The Madonna and Child signed 'STELLA. f. 1651' (on ledge, lower right) oil on canvas, tondo 71.5cm. (28 1/8in). diameter
Stella employed a similar domestic motif with The Virgin feeding the Infant while an angel blows on a brazier in a canvas, 66 x 52 cm., in Blois, Musée Communal du Château (see: S. Laveissière & G. Chomer, Jacques Stella (1596-1657), exh. cat. (Lyon, 2007), cat. no. 76, ill. p. 144). The tranquil and delicate sensibility of the scene, with its gentle, cool tones lit by the fire of the brazier, is pervaded by the solemnity with which the Virgin prepares food: no doubt an allusion to the Eucharist.
While the chronology of Stella's output is far from settled, the present dated work can now be securely added to his very mature phase, executed some time after his return to France in 1634. He had quickly been retained in Paris by Cardinal Richelieu in the service of Louis XIII and was inundated by official favours: a royal warrant as Peintre du Roi, lodgings in the Louvre, a pension and, later, the chain of the Order of Saint Michel. The Virgin and Child, however, owes much to Stella's sojourn in Italy, where his friendship with Poussin was highly formative and where he came into contact with a variety of other influences, including the art of Raphael, the Carracci and Domenichino. It was in Rome that he also acquired a taste for realistic detail, often of a rustic kind, and for the effects of nocturnal light, all of which are evident in the present canvas.