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Pierre Mignard (1612 - 1695)

Pierre Mignard
(1612 - 1695)
      Portraiture, Murals, Secular Narratives, First Painter to Louis XIV in 1690 Art Work
Name: Pierre Mignard
Gender: Male
Place of Birth: Troyes
Nationality: Frence
Birth: 1612
Death: 1695
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   Quick Facts
Known For: Portraiture, Murals, Secular Narratives, First Painter to Louis XIV in 1690
Medium: Oil, fresco
Fine Art Profession(s): Painting

French. Best known as the chief rival (and lesser talent in some minds) of the great Charles Le Brun, Pierre Mignard spent nearly a lifetime in Le Bran's shadow before finally (at age seventy-eight) succeeding Le Brun as first painter to the king. Mignard remained active until his own death five years later, fulfilling official commissions, producing religious works and occasional portraits, for which he is most admired today. Mignard's final work, left unfinished at his death, was a self-portrait as St. Luke in remembrance of his long association with the Academy of St. Luke, the rival artistic society to the Royal Academy which was run by Le Brun. A student of Jean Boucher at Bo urges in 1624, Pierre Mignard made studies at Fontainebleau before moving to Paris to work with Simon Vouet* (1627). There he developed his lifelong enmity with Charles Le Brun. Having befriended the painter/writer DuFresnoy, Pierre joined him on a trip to Italy in 1635 and spent two decades working and studying in Rome (he stayed until 1657), also making a brief visit (1654-55) to Venice and Northern Italy. Pierre's interests focused on Correggio, Annibale Carracci, Guido Reni, Albani, Domenichino, and Poussin. Though Pierre Mignard espoused Venetian colorism in opposition to Le Brun's advocacy of drawing, Mignard in fact worked in an even more rigidly classical style than his rival. Of Mignard's Roman career, little survives. His ambitious St. Charles Borromeo and the Plague-Stricken of Milan was rejected by S. Carlo ai Catinari in Rome and has found its way to Narbonne, Musee des Beaux- Arts. His sweet, rather coy Virgins (called "Mignardes" for their affectation) are known mainly through engravings; few portraits can be associated with his Roman period with certainty. One example, Children of the Due de Bouillon (dated 1647, Honolulu Academy of Arts), has been accepted by many scholars, and it demonstrates Mignard's sensitive and vivid portrayal of individuals which would stand him in good stead for the rest of his life. Recalled to France in 1657 by Louis XIV, Mignard established himself as a portrait painter and is credited with revitalizing the moribund tradition of the allegorical portrait. Successful because of their delicate fusion of realism and artifice, the best of these, such as the Marquise de Seignelay and Her Two Children (dated 1691, London, National Gallery), also reveal the high level of Mignard's talents late in his career. Mignard also received commissions to decorate private homes and churches. The most important of his surviving examples is the dome for the church of Val-de-Gr5ce of 1663, done for Anne of Austria, which is notable as the only large painted vault of seventeenth-century France still extant. Praised for its successful organization of over 200 figures within the dome, the fresco has also been dismissed as a mere reiteration of Correggio's solution of the problem some centuries earlier. Though long excluded from royal commissions, Mignard eventually began to receive some official projects. For the Due d'Orleans at St. Cloud he produced a Pieta (dated 1677-80), painted for the chapel of the Chateau which is now in the church of Sainte Marie Madeleine de Genevilliers; for Monsieur, the king's brother, he added decorations to the Petite Galerie and adjoining salons at Versailles in 1684. Colbert's death in 1683 helped the ascendancy of Mignard's supporter, Louvois, and weakened Le Brun's official supremacy in the arts. With the subsequent rise of Louvois, more work came Mignard's way. Louvois commissioned a Tent of Darius (dated 1689, St. Petersburg, Hermitage) in direct competition with Le Brun's famed work of 1661 done for the king. Much admired in its day, Mignard's version is now criticized for being less persuasive and more emptily rhetorical in gesture and feeling, and for relying somewhat too heavily on Italian models such as Domcnichino and Pietro da Cortona.* In 1690, Le Brun's death opened the way for Mignard to accede to all of Le Brun's former titles, thereby prompting a final burst of creativity. Mignard designed decorations for the church of Les Invalides (for which drawings are preserved in the Louvre), two ceilings for the Petit Apartment of the king at Versailles (of which fragments are now in Grenoble, Lille, Toulouse, and Dinant, as well as in Fontainebleau), and some religious commissions. Christ and the Samaritan Woman (signed and dated 1690, Paris, Louvre) is a notable example. Like his former rival, Mignard found success by producing refined and intellectually oriented paintings. His dependence on Italian models is sometimes too evident, and his interpretations often lack Le Bran's vigorous masculine approach, becoming instead smoother, more graceful, and sweeter. Some 300 drawings are now preserved in the Louvre, most of which date from Mignard's final years. Attribution of his portraits remains problematic, however. A recent monograph has now reduced the acceptable examples to thirty, while scholars continue to disagree as to individual attributions.

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