Desportes, Alexandre-François

Champigneul, Marne 1661 - Paris 1753
Biography & List of works

Still-life of a kitchen table with dressed partridge, sheared pheasants, a rack and leg of lamb, a basket of oranges and five ripe pears

Still-life of a kitchen table with dressed partridge, sheared pheasants, a rack and leg of lamb, a basket of oranges and five ripe pears


Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 121 x 95 cm

Signed: (lower-left): Desportes 1734.


Paris, Palais Galliera, 29 November 1973, n°12 bis.


M. et F. Faré, La Nature Morte au XVIIIème siècle, Fribourg, 1976, repr. p. 84, no. 127; G. de Lastic et P. Jacky, François Desportes, catalogue raisonné, Vol. II, Paris, 2010, N° P756


Probably the Salon of 1738: A canvas is described, of near exactly the same size (120 x 90 cm), ‘représentant des viandes prêtes à mettre en broche, comme perdrix rouges et grises; deux lapereaux et un faisan piqués, le tout rangé sur un bassin sur une table deux chapons bardez, et un rouge, et au dessus un Quarrez de mouton, un quartier d’agneau, des bigarades dans un panier, et au bas des poires de bon Chrétien, par M.Desportes le père, conseiller de l’Académie’.

Desportes was born in Champigneul, Marne. He studied in Paris, in the studio of the Flemish painter Nicasius Bernaerts, a pupil of Frans Snyders. After a brief soujourn in Poland, (1695-96), where he painted portraits of John III Sobieski and Polish aristocrats; after the king’s death Desportes returned to Paris. He was received by the Académie de peinture et sculpture in 1699, with his Self-Portrait in Hunting Dress (Musée du Louvre). In 1713 the artist spent six months in England before he received a commission to paint a series of decorative panels for the French royal court at Versailles; Desportes also completed commissions for the chateaux Marly, Meudon, Compiègne and, his last royal commission, from Louis XV, for Choisy in 1742. The artist also completed paintings for the duc de Bourbon at Chantilly.

Desportes would often follow the King͛s hunts with a small notebook he carried to make on-site sketches for still lifes of the game that resulted from the day’s chase; the king could then choose which were to be worked-up into finished paintings. In several panels Desportes combined game with spectacular buffets and monumental pieces of silver service that all appear as if displayed in a dining room; these paintings are precious documents of the breath-taking silver from the reign of Louis XIV lost during the revolution. Desportes’ details of game trophies and animals were also used in cartoons for tapestry in which work of several painters was combined, then woven at the Savonnerie and at the Gobelins (Portière de Diane, Louvre). For the Gobelins Desportes designed a series of tapestries called Les Nouvelles Indes. Upon his death, in Paris, Desportes left a considerable amount of work in his studio (where his nephew Nicolas had trained), this included studies of animals and plants as well as some fox-hunting sketches by Jan Fyt. In 1784, the comte d’Angiviller, general director of the Bâtiments du Roi acquired these resources for the next generation of painters͛ education and for use as studies for Sèvres porcelain. Desportes influence in the iconography of the French arts extended for the rest of the century and beyond.