Arles 1579 - Avignon 1650
The Angel watching over the Body of Christ
Oil on canvas
96 x 129 cm
All the biographical information, and speculation is superseded by:
Jean Boyer, 'The one and only Trophîme Bigot', The Burlington Magazine, May 1988, pp. 355-357.
The literature on Bigot is now extensive:
Benedict Nicolson, 'The Candlelight Master, a follower of Honthorst in Rome', Nederlands Kunhistorisch Jaarboek, 1960, pp. 121-164.
(The first identification).
Benedict Nicolson, 'Un Caravigste aixois, le Maître à la chandelle', Art de France, Vol. IV, 1964, pp. 116-139.
Jean Boyer, 'Un Caravagesque français oublié: Trophîme Bigot', Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Francais, 1963 ,
Jean Boyer, 'Nouveaux documents inédits sur le peintre Trophîme Bigot', Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, 1964
, pp. 153-158.
Benedict Nicolson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, Oxford, 1979, pp. 21-23 , as 'Maestro Jacopo'.
Christopher Wright, The French Painters of the Seventeenth Century, London 1985, p. 139.
Christopher Wright, The Masters of Candelight, Landshut, Germany, 1995, p.94.
The bare facts of Bigot ’s career only came to light in 1988 and can be summarised as follows.It was always known that a certain Trophîme Bigot was born in Arles in 1579,but modern scholarship up to 1988 did not associate the paintings,grouped by Benedict Nicolson as The Candlelight Master [1960 and 1964 ] with Bigot,,as it was considered that he was born too early.It is now thought that Bigot left Arles for Rome,very early,probably soon after 1600,only returning to Arles in 1634.He moved to Aix-en-Provence in 1638 remaining there until 1642 when he moved to Avignon,dying there in 1650.Nicolson had four attempts to group the paintings together on stylistic grounds and on most counts his corpus remains valid.Most of Bigot ’s surviving paintings were executed in Rome,where some remain,especially the group of five small heads acquired by the Doria Pamphilj collection.
Bigot ’s early pictures in the churches in and around Arles belong to the late-mannerist tradition without any of the tenebrism with which he is now associated.The stylistic change must have taken place immediately the artist arrived in Rome where he turned to a variety of night scenes. Many of these betray a familiarity with the Roman work of Honthorst, -with whose work that of Bigot was often confused.Bigot was remarkably inventive with his subject matter,including such unique images as A Child Exposing a Bat to a Candle Flame (Doria Pamphilj). Far from being a provincial artist working away from the mainstream,as Nicolson liked to presume,Bigot worked in the entirely cosmopolitan environment of Rome for some thirty years.
In the Angel Watching over the Body of Christ ,Bigot has chosen to portray a moment that the Bible does not allow space for.After the
Descent from the Cross and the Pietà or Lamentation the Bible moves straight on to the Entombment.This scene therefore is an example of an artist portraying what he felt would have happened from his own imagination.With Georges de La Tour,Bigot is probably the best of the French Caravaggesque candlelight masters and he shows off his remarkable descriptive ability.Christ is portrayed as peaceful and contented looking as if resting.
The only indication of his recent trauma are the marks on his forehead from the crown of thorns.There are no stigmata.The angel looks directly at the viewer and whilst one hand points to Christ the other is gently drawing a wrapping cloth over Christ.