Charles Le Brun

Charles Le Brun (24 February 1619 – 12 February 1690) was a French painter, physiognomist, art theorist, interior decorator and a director of several art schools of his time. As court painter to Louis XIV, who declared him "the greatest French artist of all time", he was a dominant figure in 17th-century French art and much influenced by Nicolas Poussin.[1]

Charles Le Brun
Le brun
Charles Le Brun, portrait by Nicolas de Largilliere
BornFebruary 24, 1619
DiedFebruary 22, 1690 (aged 70)


Charles Le Brun 003
Portrait of Nicolas Le Brun by Charles Le Brun, ca. 1635, Residenzgalerie, Salzburg
Charles Le Brun - Venus cortándole las alas a Cupido
Venus Clipping Cupid’s Wings, ca. 1655, Museo de Arte de Ponce, Ponce, Puerto Rico
Charles Le Brun - Prise de la ville et de la citadelle de Gand en six jours, 1678 - Google Art Project
Part of the ceilling of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.

Early life and training

Born in Paris, he attracted the notice of Chancellor Séguier, who placed him at the age of eleven in the studio of Simon Vouet. He was also a pupil of François Perrier. At fifteen he received commissions from Cardinal Richelieu, in the execution of which he displayed an ability which obtained the generous commendations of Nicolas Poussin, in whose company Le Brun started for Rome in 1642.[2]

In Rome he remained four years in the receipt of a pension due to the liberality of the chancellor.[2] There he worked under Poussin, adapting the latter's theories of art.

On his return to Paris in 1646, Le Brun found numerous patrons, of whom Superintendent Fouquet was the most important,[2] for whom he painted a large portrait of Anne of Austria.[3] Employed at Vaux-le-Vicomte, Le Brun ingratiated himself with Mazarin, then secretly pitting Colbert against Fouquet. Colbert also promptly recognized Le Brun's powers of organization, and attached him to his interests. Together they took control of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture (Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 1648), and the Academy of France at Rome (1666), and gave a new development to the industrial arts.[2]

Another project Le Brun worked on was Hôtel Lambert. The ceiling in the gallery of Hercules was painted by him. Le Brun started work on the project in 1650, shortly after his return from Italy. The decoration continued intermittently over twelve years or so, as it was interrupted by the renovation of Vaux le Vicomte.

In 1660 they established the Gobelins, which at first was a great school for the manufacture, not of tapestries only, but of every class of furniture required in the royal palaces. Commanding the industrial arts through the Gobelins—of which he was director—and the whole artistic world through the Academy—in which he successively held every post—Le Brun imprinted his own character on all that was produced in France during his lifetime. He was the originator of Louis XIV Style and gave a direction to the national tendencies which endured centuries after his death.[2]

Success years

The nature of his emphatic and pompous talent was in harmony with the taste of the king, who, full of admiration of the paintings by Le Brun for his triumphal entry into Paris (1660)[2] and his decorations at the Château Vaux le Vicomte (1661),[4] commissioned him to execute a series of subjects from the history of Alexander. The first of these, "Alexander and the Family of Darius," so delighted Louis XIV that he at once ennobled Le Brun (December, 1662), who was also created Premier Peintre du Roi (First Painter of the King) with a pension of 12,000 livres, the same amount as he had yearly received in the service of the magnificent Fouquet.[5] The King had declared him "the greatest French artist of all time". "The Family of Darius," also known as "The Queens of Persia at the Feet of Alexander," was later cut down slightly in size by Le Brun, and retouched to disguise the alteration, presumably to make the painting similar in size to a painting by Paolo Veronese that Louis XIV had acquired.[6]

From this date all that was done in the royal palaces was directed by Le Brun.[7] In 1663,[8] he became director of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, where he laid the basis of academicism and became the all-powerful, peerless master of 17th-century French art. It was during this period that he dedicated a series of works to the history of Alexander The Great (The Battles of Alexander The Great), and he did not miss the opportunity to make a stronger connection between the magnificence of Alexander and that of the great King. While he was working on The Battles, Le Brun's style became much more personal as he moved away from the ancient masters that influenced him.

Le Brun, Alexander and Porus
Alexander and Porus, painted 1673

The works of the gallery of Apollo in the Louvre were interrupted in 1677 when he accompanied the king to Flanders (on his return from Lille he painted several compositions in the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye), and finally—for they remained unfinished at his death—by the vast labours of Versailles, where he reserved for himself the Halls of War and Peace (Salons de la Guerreand de la Paix, 1686),[7] the Ambassadors' Staircase, and the Great Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces, 1679–1684).[7] Le Brun's decoration is not only a work of art, it is the definitive monument of a reign.

Later years

At the death of Colbert, François-Michel le Tellier, Marquis de Louvois, who succeeded as superintendent in the department of public works, showed no favour to Le Brun who was Colbert's favorite, and in spite of the king's continued support Le Brun felt a bitter change in his position. This contributed to the illness which on 22 February 1690 ended in his death in Gobelins (his private mansion, in Paris).[7]

Le Brun's work and legacy

Charles Le Brun - Pierre Séguier, chancelier de France (1655-1661)
Chancellor Séguier and his suite, ca. 1670, Musée du Louvre

Le Brun primarily worked for King Louis XIV, for whom he executed large altarpieces and battle pieces. His most important paintings are at Versailles. Besides his gigantic labours at Versailles and the Louvre, the number of his works for religious corporations and private patrons is enormous.[7] Le Brun was also a fine portraitist and an excellent draughtsman, but he was not fond of portrait or landscape painting, which he felt to be a mere exercise in developing technical prowess. What mattered was scholarly composition, whose ultimate goal was to nourish the spirit. The fundamental basis on which the director of the Academy-based his art was unquestionably to make his paintings speak, through a series of symbols, costumes and gestures that allowed him to select for his composition the narrative elements that gave his works a particular depth. For Le Brun, a painting represented a story one could read. Nearly all his compositions have been reproduced by celebrated engravers.[7]

In his posthumously published treatise, Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (1698), he promoted the expression of the emotions in painting. It had much influence on art theory for the next two centuries.[9]

Many of his drawings are in the Louvre and the Monaco Royal Collection. He was also the teacher of painter Ludovico Dorigny.

The Baroque ceiling in the Chambre des Muses at the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte outside Paris, was "decorated by Charles Le Brun’s workshop".[10] A restoration was completed in 2017 by the current owners, the de Vogüé family. The restored ceiling was unveiled to the public in March of that year.[11]

On 23 January 2013, artistic advisors for the Hôtel Ritz Paris, Wanda Tymowska and Joseph Friedman, announced the discovery of The Sacrifice of Polyxena, an early work of Le Brun. The picture, dated 1647, ornamented the Coco Chanel suite of the famous Parisian palace, and went unnoticed for over a century.[12][13]

Tapis de Savonnerie Louis XIV apres Charles Le Brun pour la Grande Galerie du Louvre
Tapis de Savonnerie, under Louis XIV, after Charles Le Brun, made for the Grande Galerie in the Louvre

Partial anthology of works




  • Méthode pour apprendre à dessiner les passions (1698), posthumous publication.


Louis XIV Equestrian Portrait

Louis XIV Equestrian Portrait, oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tournai.

Charles Le Brun - Entry of Alexander into Babylon

Entry of Alexander into Babylon, ca. 1664, oil on canvas, Louvre.


Portrait of Louis XIV, 1661.

Charles Le Brun - Les reines de Perse aux pieds d'Alexandre dit aussi la tente de Darius - Google Art Project

The Queens of Persia at the feet of Alexander, also called The Tent of Darius.


Portrait of the painter Louis Testelin, ca. 1650, oil on canvas, Louvre.

Charles Le Brun - Daedalus and Icarus - WGA12535

Daedalus and Icarus, c. 1645

The Descent from the Cross LACMA M.2004.239

The Descent from the Cross, late 1640s


The fall of the rebel angels, after 1680, oil on canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dijon.

Lebrun Louis1668

Louis XIV Equestrian Portrait, 1668, oil on canvas, Musée de la Chartreuse, Douai.

Charles Le Brun 001

Apotheosis of Louis XIV, 1677, oil on canvas, Magyar Szépmüvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.

Trois têtes d'hommes en relation avec le lion
Three lion-like heads, 1671, pen and wash on squared paper.


  1. ^ Honour & Fleming 2009, p. 604.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Chisholm 1911, p. 351.
  3. ^ Williamson 1910.
  4. ^ Constans, Claire. "Le Brun, Charles" Grove Art Online. January 01, 2003. Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Chisholm 1911, pp. 351–352.
  6. ^ Powers, Jeremy N. and Jeanne Morgan Zarucchi (Summer 2012). "Le Brun's 'The Tent of Darius', Before and After". French Studies Bulletin. 33.2 (123): 21–25.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Chisholm 1911, p. 352.
  8. ^ Walsh 1999, p. 86.
  9. ^ Barasch, Moshe (1998). Modern Theories of Art 2: From Impressionism to Kandinsky. NYU Press. pp. 94–95. ISBN 0814739482.
  10. ^ "THE RENAISSANCE OF THE SALON DES MUSES". Vaux-le-Vicomte. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  11. ^ "Before Versailles, There Was Vaux-le-Vicomte". Sotheby's. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  12. ^ 2013.
  13. ^ 2013.



Further reading

External links

1690 in France

Events from the year 1690 in France

Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture

"Académie Royale" redirects here; not to be confused with the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts or the Académie royale des sciences, des lettres et des beaux-arts, both in Brussels.

The Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture), Paris, was the premier art institution in France in the eighteenth century.

André Le Nôtre

André Le Nôtre (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃dʁe lə notʁ]; 12 March 1613 – 15 September 1700), originally rendered as André Le Nostre, was a French landscape architect and the principal gardener of King Louis XIV of France. Most notably, he was the landscape architect who designed the park of the Palace of Versailles, and his work represents the height of the French formal garden style, or jardin à la française.

Prior to working on Versailles, Le Nôtre collaborated with Louis Le Vau and Charles Le Brun on the park at Vaux-le-Vicomte. His other works include the design of gardens and parks at Chantilly, Fontainebleau, Saint-Cloud and Saint-Germain. His contribution to planning was also significant: at the Tuileries he extended the westward vista, which later became the avenue of the Champs-Élysées and comprise the Axe historique.

François-Alexandre Verdier

François-Alexandre Verdier (c. 1651 - 1730) was French painter, draftsman and engraver.

He was a student and assistant of Charles Le Brun.

François Lemoyne

François Lemoyne or François Le Moine (1688 – 4 June 1737) was a French rococo painter. He was a winner of the Prix de Rome, professor of the Académie de peinture et de sculpture, and Premier peintre du Roi to Louis XV. He was tutor to Charles-Joseph Natoire and François Boucher.Throughout his career, Lemoyne sought to be seen as the heir to Charles Le Brun and the leading painter of his generation, titles also vied for by his rival Jean-François de Troy (1679–1752). Lemoyne's work and talent, notably plied in Versailles, earned him the esteem of his contemporaries and the name of the "new Le Brun". He collaborated with or worked alongside other artists of the era, including Nonotte, Gilles Dutilleul, Charles de La Fosse, and Coypel. He took his own life in 1737, at the height of his career. With his death, the fashion of large allegorical ceilings disappeared.

Galerie d'Apollon

The Galerie d'Apollon is a part of the Louvre, famous for its high vaulted ceilings with painted decorations.

The room was originally called the 'Petite Galerie' of the Louvre and was decorated by the artists of the Second School of Fontainebleau, most notably Toussaint Dubreuil, Jacob Bunel and his wife Marguerite Bahuche according to designs by Martin Fréminet, for Henri IV of France.

After a fire in the small gallery destroyed much of it on 6 February 1661, it was necessary to rebuild this part of the Louvre. Architectural work was entrusted to Louis Le Vau, who carried out reconstruction activities between 1661 and 1663, while Charles Le Brun was assigned responsibility for decorations by Colbert. The sculptor François Girardon was responsible for the stucco sculptures. This was the first Royal Gallery for Louis XIV, which served as a model for the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles.

Gilles Guérin

Gilles Guérin (1611–1678) was a French sculptor, who created tomb sculptures and decorative sculptures for interiors, which were executed in a Baroque idiom. He was born and died in Paris. He was a pupil of the sculptor Nicolas Le Brun, the father of the painter Charles Le Brun.

Grande Commande

The grande commande was a commission ordered by Louis XIV for statues intended to decorate the parterre d’eau of the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, as initially conceived in 1672. The commission, which included 24 statues and four groups, was ordered in 1674. Designed by Charles Le Brun from Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, the statues were executed by the foremost sculptors of the day (Blunt, 1980; Friedman, 1988, 1993; Nolhac, 1913; Thompson, 2006; Verlet, 1985).

Owing to concerns of the effects of the vertical lines of the statues in relations to the garden façade of the château, the statues of the grande commande were transferred to other locations in the gardens in 1684 (Berger, 1985; Blunt, 1980; Friedman, 1988, 1993; Marie, 1968; Nolhac, 1901, 1913; Thompson, 2006; Verlet, 1985; Weber, 1993).

The 24 statues were personifications of the classic quaternities:

The four groupings represented the four classic Abductions:

The Four Abductions:Persephone by Pluto

Cybele by Saturn

Orethyia by Boreas

Coronis by Neptune

Gregor Brandmüller

Gregor Brandmüller (or Georg), was a late 17th-century Swiss painter, a pupil of Charles Le Brun.

