Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rigaud, Hyacinthe

Louis XIV, Roi de France en costume de sacre
oil on canvas
277 × 194 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659 - 1743), a Catalan origin whose career was based in Paris, was one of the most prolific and successful French portrait painters of the Baroque period. He is renowned for his portrait paintings of Louis XIV in his coronation costume, the royalty and nobility of Europe, and members of their courts and considered one of the most notable French portraitists of the classical period. He was one of those French painters who knew the highest celebrity under the Ancien Regime. 

Rigaud studied in Montpellier and Lyon before arriving in Paris in 1681. His reputation was established in 1688 with a portrait (now lost) of Monsieur, Louis XIV's brother, and he became the outstanding court painter of the latter part of Louis's reign, retaining his popularity after the king's death. He was less interested in showing individual character than in depicting the rank and condition of the sitter by nobility of attitude and expressiveness of gesture. These qualities are seen most memorably in his celebrated state portrait of one of the classic images of royal majesty, Louis XIV (this painting). Louis so admired this portrait that, although he had intended it as a present to Philip V of Spain, he kept it himself.

Rigaud combined Anthony van Dyck's prototypes and opulent style with Philippe de Champaigne's stiff, linear formality. In his unofficial portraits, however, Rigaud's interest in realism and character displays the influence of Rembrandt van Rijn. His studio employed both part-time specialists and full-time assistants like Jean-Marc Nattier. They often copied his portraits, which Rigaud touched up as necessary. He was elected to the Academie Royale as a history painter in 1700, and he later taught there.