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French, 1588 - 1660
Claude Déruet's father was clockmaker to Charles III, duc de Lorraine. In 1605 Déruet was apprenticed to Jacques Bellange (c. 1575-1616), the leading painter in the duchy. By 1613--and likely earlier--he was in Rome, working in the studio of Agostino Tassi (1580-1644). He is also recorded in the studio of Cavaliere d'Arpino (1568-1640) and associated with the French engraver Philippe Thomassin (1562-1622), who engraved some of his designs. Pope Paul V Borghese (1552-1621) was a patron of Déruet: his only surviving mural decoration is an Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1618, in the chapel of the Villa Borghese, Rome. The artist was appointed Knight of the Papal Order of Portugal in 1619, the year he returned to his native Nancy. In Nancy, he soon replaced his former master Bellange as the duchy's leading painter, and he enjoyed the patronage of Henri II, duc de Lorraine. His decorations in the ducal palace and churches in Nancy have all vanished. Claude Lorrain (1604/1605-1682), whom Déruet had known in Rome and who was making a brief return visit to Nancy, assisted him on the decoration of ceiling of the Carmelite Church in 1625-1626.
In 1621 Déruet rose to the nobility and began to live in a grand style in a series of opulent homes. The contemporary historian André Félibien (1619-1695) described him as behaving like a "grand seigneur" on one of his visits to Paris. Some religious paintings survive from this period, such as the altarpiece depicting Saint Roch (Nancy, Musée Historique Lorrain), and secular works such as two series of four landscapes each, representing Amazons on Horseback (one series is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Strasbourg; the other is divided between the Musée Jeanne d'Aboville, La Fère, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). He continued to enjoy the patronage of Charles IV, duc de Lorraine, even while attracting the beneficent attention of the invading French King Louis XIII and his consort Anne of Austria. After the siege and capture of Nancy in 1633, the royal couple lodged in Déruet's grand house, and he instructed Louis XIII in drawing. His 1634 portrait by the French king survives (Nancy, Musée Historique Lorrain). About 1640 he painted four complex allegorical scenes of The Elements (Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts) for the château of Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642), at the same time as Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) painted his more celebrated series of Bacchanals for the same patron. In comparison with the up-to-date Roman classicism of Poussin, Déruet's paintings remain crowded and retardataire examples of late mannerism, yet in a positive sense they manifest a courtly elegance. When in Rome, he had ignored the innovatory naturalism of Caravaggio (1571-1610) and the Carracci (active last quarter of the sixteenth century). Another major surviving work is his large Rape of the Sabine Women (Munich, Alte Pinakothek), which the city of Nancy acquired in 1650 as a gift for the French governor of Lorraine. He was in demand as a portraitist of members of the Lorrainese court. These works are sometimes refined in execution, but they betray an archaic, mannerist stiffness that reflects the increasingly provincial nature of the old duchy. A painter of Déruet's standing and prolific production would have supported a large studio of assistants. The surviving body of Déruet's portraits, religious works, secular allegories, and engravings still awaits a modern study.
[Philip Conisbee, in French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century, The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue, Washington, D.C., 2009: 132-133.]