Their production is abundant and varied. Religion is treated in two opposite ways : the biblical or hagiographic image and the sincere faith of peasant families.
On April 19 in New York, Christie's sells a recently discovered Saint Jerome signed Le Nain, oil on canvas 72 x 92 cm, lot 23 estimated $ 1M.
The saint is an old man focusing on his analysis of the sacred book. Half covered with a large red drapery, barefoot, he pays no attention to the poverty and disorder of his hermitage at the entrance to the cave. The painting has a date in limit of readability but which can only be 1642 or 1643. A Saint Magdalene in the Desert in a highly similar composition and style is signed and dated 1643.
The vertical shadows imply that the source of sunlight is inside the cave : at the time of the Baroque art, the pictorial effect is more important than a realism. Throughout their career the Le Nain relied on what they saw in their native Picardy. Their desert is verdant.
The patron would not have understood an image of Saint Jerome without the lion. Infra-red reflectography analysis showed that the animal's place was originally next to the hermit. The artist understood just in time that he was engaging in a figure for which he had no model. He wisely sent the lion to walk far away in the countryside, almost imperceptible. There are elderly men in Picardy but no lion.
SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium