of the 1660’s and 1670’s. At first glace, he could be a man or forty or forty-five.

                Having established the identity of the subject, perhaps we can use some of the data collected to date the painting with some precision. We know the portrait was not painted before December, 1671, since the Cardinal de Bouillon did not have the Saint-Esprit before that time. We can surmise, with some confidence, that the work does not date from much after that time, since the sitter's evident appearance of youth surely would not have lasted much beyond the age of twenty-seven — his age in 1671. We know that Baciccio executed his portrait of 1669 between August and December of that year as a memorial of de Bouillon's elevation to the cardinalate.[10] The prominence of the Saint-Esprit in the portrait in Milan suggests that it was commissioned to memorialize the Cardinal's membership in the order. These elements combine to establish a presumption that the work dates from 1672. Finally, the importance of  Cardinal Emmanuel Théodose de la Tour d'Auvergne de Bouillon at that time, even in comparison to the other cardinals and French princes of the age, and the fact that his heritage and background made him, in effect, a fellow countryman of Voet, help to support the tantalizing possibility that the work is more than just a painting from Voet's studio, but that it may show the hand of Voet himself, at least in the features.[11]



[1]Currently, the work is noted as "Seguace di Ferdinand Voet (secolo XVII), "Ritratto di giovane prelato,"

cm. 73.5 x 60.5

[2]Alexander VII (1655-1667) created thirty-eight; Clement IX (1667-1669), twelve; Clement X (1670-1676), twenty; and Innocent XI (1676-1689), forty-three. See Hierarchia Catholica Medii [et Recentioris] Ævi: sive, Summorum Pontificum, S[anctæ] R[omanæ] E[cclesiæ] Cardinalium, Ecclesiarum Antistitum Series. E Documentis Tabularii Præsertim Vaticani Collecta, Digesta, Edita. 8 vols. (Patavii [Padua]: Typis Librariæ “Il Messaggero di S[an] Antonio” apud Basilicam S[ancti] Antonii, 1952-1969); v. ivv (1935, reprinted 1960) A pontificatu Clementis Pp. VIII (1592) usque ad pontificatum Alexandri Pp. VII (1667) per P[atritium] Gauchat, pp.  32-35; and v. v (1952) A pontificatu Clementis Pp. IX (1667) usque ad pontificatum Benedicti Pp. XIII (1730) per R[emigius] Ritzler et Pirminus] Sefrin, pp.  3-14.  See also C[harles] B[erton], Dictionnaire des Cardinaux: Contenant des Notions Générales sur le Cardinalat, la Nomenclature Complète, par ordre Alphabétique, des Cardinaux de Tous les Temps et de Tous le Pays; la Même Nomenclature par ordre Chronologique; les Détails Biographiques Essentiels sur Tous les Cardinaux sans Exception; de Longues Études sur les Cardinaux Célèbres, qui, en Si Grand Nombre, ont rempli un Rôle Supérieur dans l’Église, dans la Politique ou dans les Lettres. Tome Unique, vol. 31 of J[acques]-P[aul] Migne, ed. Troisième et Dernière Encyclopédie Théologique: ou Troisième et Dernière Série de Dictionnaires sur Toutes les Parties de la Science Religeuse, offrant en Français, et par Ordre Alphabétique, la Plus Claire, la Plus Facile, la Plus Commode, la Plus Variée et la Plus Complète des Théologies, 65 vols., itself vol. 133 of Encyclopédie Théologique: ou Troisième et Dernière Série de Dictionnaires sur Toutes les Parties de la Science Religeuse, 168 vols. in 171 [1845-1873] (Paris: s’imprime et se vend chez J.-P. Migne, Éditeur, aux Ateliers Catholiques, Rue d’Amboise, au Petit-Montrouge, Barrière d’Enfer de Paris, 1857), passim, but especially cols.  1779-1782.

[3]For Chigi, see Eubel, IV, 4, n.4; for de Bouillon, see Eubel, IV, 4, nn. 8-10. De Bouillon was born on August 24, 1644, and not in 1643, as reported elsewhere. The Curial record of his death states that he was seventy years, six months, and seven days old when he died on March 2, 1715. See Eubel, IV, 4, n. 10.

