This painting from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford shows a physician uroscopist examining a specimen of urine in order to determine what was ailing his patient. It is a serious painting, unlike that of Dutch artists such as Jan Steen who regarded uroscopists as quacks and made fun of their pretentious mien and attire. The painter, Trophime Bigot (1579-1650), was born in the south of France, where he spent most of his life except for fourteen years between 1620 and 1634 when he worked in Rome. It was there that he came under the spell of the artist Caravaggio.
As in other paintings by followers of Caravaggio, the background is dark, and the main figures are brought into relief by bright light. Bigot has also been called The Master of the Candlelight, and his paintings resemble those of his more famous compatriot George de la Tour, known for producing several versions of the Penitent Magdalene sitting in a dark room lit by a candle.
After his return to France, Bigot painted altarpieces at Arles and at Aix-en-Provence that were different from his Roman oeuvre. This led some experts to postulate there may have been two separate artists, one Italian and one French, thinking it inconceivable that the same artist would have painted in such different styles. Recently, most experts have agreed to attribute to Bigot all of the forty works traditionally attributed to him, believing he painted in two different styles because he had to adapt to the different demands of the Roman and Provençal markets.
GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief