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Work Pierre Mignard (1612-1695), First Painter to the King

Department of Sculptures: France, 17th and 18th centuries

Pierre Mignard (1612-95)

© 1999 Musée du Louvre / Pierre Philibert

Sculptures
France, 17th and 18th centuries

Author(s):
Montalbetti Valérie

Desjardins's proud, vivacious portrait of the painter Pierre Mignard is a striking testimony to the friendship between sculptor and model. The long hair and open shirt are characteristic of the disheveled look associated with artistic creativity.

Portrayed as an artist, in a token of friendship

Pierre Mignard was a major figure in French 17th-century painting. He was head of the Academy of Saint Luke, in opposition to his rival Charles Lebrun, director of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture (to whom Mignard succeeded in 1690). Martin Desjardins's sculpted portrait is one of impressive presence and authority, in which the model's haughty character is expressed by the thin face turned to the left, the jutting chin and proud expression, the determined eyebrows, strong nose, and disdainful pout. His cloak is draped diagonally across his breast. The sculptor mingled psychological observation with a certain idealization, erasing any imperfection or particularity of feature, but this is a dashing portrait which represents the painter with the disheveled appearance characteristic of an artist: open shirt accentuated by finely worked lace, and long wavy hair. This bust, animated by a play of light and shade, is a precious testimony to the friendship between sculptor and model. Desjardins and Mignard collaborated on the bronze medallions for the Place des Victoires (Mignard drew the models). In Desjardins's posthumous inventory there was a Pan and Syrinx by Mignard (a copy of it, given by the artist to his eldest son Charles, is in the Louvre).

Known portraits of Mignard

We know of two sculpted marble portraits of Mignard in Paris. The bust in the Louvre came from the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture: it was given on 29 November 1726 by Mignard's daughter, the countess Jules de Pas de Feuquières. She had the second bust placed on the tomb for her father (commissioned from Jean-Baptiste II Lemoyne) at the Jacobine church on the rue Saint-Honoré (it is now in the Saint-Roch church). This bust, long attributed to Girardon, is probably a copy of Desjardins's work, adapted somewhat to suit its purpose. The countess of Feuquières had already given the Louvre (28 September 1696) a self-portrait of Mignard in a much more solemn pose, surrounded by his major works - in reference to the portrait of Charles Lebrun by Nicolas de Largillière (in the Louvre).

The posterity of this work

Artists would appreciate this portrait. In the 18th century, Louis-Claude Vassé obviously had Desjardins's work in mind when he sculpted a bust of Mignard, which was presented at the Salon of 1757, intended (together with four other busts) to glorify the celebrities of the city of Troyes. He copied the physiognomy quite closely, modernized the clothes (but kept their disheveled look), and shortened and tamed the hair (but kept it tousled). Around 1892-95, the painter Cézanne made a sketch from the bust of Desjardins (Kunstmuseum, Basel), in which he emphasized the flowing locks.

Bibliography

Courajod Louis, "Le Buste de Pierre Mignard au musée du Louvre", in GBA, février 1884, p. 153-165, étude reprise dans Alexandre Lenoir, son journal et le Musée des monuments français, III, 1887, p. 73-89.
Huisman Philippe, "Les Bustes de Pierre Mignard", in GBA, 1958, p. 267-272.
Beyer Victor et Bresc Geneviève, La Sculpture française du XVIIe siècle au musée du Louvre, Bergame, 1977, n.p.
Le Peintre, le roi, le héros. L'Andromède de Pierre Mignard, Dossiers du département des Peintures, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1989, cat. 2.

Technical description

  • Martin VAN DEN BOGAERT, known as Martin DESJARDINS (Breda, 1637 - Paris, 1694)

    Pierre Mignard (1612-95)

    Provenance: collections of the Académie Royale

  • Marble

    H. 0.70 m; W. 0.56 m; D. 0.34 m

  • M.R. 2483

  • Sculptures

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor

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Additional information about the work

Given by Desjardins in 1695 to Catherine-Marguerite de Feuquières (the painter's daughter), who donated it to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1726.