Rousseau, Jacques

Paris 1630 - London 1693
Biography & List of works

Architectural Perspective : A Temple

Architectural Perspective : A Temple

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Size: 77 x 122 cm

Rousseau was born to Huguenot parents in Paris; there is some disagreement as to the date (Léon Deder gives the 25th November 1631) but a discovery of his baptismal record dated 4th June 1630 would seem to confirm the earlier date. A remarkable and influential painter of decorative landscapes and classic ruins recalling the work of Claude Lorrain, he was also influenced by Nicolas Poussin and Nicholas Van Swanefelt. While young, Rousseau went to Rome, where he spent several years painting its ancient ruins, as well as the surrounding country landscape.

His style formed, he return to his native Paris where he soon gained distinction as a painter employed by Louis XIV. Rousseau’s first public painting had been five decorative paintings for the Galerie d’Hercule in the magnificent Hotel Lambert, owned by Lambert de Thorigny. When notice of this achievement came to the Crown he was promptly commissioned to decorate the Salle des Machines (the theatre) of the Château of Saint Germain-en-Laye for the staging of Lully’s operas, these have been destroyed. He worked on the decoration of the Tuileries Palace between 1666 and 1669, painting five large landscapes for the Cabinet of the Petit Appartement of the Dauphin. The four works by which he is best known today were installed in 1674 in the Salon de Vénus in the Royal Apartments in Versailles, two of them substantial architectural perspectives and two of trompe l’oeil sculpted figures of Meleager and Atalanta. He also worked extensively in the Orangery of the Palace of Versailles and the Duke of Orléans’Château at Saint-Cloud and in the Paris Hôtels of a number of private patrons, including that of the Marquis de Dangeau in the Place Royale (now the Place des Vosges). He was admitted to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture on 25 March 1662 and named a Councillor on 1st July 1679 but, in 1681, the King ordered that the Protestant members resign and that only Catholics should be admitted in future. Rousseau’s name was removed from the rolls but he nonetheless continued to work for the Crown, at the King’s new château of Marly. But with the revocation of the edict of Nantes it became more difficult and in 1686 he converted to Catholicism and was re-admitted to the Academy. But, regretting his decision, he left France in February 1687, first going to Switzerland and then the Netherlands.

In 1689 Rousseau was invited to England by the Duke of Montague, whose London house had been lost to fire while he was serving as British Ambassador to France; Louis XIV offered the unfortunate Duke his assistance and along with Rousseau sent Charles de la Fosse – together they painted a series of decorative works, most of them lost when Montague House was rebuilt in 1840 to become the British Museum. Some have survived, however, and remain today in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch, heir of the Dukes of Montague. The renown he achieved there brought him a commission from William III for Whitehall Palace and four overdoors for the King’s first and second presence chambers at Hampton Court Palace. Rousseau died in London on 16th December 1693, proclaiming his adherence to the Protestant faith. Mme. Cécile Bouleau has confirmed the attribution of this work to Jacques Rousseau; it is possible that it may be the work exhibited at the first official Salon, of 1673, when Rousseau exhibited three landscapes and “un autre tableau d’Architecture en Perspective, tous de trios pieds chacun ou environ.”