Hyacinthe Rigaud

Portraitist to royalty, politicians and artists, Hyacinthe Rigaud was one of the foremost French Baroque painters. He succeeded in merging a tradition of idealization with a new naturalism, showing his sitter’s facial flaws within a majestic pose and opulent surroundings. He rendered the texture of fabrics, fur and lace with the utmost proficiency. Rigaud’s style dominated French official portraiture into the 18th century.

Rigaud apprenticed in Montpellier, moving to Lyon, and then to Paris in 1681. He studied drawing at the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, under Charles Lebrun, and worked briefly with portraitists François de Troy and Nicolas de Largillierre. Within his first year in Paris, Rigaud won the Prix de Rome for painting, and in 1688 received his first royal commission.

Although the realism of Rigaud’s early work shows the influence of Anthony van Dyck, he soon acquired a more lively style, showing dynamic poses and enhanced chiaroscuro, and incorporating objects representing the sitter’s everyday life. Hyacinthe Rigaud’s work includes his celebrated 1701 portrait of Louis XIV, which hangs in the Louvre, as well as Cardinal de Bouillon and Jean Le Juge and his Family.

Self Portrait, 1716 (oil on canvas), Rigaud, Hyacinthe (1659-1743) / Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy / The Bridgeman Art Library