[4]For the birthday of Benedict XIII, see Giambattista Pittoni, Vita del Sommo Pontefice Benedetto Decimoterzo dell'Ordine de Predicatori (Venezia: Presso Leonardo Pittoni, 1730) and many other references, including Friedrich Wilhelm Bautz, Biographisch-bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, Band I (Hamm: Traugott Bautz, 1990), cols. 489-490. For Rospigliosi, a great-nephew of Clement IX, see Eubel, IV, 8, nn. 3-5. His birthdate is unknown, but he was forty-eight when he died on May 9, 1688.

[5]I am indebted to Guy Stair Sainty, KStJ, for his tables of the members of the Saint-Esprit for this information.

[6]For the original imprint of a contemporary depiction of his arms, see Giovanni Palazzi [Ioannes Palatius], Fasti Cardinalium Ommnium Sanctæ Romanæ Ecclesiæ cum Stemmate Gentilitio cuiusque Cardinalis, ac Lemmate ex Sacris Paginis Deducto, Gesta Annuente illius Cardinalis, 5 vols. in 4 (Venetiis: expensis Gasparis Bencardi Bibliopolae Augustani, 1703), II:101, illus. no. 870.

[7]His mother was Eleonora van den Bergh (1613-1653), daughter of Count Frederik van den Bergh (1559-1618); his paternal grandmother, the wife of Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, Duc de Bouillon (1555-1623), was Elisabeth von Nassau (1577-1642), daughter of Willem I the Silent (1533-1584), Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, and Stadtholder of the Netherlands. His father, Frederic Maurice de La Tour d'Auvergne, Duc de Bouillon (1605-1652), was the elder brother of Henri, Vicomte de Turenne and Marechal de France (1611-1675). It was for the sake of the Great Turenne that Louis XIV nominated de Bouillon as a crown cardinal. For a monographic biography that examines his Protestant heritage in detail, see  Félix Reyssié, Le Cardinal de Bouillon (1643-1715) (Paris: Hachette et cie., 1899). For the famous exchange of letters between the cardinal and the king, see V[ictor] Verlaque, ed., Lettres de Louis XIV au Cardinal de Bouillon (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1883).

[8]Oil on canvas, 121 x 97 cm. The work is signed “Baciccio” and dated “1669.” The painting has been a part of the French national collection since 1839; the following inventory and accession numbers apply to it: MV 4272, INV 292, and LP 3669. For additional details, see Claire Constans, Musée National du Château de Versailles: Catalogue des Peintures ([Paris]: Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1980), no. 1845; and Eud[oxe] Soulié, Notice du Musée National de Versailles: 1e partie: Rez de Chaussée, 3rd ed. (Paris: Charles de Mourgues frères, 1880), no. 4272.

[9]For a brief history of the painting, see Portrait du Cardinal de Bouillon ouvrant la Porte Sainte de l'An Jubilaire 1700 par Hyacinthe Rigaud (Perpignan: Musée Hyacinthe Rigaud, 1990). For a discussion, see Hubert Gallet de Santerre, "Le Cardinal de Bouillon, le peintre Hyacinthe Rigaud et le Cordon de Saint-Esprit,” Bulletin de l'Académie des Sciences et Lettres de Montpellier, N. -S., t. 13, 1982 [1983], pp. 35-39. For illustrations, see "Le Cardinal de Bouillon ouvrant la Porte Sainte," La Revue du Louvre et des Musées de France, 25:5/6 [1975] p. 402; "Cardinal de Bouillon," Studio v. 155 [April, 1958] p. 105; and Alain Merot, La Peinture Française au XVIIe Siècle ([Paris]: Gallimard: Electa, 1994), trans. Caroline Beamish, French Painting in the Seventeenth Century  (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), plate 226.

[10]De Bouillon was created a cardinal in the consistory of August 5, 1669; and the painting is dated "1669."

[11]I wish to thank Salvador Miranda of Florida International University for his help in securing some of the sources discussed here.