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NICOLAS LARGILLIERE (1656-1746)

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Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 216 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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NICOLAS LARGILLIERE (1656-1746), French painter, was born at Paris on the loth of October 1656. His father, a merchant, took him to Antwerp at the age of three, and while a lad he spent nearly two years in London. The attempt to turn his attention to business having failed, he entered, some time after his return to Antwerp, the studio of Goubeau, quitting this at the age of eighteen to seek his fortune in England, where he was befriended by Lely, who employed him for four years at Windsor. His skill attracted the notice of Charles II., who wished to retain him in his service, but the fury aroused against Roman Catholics by the Rye House Plot alarmed Largilliere, and he went to Paris, where he was well received by Le Brun and Van der Meulen. In spite of his Flemish training, his reputation, especially as a portrait-painter, was soon established; his brilliant colour and lively touch attracted all the celebrities of the day—actresses, public men and popular preachers flocking to his studio. Huet, bishop of Avranches, Cardinal de Noailles, the Duclos and President Lambert, with his beautiful wife and daughter, are amongst his most noted subjects. It is said that James II. recalled Largilliere to England on his accession to the throne in 1685, that he declined the office of keeper of the royal collections, but that, during a short stay in London, he painted portraits of the king, the queen and the prince of Wales. This last is impossible, as the birth of the prince did not take place till 1688; the three portraits, therefore, painted by Largilliere of the prince in his youth must all have been executed in Paris, to which city he returned some time before March 1686, when he was received by the Academy as a member, and presented as his diploma picture the fine portrait of Le Brun, now in the Louvre. He was received as an historical painter; but, although he occasionally produced works of that class (" Crucifixion," engraved by Roettiers), and also treated subjects of still life, it was in historical portraits that he excelled. Horace Walpole states that he left in London those of Pierre van der Meulen and of Sybrecht. Several of his works are at Versailles. The church of St Etienne du Mont at Paris contains the finest example of Largilliere's work when dealing with large groups of figures; it is an ex voto offered by the city to St Genevieve, painted in 1694, and containing portraits of all the leading officers of the municipality. Largilliere passed through every post of honour in the Academy, until in 1743 he was made chancellor. He died on the loth of March 1746. Jean Baptiste Oudry was the most distinguished of his pupils. Largilliere's work found skilful interpreters in Van Schuppen, Edelinck, Desplaces, Drevet, Pitou and other engravers.
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