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Jean Baptiste de Champaigne

French, 1631 - 1681

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Born in Brussels in 1631, Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne was the nephew of Philippe de Champaigne (1606-1674), and in 1642 went to Paris to be his uncle's pupil and assistant. For about eighteen months in 1658-1659, he traveled in Italy, where he was especially attracted to the classicizing style of Raphael (1483-1520) and other painters in the classical tradition. In this spirit, he made a copy of Domenichino's (1581-1641) Martyrdom of Saint Andrew for the Jansenist monastery of Port-Royal (now in Lyon Cathedral). On his return to Paris Jean-Baptiste assisted his uncle in major cycles of decoration, such as in the nuns' refectory of the Val-de-Grâce, which included the Supper at Emmaus (Lyon Cathedral) and Israelites Gathering Manna (Paris, Saint Etienne du Mont), and at the château of Vincennes. But most of his decorative cycles have been destroyed or dispersed, so it is difficult to form a just picture of his career. While Jean-Baptiste's art is deeply indebted to that of Philippe, he was also influenced by the more academic style of Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) and other artists who worked for the Crown at Versailles. He was received into the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1663, on the presentation of Minerva Crowning Hercules. In 1666 he was put in charge of decorating the apartment of Louis de Bourbon, the grand dauphin, at the palace of the Tuileries; four panels devoted to The Education of Achilles survive (Paris, Musée du Louvre and Château of Maisons-Lafitte). The dramatic Stoning of Saint Paul at Lystra of 1667 (Marseille, Musée des Beaux-Arts) shows Jean-Baptiste's monumental mature style, weightier and less naturalistic than his uncle's. He was commissioned for numerous other royal and ecclesiastical schemes of decoration, including Louis XIV's apartments at the Tuileries in 1671, the extant ceiling in the Salon de Mercure at Versailles in 1671, Queen Maria Theresa's oratory at Versailles in 1680, and altarpieces for Parisian churches such as a Supper at Emmaus (c. 1662) and a Last Supper (both Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and a Presentation of the Virgin (Paris, Notre-Dame de la Bonne Nouvelle). Like his uncle, whose studio he continued after the elder artist's death in 1674, he worked extensively for the Jansenist monastery of Port-Royal. The later works are austere and seem to look back to the mature work of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) in their classicism, as in The Last Supper of 1678 (Detroit Institute of Arts) and The Sermon on the Mount (c. 1667-1668, Dijon, Musée Magnin). Jean-Baptiste's reputation has been overshadowed by that of his more celebrated uncle, but recent scholarship has begun a reassessment of the work of this artist, who was highly regarded in his own day.

[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: 48.]

Artist Bibliography

Dorival, Bernard. Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne (1631-1681): la vie, l'homme et l'art. Paris, 1992.
Sainte Fare Garnot, Nicolas. "Philippe de Champaigne." In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. 34 vols. New York and London, 1996: 6:437.
Conisbee, Philip, et al. French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2009: 48.

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