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LE BRUN, Charles, a French historical painter, was born in Paris, February 24th, 1619. He received his first instruction in art from his father, who was a sculptor, and from an obscure painter named Perrier. At the age of eleven he was fortunate enough to be noticed by the Chancellor Siguier, who placed him in the studio of Vouet, and ever proved a constant friend to the rising young artist. During the next few years his progress and industry were remarkable. He attracted the notice of Poussin, and in 1642 accompanied him to Italy, whither he was enabled to proceed by the generosity of his patron.
He was received by the Barberini, then paramount in Rome, and presented to Pope Urban VIII. His stay lasted about four years, during which period he painted a few works, but chiefly occupied himself in studying from the antique. There is still extant a letter written by him at this period, which shows how greatly he was attracted by the smallest details of classical antiquity. During his journey home, he made a short sojourn at Lyons, where he executed some commissions. Arrived at Paris, where his reputation had preceded him, he at once settled down to the practice of his profession. Orders quickly flowed in upon him.
He was one of the numerous band of artists who worked for the President Lambert de Thorigny on the decoration of his hotel on the tie St Louis. The magnificent Fouquet employed him at his chateau at Vaux, and gave him a pension of 12,000 livres. For the oratory of Anne of Austria, he painted a 'Crucifixion,' and she presented him with her portrait set in diamonds. By Mazarin he was introduced to Louis XIV., and through the king's patronage became, after the death of Le Sueur, the head of the French school, exercising unlimited sway in all matters relating to art in France. In 1648, he took the principal part in the foundation of the Academy, which was always an object of great solicitude to him, and in which he filled successively all the offices of honour. This was not the only service French art owed to him.
He was greatly instrumental in the establishment of the French school at Rome, and he was the first director of the Gobelins manufactory on its foundation by Colbert. During all this time he was painting unceasingly for his royal patron. After the fire at the Louvre in 1661, the works in the Apollo Gallery were entirely confided to him. He also found employment at the royal chateau at Sceaux, and at the Pavilions at Marly.
But his greatest work was at the King's new and costly hobby at Versailles. There he designed fountains, statues, decorations, Ac, besides painting the gigantic series of allegories commemorating his royal patron's achievements. On the death of Colbert in 1683, his supremacy began to suffer an eclipse at the hands of Louvois, who favoured his rival Mignard. He gradually withdrew from court, and fell into a state of melancholy, which continued until his death at the Gobelins in Paris, on February 12, 1690.
TEXT CREDIT: Dictionary of painters and engravers