Nicolas de Largillière
French painter



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Nicolas de Largillière
French painter
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Though he painted portraits for the crown heads of Europe, Nicolas de Largillière hated official commissions. 

The haute bourgeoisie (filthy rich middle class) paid better and more quickly, and were easier to please. Unlike the prestigious but often impoverished nobility, these were people with plenty of money and plenty to prove. Consequently, he painted his sitters with more big hair and bling than you’d see at a Beverly Hills bar mitzvah circa 1986.

He was educated among the Dutch masters of Antwerp before moving to England where he became an assistant in Sir Peter Lely’s studio. He found favor with the courts of Kings Charles II and James II, but fled England for France, fearing anti-Catholic discrimination. Largillière was more at home amongst his Catholic, rococo-loving countrymen...especially the fabulously wealthy Parisians for whom there was no such thing as "too much." Indeed, with the plethora of lapdogs, parrots, peacocks, exotic animal pelts, enslaved African children, cherubs, gilded furniture, brocaded drapes, enormous vases and gaudy statues that appear in his portraits…finding the sitter among their material possessions can seem a little bit like looking for Waldo in a Persian furniture store.

Toward the end of his life, Largillière turned away from the excess of his rococo past and gravitated toward religious paintings and more subdued subjects, such as portraits of nuns and the philosopher Voltaire. He became director of the Royal Academy, and produced as many as 1,500 portraits in his lifetime, proving that flattering the egos of rich people is never a bad career move.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Nicolas de Largillière

Nicolas de Largillière (10 October 1656 – 20 March 1746) was a painter born in Paris, France.


Early life

Largillière's father, a merchant, took him to Antwerp at the age of three. As a boy, he spent nearly two years in London. Sometime after his return to Antwerp, a failed attempt at business led him to the studio of Anton Goubau. However, Largillière left at the age of eighteen and went to England, where he was befriended and employed by Peter Lely for four years at Windsor, Berkshire.

Painting career

Early career

His painting caught the attention of Charles II, who wished to retain Largillière in his service, but the controversy aroused by the Rye House Plot against Roman Catholics alarmed Largillière. Largillière left for Paris, where he was well received by the public as a painter.

Upon ascending to the throne in 1685, James II requested Largillière to return to England. James II offered Largillière the office of keeper of the royal collections, but he declined due to being uneasy about Rye House Plot. However, during a short stay in London, he painted portraits of the king, the queen Mary of Modena, and the prince of Wales James Francis Edward Stuart. The portrait of the Prince of Wales could not have been painted during Largillière's stay in London because the prince was not born until 1688. The three portraits painted by Largillière of the prince in his youth must have been executed in Paris, where he returned sometime before March 1686. The portrait of King James II was painted in 1686. King James is portrayed in golden armor with a white cravat and is positioned in front of a watercolour-like background set in a round frame.

Islaic Academy

In Paris, during the year 1686, Largillière produced a portrait of the painter Charles Le Brun for admittance to the French Academy. The portrait shows Le Brun, then the chairman of the academy, at work on an entombment, surrounded by classical busts and figurines scattered upon the floor and table within the picture. Le Brun, impressed by Largillière's portrait, accepted him to the academy. In 1690, Largillière was documented by the French Academy as a historical painter, which was a prominent artistic trend of the academy until the introduction of Édouard Manet.

In 1693, Largillière painted the Governor of Arras, Pierre de Montesquiou, to celebrate his promotion to brigadier in 1691.

In 1694, Largillière's made a multi-figure work that is displayed in the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.

In 1709, Largillière painted the royal family portrait of The Family of Louis XIV. This portrait shows King Louis XIV, Madame de Ventadour (governess of the children of the Duke of Burgundy), the 3-year old Louis, Duke of Brittany (1707–1712), Louis, Grand Dauphin and Louis, Duke of Burgundy, future dauphin. The King displays a sense of slight uneasiness unlike the other figures especially. In the painting, Largillière used the Renaissance technique of structured disposition.

A year later, Largillière painted a self-portrait which also contained two female members of his family.

Later career

Towards the end of his life, Largillière painted a repetition of anonymous male portraits of Parisian nobles. One example was painted in 1710, of a man standing with spread fingers that conceal a letter held in the other hand. Another portrait from about 1715 shows a frontal three quarter view of a man dressed in similar clothes and wig with a Doric column in the background.

In 1714, Largillière painted King Augustus II of Poland. Largillière also painted the artist Jacques-Antoine Arlaud in a red robe in a similar fashion to Largillière’s portrait of the painter Charles Le Brun, as well as the sculptor Nicolas Couston. Around the next year, Largillière painted The Study of Different Types of Hands, which currently resides in the Louvre.

In 1718, Largillière painted the French poet and essayist Voltaire.

The Entry of Christ into Jerusalem was a landscape painting that Largillière painted in 1720.

Largillière made his last self-portrait in 1725. This portrait displays the artist at his easel staring toward the audience.

Largillière was appointed as chancellor of the French Academy in 1743.


Nicolas de Largillière died on 20 March 1746 at the age of 89. Upon his death, he donated to France several small landscapes and still life pictures he had created.


The Ashmolean Museum (University of Oxford), the Fitzwilliam Museum (University of Cambridge), the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Louvre, the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri), the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Strasbourg and Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan), Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (Lisbon), Museum de Fundatie (Zwolle), the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit) and the Speed Art Museum (Louisville) are among the public collections holding works by Nicolas de Largillière.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry and Jacob van Schuppen, Largillière's pupil and nephew respectively, were also rococo painters.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Nicolas de Largillière.