The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Charles Le Brun
  • Antoine Coysevox (1640 - 1720)
  • Charles Le Brun
  • France
  • c. 1676
  • Bust
  • Terracotta
  • Height: 66 cm
  • S60
  • Billiard Room
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • This vibrant portrait bust of Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) first painter of Louis XIV, was made by his friend, the royal sculptor Antoine Coyzevox. It was presented to the French Royal Academy for approval in 1676 and served as the model for the marble bust commissioned from Coysevox as his reception piece in 1679 (today at the Louvre).

    One of the founders of the French Academy, of which he became Chancellor in 1663, in the same year Le Brun was made Director of the Gobelins manufacture, where all the works of sculpture, tapestry and decorative arts destined for the royal residences were to be produced under his design and close control. He was one of the artists most trusted by Louis XIV’s minister Colbert, and one of the most important for the creation of a unified artistic style and coherent iconographic programme devoted to the celebration of the king.

    Acknowledged by contemporaries as a perfect arbiter of taste, his understanding of ancient and modern Italian art proved extremely helpful to forge the new taste and style of both painters and sculptors. The influence of classical sculpture had a fundamental role in the training of French artists and Le Brun was instrumental also in the creation of the French Academy in Rome in 1666.

    This portrait of Le Brun is a typically baroque work. Only a handful of works in terracotta by Coysevox survive, and this is generally regarded as one of the finest.

    The intimate character of this portrait is evident in the representation of the sitter in a simple pleated shirt underneath the voluminous drapery. Coysevox, however, is careful in subtly rendering the social status of his friend, by meticulously modelling the richly decorated medallion with a portrait of Louis XIV on his chest. The so-called boite à portrait received by Le Brun in 1667 was usually bestowed by the king on individuals of great merit. The strong naturalism of this portrait is typical of Coysevox’ work, whose style was largely inspired by the late Italian Baroque art, especially that of Bernini, but who also showed an interest in naturalistic representation that already opened to the full-blown rococo.