Israel Silvestre

Israel Silvestre (13 August 1621 in Nancy – 11 October 1691 in Paris), called the Younger to distinguish him from his father, was a prolific French draftsman, etcher and print dealer who specialized in topographical views and perspectives of famous buildings.

Orphaned at an early age, he was taken in by his uncle in Paris, Israel Henriet, an etcher and print-seller, and friend of Jacques Callot. Between 1630 and 1650 Silvestre travelled widely in France, Spain and Italy, which he visited three times, and later worked up his sketches as etchings, which were sold singly and in series. His work, especially of Venetian subjects published in the 1660s, influenced eighteenth-century painters of vedute such as Luca Carlevaris and Canaletto, who adapted his compositions.

In 1661 he inherited the stock of plates of his uncle, the printseller Israel Henriet, among which was a large part of the works of Callot, and many of those of Stefano della Bella. In 1662 he was appointed dessinateur et graveur du Roi and in 1673 he was appointed drawing-master to Louis, le Grand Dauphin. From 1668 he was granted workshop space in the galleries of the Louvre, where the practice of housing eminent artists and craftsmen was a tradition that was originated under Henri IV. Silvestre's atelier was large: he had at least two pupils who had separate careers as engravers, François Noblesse and Meunier. In 1670 Charles Le Brun recommended him for membership in the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. In 1675 his son, the artist Louis de Silvestre, was born at Sceaux.

At his death he left a large collection of drawings, more than a thousand engravings, and other works of art to his sons, whose own artistic tastes he had nurtured. The family collection was sold at auction in 1810.

Joseph Vivien

Joseph Vivien (1657 – 5 December 1735) was a French painter of Lyon.He left his native Lyon for Paris at the age of twenty and found employment in the large atelier of Charles Le Brun, the equivalent of an academy. He made his reputation by his portraits in pastels, to which he gave a sparkle and immediacy hitherto unreached in that medium.

He was received in the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1701, under the designation peintre en pastel. He was appointed counsellor to the Academy and provided lodging under royal auspices at the royal manufactory of the Gobelins.

From Paris he visited Brussels. Vivien was taken up by the francophil Elector of Cologne and worked at Munich, as first painter to the Elector's brother, Maximilian Emmanuel, Elector of Bavaria. At the time of his death at Bonn, he was engaged on a vast canvas combining portraits of the whole family of the Elector, in oils.

Louis Laguerre

Louis Laguerre (1663 – 20 April 1721) was a French decorative painter mainly working in England.

Born in Versailles in 1663 and trained at the Paris Academy under Charles Le Brun, he came to England in 1683, where he first worked with Antonio Verrio, and then on his own. He rivalled with Sir James Thornhill in the field of history painting, primarily decorating the great houses of the nobility. His wall paintings can be found in Blenheim Palace, Marlborough House, Petworth House, Burghley House Fetcham Park House and Chatsworth House. In the 1980s, a restoration project revealed work by Laguerre at Frogmore House also. His subject matter included English victories over the armies of Louis XIV.

Laguerre painted religious subjects at St Lawrence's Church, Whitchurch, London. In 1731 Alexander Pope wrote,

On painted ceilings you devoutly stareWhere sprawl the saints of Verrio or Laguerre...

which was taken by some contemporaries to be a reference to Laguerre's work for James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos at this church and the nearby Cannons House.

Laguerre was also a director of Godfrey Kneller's London Academy of Drawing and Painting, founded in the autumn of 1711. He died in London on 20 April 1721.

Louis Le Vau

Louis Le Vau (1612 – 11 October 1670) was a French Classical Baroque architect, who worked for Louis XIV of France. He was born and died in Paris.

He was responsible, with André Le Nôtre and Charles Le Brun, for the redesign of the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte. His later works included the Palace of Versailles and his collaboration with Claude Perrault on the Palais du Louvre. Le Vau also designed two mirroring additions across the Parterre to the evergrowing Château de Vincennes, the Château du Raincy, the Hotel Tambonneau, the Collège des Quatre-Nations (now housing the Institut de France), the church of St. Sulpice, and Hôtel Lambert, on the Île Saint-Louis, Paris.

Perrault's Colonnade

Claude Perrault's Colonnade is the easternmost façade of the Palais du Louvre in Paris.

It has been celebrated as the foremost masterpiece of French Architectural Classicism since its construction, mostly between 1667 and 1670. Cast in a restrained classicizing baroque manner, it interprets rules laid down by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, whose works Perrault had translated into French. Architect Louis Le Vau and artist Charles Le Brun also contributed to the realization of Perrault's work.

