Of French birth, Valentin de Boulogne was in Rome by 1614 where he came under the sway of Caravaggio and his followers. Though of a completely different artistic temperament, Valentin was friends with fellow expatriate Nicolas Poussin, and the two artists made altarpieces that hung side by side in Saint Peter’s. Can we count Valentin as an Italian artist?
A woman is brought to Christ after she is caught in the act of committing adultery. The people ask if she should be stoned, and Christ stoops to the ground and writes a message in the sand.
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
As Christ points to the feet of the characters in the painting, he also points to the feet of the viewer standing before the work of art. The artist mimics the action in the painting for viewers in his time. Reflect on your judgments, recollect your own transgressions.
Christ and the Adulteress, 1620s, Valentin de Boulogne. J. Paul Getty Museum.