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The Submission of the Antipope Victor IV to Pope Innocent II, 1743

Antoine Favray
French, 1706-1791
Oil on canvas
63-3/8 x 46-1/4 in. (161.0 x 117.5 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© Norton Simon Art Foundation

Not on view

Antoine Favray was a unique French painter in that he made his career on the Mediterranean island of Malta, where only Caravaggio and Mattia Preti had been successful before. He moved there in 1744 following a period of study in Rome as a pupil of Jean-François de Troy. Malta remained his home, save for a decade between the 1760s and 1770s, when he lived in Constantinople.

The story depicted here is that of a twelvth-century cardinal whose election to the papacy, as Victor IV, was declared uncanonical, in opposition to that of the legitimate pontiff, Pope Innocent II. The central figure is Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. Clad in the white robes of the Cistercian order, he is portrayed as the agent of this abdication. Favray precociously captures the elements of realism—note the still life in the foreground—thoughtful design and restrained classicism that were the hallmarks of painting in eighteenth-century Rome. This episode from papal history was almost certainly painted for the French Cistercian monastery in Rome, a commission received during Favray’s last year as a pensioner at the French Academy. The monastery, which was attached to the Church of SS. Vincenzo e Anastasio alle Tre Fontane, exists today as an abbey run by Trappist monks.

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