Pierre Mignard

Pierre Mignard or Pierre Mignard I (17 November 1612 – 30 May 1695), called "Mignard le Romain" to distinguish him from his brother Nicolas Mignard, was a French painter known for his religious and mythological scenes and portraits. He was a near-contemporary of the Premier Peintre du Roi Charles Le Brun with whom he engaged in a bitter, life-long rivalry.

René-Antoine Houasse

René-Antoine Houasse (c. 1645–1710) was a decorative French painter.

He was a pupil of Charles Le Brun, under whose direction he worked at the Manufacture des Gobelins, and with whom he worked on the decoration of the Château de Versailles. He was the director of the French Academy in Rome from 1699 to 1704.

He painted an entire series of paintings depicting various myths involving the Graeco-Roman goddess Athena/Minerva.

René-Antoine Houasse was married on 5 February 1673 with Marie Le Blé, cousin of Charles Le Brun, and they got two children:

Agnès-Suzanne Houasse (1674-1719), married on 18 September 1690 with Nicolas Coustou (1658-1733);

Michel-Ange Houasse (1680-1730), a painter of genre scenes.He died at the hotel of Gramont in Paris on 27 May 1710.

Savonnerie manufactory

The Savonnerie manufactory was the most prestigious European manufactory of knotted-pile carpets, enjoying its greatest period c. 1650–1685; the cachet of its name is casually applied to many knotted-pile carpets made at other centers. The manufactory had its immediate origins in a carpet manufactory established in a former soap factory (French savon) on the Quai de Chaillot downstream of Paris in 1615 by Pierre DuPont, who was returning from the Levant.Under a patent (privilège) of eighteen years, a monopoly was granted by Louis XIII in 1627 to DuPont and his former apprentice Simon Lourdet, makers of carpets façon de Turquie ("in the manner of Turkey"). Until 1768, the products of the manufactory remained exclusively the property of the Crown, and Savonnerie carpets were among the grandest of French diplomatic gifts.The carpets were made of wool with some silk in the small details, knotted using the Ghiordes knot, at about ninety knots to the square inch. Some early carpets broadly imitate Persian models, but the Savonnerie style soon settled into more purely French designs, pictorial or armorial framed medallions, densely massed flowers in bouquets or leafy rinceaux against deep blue, black or deep brown grounds, within multiple borders.

Style Louis XIV

The Style Louis XIV, also called French classicism, was the style of architecture and decorative arts intended to glorify King Louis XIV and his reign. It featured majesty, harmony and regularity. It became the official style during the reign of Louis XIV (1643–1715), imposed upon artists by the newly established Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) and the Académie royale d'architecture (Royal Academy of Architecture). It had an important influence upon the architecture of other European monarchs, from Frederick the Great of Prussia to Peter the Great of Russia. Major architects of the period included François Mansart, Jules Hardouin Mansart, Robert de Cotte, Pierre Le Muet, Charles Perrault, and Louis Le Vau. Major monuments included the Palace of Versailles, the Grand Trianon at Versailles, and the Church of Les Invalides (1675–91).

The Louis XIV style had three periods. During the first period, which coincided with the youth of the King (1643-1660) and the regency of Anne of Austria, architecture and art were strongly influenced by the earlier style of Louis XIII and by the Baroque style imported from Italy. The early period saw the beginning of French classicism, particularly in the early works of Francois Mansart, such as the Chateau de Maisons (1630–51). During the second period (1660-1690), under the personal rule of the King, the style of architecture and decoration became more classical, triumphant and ostentatious, expressed in the building of the Chateau of Versailles, first by Louis Le Vau and then Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Until 1680, furniture was massive, decorated with a profusion of sculpture and gilding. In the later period, thanks to the development of the craft of marquetry, the furniture was decorated with different colors and different woods. The most prominent creator of furniture in the later period was André Charles Boulle. The final period of Louis XIV style, from about 1690 to 1715, is called the period of transition; it was influenced by Hardouin-Mansart and by the King's designer of fetes and ceremonies, Jean Bérain the Elder. The new style was lighter in form, and featured greater fantasy and freedom of line, thanks in part to the use of wrought iron decoration, and greater use of arabesque, grotesque and coquille designs, which continued into the style of Louis XV.

The Sacrifice of Polyxena (Charles Le Brun)

The Sacrifice of Polyxena is a mid 17th century painting by Frenchman Charles Le Brun. Done in oil on canvas, the painting depicts the sacrifice of Polyxena, a Trojan princess killed to appease the ghost of the Greek hero Achilles, whom had died in battle against the Trojans. The painting, which is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was well received, and is noted to have been confused with the work of master painter Nicolas Poussin.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.