Mohamed Dekkak standing with Charles Le Brun Painting Paris France

Charles Le BrunCharles Le Brun: French painter and decorator (Paris 1619-Paris 1690)

Charles Le BrunCharles Le Brun: French painter and decorator (Paris 1619-Paris 1690)
Charles Le BrunCharles Le Brun: French painter and decorator (Paris 1619-Paris 1690)


Despite his celebrity and the prominence of his rank in the French school of the seventeenth century, Le Brun remains unknown: the official career of the first painter of the king often forget the work, which is often thought boring. This work, which must certainly be put back in time to understand its spirit, however, bears the mark of a strong and rich personality, who had given proof of independence before serving the royal will.



The son of the sculptor Nicolas Le Brun was noted for his early talent. His apprenticeship with François Perrier (around 1590-1656), then Simon Vouet initiated him in a broad and noble manner. The Brun also studied with profit the frescoes of Fontainebleau, the paintings and the antiques of the royal collections. Before the age of twenty, he had already secured the protection of Chancellor Séguier (1588-1672) and had begun to frequent a literary community. The first important order came from Richelieu, who had him paint in 1641, for the Palais-Cardinal (Palais-Royal), three paintings, of which remains (at the Nottingham Museum) the Diomedes delivered by Hercules to his horses, a juvenile passion. The following year, Le Brun offered to the Parisian community of painters and sculptors, for his chapel established in the church of the Holy Sepulcher, a Martyrdom of Saint John the Evangelist (today in Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet ), a great composition which shows him already in possession of his means. He wanted, however, to perfect his education in Italy. In Rome, where he arrived in 1642, he was influenced by Poussin and the Bolognese while studying Raphael. Poussin’s lesson inspires Mucius Scaevola in front of Porsenna (Macon museum), where a more frank realism betrays, however, the personality of the young artist: the influence of the Guerchin prevails in the pathetic Pietà he sent to Chancellor Séguier (Musée du Louvre). On the way back, Le Brun stopped at Lyon; it is there without doubt that he painted a Death of Cato (museum of Arras) realistic until the brutality.

