Due largely to the fact that he spent much of his adult life working outside of the country, and because of the very flexible nature of his work, which often shifted dramatically between styles and themes, Sébastien Bourdon’s work has often been ignored in France. Bourdon was, it was thought, a chameleon, whose skill was more in mimicry than innovation.
But as the comprehensive exhibition of his work at the Musée Fabre in 2000 demonstrated, Bourdon’s career is now regarded somewhat differently. Painted in the last years of his life, The Lamentation brings forward many of the painter’s fine attributes: dense, clear colours, emphatic modelling of form, and a dynamic composition that crystalises a series of often competing references, including Nicolas Poussin. As Bourdon often instructed his students, great innovation could be achieved by casting one’s interests far and wide.