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‘The Sacred Fire’ by Joseph-Marie Vien (1762-1848).

The sacred fire of ancient Rome was an eternal flame located in the Temple of Vesta attended to by the young priestesses known as the Vestal Virgins. Romans believed that so long as it stayed alight the well-being and security of Rome was assured.

An old dealer label (in French) verso, reads:

“A young priestess in a yellow dress and blue sash, pearls, and a white veil in her blond hair, holding a wreath of flowers in her left hand, is about to place a piece of incense on a tray presented to her by her companion in the background, draped in a mantle of gauze and crowned with foliage. In front, burns the fire of the altar: in the background stands the statue of the goddess.”

The young priestess isn’t in fact sprinkling incense but salted flour which along with libations of wine, milk, or olive oil was one of few offerings the Vestals made to the Sacred Fire.

Joseph-Marie Vien was the son of the Joseph-Marie Vien the Elder (1716-1808), official court painter to King Louis XVI of France. Joseph-Marie Vien the Younger studied under his father (alongside Jacques-Louis David) and at the Académie des Beaux-Arts with François-André Vincent, another of the most important French neoclassical painter of pre-Revolutionary France. From the 1780’s (until 1836) Vien was a regular exhibitor at the Salon in Paris.

Academy Fine Paintings only offers artwork for sale in the finest condition it can be for its age, having been professionally cleaned, conserved, and re-varnished. Clients should also note that tracked and signed for international shipping is complimentary.

Dimensions: (framed) 88cm x 101cm (34½” x 39¾”)

Dimensions: (canvas only) 63cm x 78cm (24¾” x 30¾”)

Medium: Oil on canvas.

Provenance: Private collection of Andrey Zhelamskiy,  Blaisdon Hall, Gloucestershire.

Presentation: Fine 19th century carved giltwood frame.

Condition: Very good. Professionally cleaned, restored, and re-varnished. Ready to hang.



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