Returning to Paris in 1646, Le Brun soon made a name for Philippe de Champaigne, Le Sueur, La Hire, Bourdon and Jacques Stella (1596-1657), painters of classical attendance taught him to temper his realism; however, he had to keep more vigor and wealth. In 1648 he was one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, of which he was to be the soul. The following year, the disappearance of Vouet offered him the opportunity to impose himself, and he obtained important orders for the religious establishments of the capital. Inspired by devout circles, he adopted a dignified and serious language, but without coldness, charged with symbolic intentions and with archaeological accuracy. In 1647 and 1651 he painted for the Silversmiths of Paris two of the “buts” of Notre-Dame, the Martyrdom of St. Andrew, and the Martyrdom of St. Stephen; Domenichino’s influence is sensible. From 1652, he gave the Carmelites several paintings of an ample style; those who represent Christ in the desert served by the angels (Louvre), the Meal at Simon (Accademia of Venice) and the repentant Madeleine (Louvre) are preserved. From the decoration commissioned in 1654 by Jean-Jacques Olier (1608-1657) for the chapel of the seminary of Saint-Sulpice, there remains only the altarpiece, a The descent of the Holy Spirit with a large chiaroscuro effect ( Louvre). There follow smaller compositions, long meditated, where the balance between nobility and realism reigns: the Holy Family, called the Sleep of the Child Jesus; the meal of the Holy Family, says the Blessing, commanded by the Brotherhood of Carpenters (both at the Louvre). At the same time, we know some frank and sensitive portraits; more sumptuous is the large painting representing the Chancellor Seguier with his suite (Louvre). But Le Brun also devoted much of his time to decorating Parisian hotels, in an opulent style where the memory of the Bolognese adds to that of Perrier and Vouet. In 1652, the abbot of La Rivière ordered two large-arched ceilings (today at the Carnavalet museum), the Lever du jour and the Histoire de Psyché. A powerful breath animates the Works of Hercules painted around 1655 in the vault of the gallery of the Lambert hotel. In 1658, finally, Charles Le Brun was commissioned by the Superintendent Nicolas Fouquet to direct the interior decoration of his castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte. Finding the maturity of his style, he completed the salon of the Muses, that of Hercules and the king’s room where the relief of stucco is associated with painting; but he did not have time to execute the grandiose project he had conceived for the dome of the central salon, in which the Palace of the Sun was to appear. The Brown in the service of Louis XIV Arrested in 1661 by the fall of Fouquet, the shipyard of Vaux had proved the genius of Le Brun in the role of prime contractor. Louis XIV thus found the artist he needed, the interpreter of his thoughts. He made Le Brun his first painter, granted him letters of nobility, and appointed him director of the Royal Gobelins Manufacture. Stunned by the service of the sovereign, Le Brun had to practically stop working for the private clientele and for the churches; One can hardly quote that the Resurrection painted in 1676 for the brotherhood of the Merciers of Paris (today with the museum of Lyon) and the Descent of Cross ordered in 1679 by the Carmelites of Lyon (museum of Rennes). We must put aside the work done for Colbert in his area of Sceaux: the cupola of the chapel (1674), destroyed, and that of the flag of Aurora (1677), which remains.
Charles Le Brun, Passage of the Rhine in the presence of the enemies For the king, Le Brun was commissioned in 1661 to decorate the vault of the Apollo Gallery in the Louvre. From about 1665 to 1673, he traced the History of Alexander (Louvre) in four huge paintings where a breath of epic (Louvre). Works were entrusted to him at Saint-Germain-en-Laye, but it was at Versailles that he had to give his full measure. From 1674 to 1678 he directed the decoration of the sumptuous staircase of the Ambassadors, where triumphed the art of trompe l’oeil, but which was a victim of the transformations of the eighteenth century. A team of painters worked under his orders at the King’s and Queen’s apartments.  Charles Le Brun, Conquest of Franche-Comté With his assistants, Le Brun decorated the vault of the Hall of Mirrors from 1678 to 1684; to the symbolic works of Hercules originally planned was substituted a vast program celebrating, in a semi-historical, half-allegorical language, the most glorious actions of the monarch; the whole was completed by the ceilings of the salons of War and Peace. At the same time, Le Brun drew innumerable projects for sculptures, fountains, furniture, interior decoration details as well as for feasts and ceremonies. He is credited with the models of the main Gobelins woven tapestry hangings: the Four Elements, the Four Seasons, the History of Meleager, the Months or the Royal Houses and the History of the King, which accurately illustrates several episodes of the reign. The Brun even occupied himself with architecture; with Claude Perrault and Le Vau, he was in charge of developing the project of the colonnade of the Louvre; From 1679 to 1686, he designed the painted decoration of the facades of Marly. The death of Colbert in 1683 deprived him of an effective protector. Despite the favor of the king, Le Brun had to face a cabal fomented by the jealousy of Pierre Mignard and supported by Louvois. The conduct of the great works of decoration was withdrawn. In his later years, Le Brun began to paint easel pictures, where the memory of Poussin is recognized. The continuation of the Life of Jesus, commanded by the king, includes an adoration of the shepherds where the emotion is born of a beautiful effect of chiaroscuro, as in the one that Le Brun painted for himself, with still more fervor (both canvases are in the Louvre). The master died while the cabal triumphed; Mignard succeeded him in all his duties.The PainterLe Brun’s work is not only the testimony of a career – the most brilliant of his century. His style is male, serious, heroic, sometimes brutal at the beginning. The execution is broad, without the refinement of a La Hire or a Le Sueur, and the color less bright and warmer than that of most French masters of the century. The Brown is at ease in allegory, for which he immediately finds legible and living forms. This gift allows him to excel in the great decoration. However, realism never loses its rights; it inspires tasty pieces, especially in the works of the first period (for example the stove and the cat of the Sleep of the Child Jesus), but still in some of the maturity, as the staircase of the Ambassadors or the tapestries of the King’s story. The Project Manager. Brun could not have overcome his businesses without the intervention of many helpers. This explains some of the weaknesses in the execution, which is especially noticeable in the great decorations of the Versailles period. While Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne (1631-1681), Noël Coypel (1628-1707), Antoine Paillet (1626-1701), Michel II Corneille (1642-1708), Jean-Baptiste Corneille (1649-1695), René Antoine Houasse (1645-1710), etc., working under his direction, have preserved their individual mark, other painters, such Louis Licherie (1629-1687) or François Verdier (1651-1730), nephew of the master, reflect more directly its influence. Among the collaborators of Le Brun, it is also necessary to make the contribution of the specialists: Jacques Rousseau (1630-1693), who painted architectures in trompe-l’oeil; Jean-Baptiste Monnoyer (1634-1699), author of sumptuous still lifes; Belin de Fontenay (1653-1715), painter of flowers; without forgetting Adam Frans Van der Meulen (1632-1690), the painter of battles, to whom Le Brun entrusted landscape funds for his tapestry models.The official career of Le Brun overflows, as we have seen, the field of painting. The incredible wealth of his invention is illustrated by the drawings he gave to the talent of sculptors, carvers, carpenters, goldsmiths, upholsterers. In most cases he contented himself with providing them with “thoughts” which admitted rather great freedom of execution, but assured the unity of the decorative style which accompanies the most brilliant period of the reign of Louis XIV.


Charles Le Brun is a French painter whose career is inseparable from the reign of King Louis XIV, of which he was the director of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. He is mainly known for his predominant role in the decoration of the Palace of Versailles.

Charles Le Brun was born on February 24, 1619 in Paris. Son of sculptor, it is in this discipline that he makes his weapons in the middle of the art. But it is by his provisions for painting that the young Le Brun is spotted by the Chancellor Pierre Séguier, while he learned the trade from François Perrier. He continues his apprenticeship at Simon Vouet, Nicolas Poussin, to finally perfect his apprenticeship in Italy. He returned to Paris in 1646, and quickly obtained many commissions such as “The Martyrdom of St. Andrew” (1647).

Hardly accepted by his peers in the 1650s, he is nonetheless very much supported by Séguier. His gigantic paintings offer him the opportunity to realize the decoration of the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte between 1656 and 1661. This enormous building site contributes greatly to its fame, and to its introduction at the end of the years 1650 with the king Louis XIV by Mazarin. He began by making the royal entrance, then was entrusted in 1661 his largest project: the decoration of the Palace of Versailles. This mission will occupy him all the rest of his life, so much so that he is appointed director of the Royal Academy in 1663, then painter of the king in 1664. He will exercise his talents near the court until his death February 12, 1690, realizing in particular the sumptuous gallery of ice creams of Versailles.


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