Carle Vanloo was the most important and internationally famous member of the Vanloo dynasty of painters who were active all over Europe throughout the eighteenth century. His contemporaries saw him as the outstanding European history painter of his time.
Born in Nice in 1703, Vanloo joined his older brother, the portrait painter Jean-Baptiste (1684-1745), in Turin in 1712 and moved to Rome in 1714 where he began training with Benedetto Luti (1666-1724) and the sculptor Pierre Legros the Younger (1666-1719). The brothers moved to Paris in 1719, where Carle became a student at the Academy. In 1724 he won the Grand prix, but had to raise the funds himself to go to Italy in 1728. In Rome, he quickly became successful and worked on religious and secular history paintings. In 1732, Carle began his way back to Paris staying in Turin until 1734 where he married the singer Cristina Somis.
Agréé (Candidate) in 1734, he became an Academy member in 1735 with Apollo Flaying Marsyas (Ecole Nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris). This was the beginning of a successful career at the Académie royale and of an important sequence of Royal commissions. He became professeur in 1737, director of the Ecole des élèves protégés in 1749, and directeur of the Academy in 1763. First royal commissions were two hunting scenes for the Petits apartements of Louis XV in Versailles in 1736 and 1738 and a Hunt Breakfast for Fontainebleau in 1737. In 1747 and 1748 he was commissioned to paint the official portraits of king and queen. He also painted for the Gobelins and worked for Madame de Pompadour. In 1762 he was nominated Premier peintre du roi.
From the 1750s, Vanloo was a European celebrity. The most important religious commission of his career was the Life of Saint Augustine, painted for Notre-Dame-des-Victoires in Paris between 1746 and 1755. Among his greatest masterworks are the large portrait of Mademoiselle Clairon painted in 1759 for Princess Galitzin (Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Neues Palais, Potsdam), the Spanish Conversation and the Spanish Lecture for Madame Geoffrin from 1754 and 1758 respectively and the outstanding history painting of his career, the Sacrifice of Iphigenia, painted in 1755-1757 for Frederick II of Prussia (Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin-Brandenburg, Neues Palais, Potsdam).