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Coypel

(1694—1752)


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Dynasty of French painters of which Noël (b Paris, 25 Dec. 1628; d Paris, 24 Dec. 1707) was the head. He worked in an academic style based on the example of Poussin and Le Brun, was much employed on the large decorative schemes of Louis XIV, notably at Versailles, and was director of the French Academy in Rome (1672–4) and then of the Académie Royale in Paris (1695–9). His son Antoine (b Paris, 12 Apr. 1661; d Paris, 7 Jan. 1722) accompanied his father to Rome as a boy (he was a child prodigy) and there is a strong Italian element in his style. This comes out particularly in his most famous work, the ceiling of the chapel at Versailles (1708), which derived from Gaulli's ceiling in the Gesù in Rome. This and Coypel's decorations at the Palais Royal in Paris (1702–5, destroyed) rank as the two most completely Baroque schemes found in French art of this period. The Versailles ceiling is more successful than much of Coypel's work, which often combines, in the words of Anthony Blunt, ‘the bombast of the Baroque and the pedantry of the classical style without the virtues of either’. He became director of the Académie Royale in 1714 and chief painter to the king in 1715. His half-brother Noël-Nicolas (b Paris, 17 Nov. 1690; d Paris, 14 Dec. 1734) painted with much more charm, mainly mythological subjects, but he seems to have had a rather timid personality and did not achieve the worldly success of the other members of the family. Indeed, he was the best painter of the family, but is the least famous. Chardin was briefly his pupil. Antoine's son Charles-Antoine (b Paris, 11 July 1694; d Paris, 14 June 1752) was a much more forceful character than Noël-Nicolas and had a resoundingly successful career, largely due to his administrative capacity in the various official positions that he held. In 1747 he became director of the Académie Royale and chief painter to the king. He also wrote verse, plays (several of which were performed at court), and art criticism. As a painter he was versatile and prolific, but the weakest member of the family: his Supper at Emmaus (1746) in St Merri, Paris, has been described by Sir Michael Levey as ‘pathetically inept’.

Subjects: Art.


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