Gustave Doyen, The First Born

Gustave Doyen: The First Born (Undated) Oil on canvas
The First Born
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Bequest of Charles Knox Smith
53 7/8 x 33 1/4 in.

A courtly couple stares adoringly at their sleeping baby in a setting that suggests they are the scions of a distinguished Renaissance family. With its period dress, dynamic triangular composition, and idealized figures with alabaster-smooth faces and hands, Gustave Doyen's painting is reminiscent of the Florentine artist Raphael's depictions of the Holy Family, which similarly focus on the miraculous presence of a young child. For Doyen, the Italian Renaissance represented the pinnacle of human achievement in the arts, and it was Raphael who best expressed the spirituality of modern Christianity while depicting the beauty of the human form in a way worthy of the artists of ancient Rome. Doyen's subject is secular, however. His intent may have been to use all of the elevated symbolism at his disposal to convey that the devotion of parents for their newborn child is the highest form of love.

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