Hyacinthe Rigaud
Biography and Paintings of French Portrait Artist of Louis XIV.

Pin it

Louis XIV in Coronation Robes
(1701) Louvre, Paris.

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743)


Life and Works

For details of the pigments
used by Hyacinthe Rigaud
in his oil painting,
see: Colour Palette 18th Century.

For top creative practitioners, see:
Best Artists of All Time.


One of the best portrait artists associated with the era of Louis XIV, the French painter Hyacinthe Rigau y Ros Rigaud made an outstanding contribution to French painting from 1688 onwards, and was particularly noted for his portrait art depicting members of the French royal family - see, for instance, his famous state portrait of "Louis XIV in Coronation Robes" (1701, Louvre, Paris), one of the best Baroque paintings of the French court. Rigaud's broad and vigorous style and the way he dwelt on his models' nobility of posture, pageantry and splendour, were the foundation of his success. He is, in fact, the creator of an original genre, that of the 'portrait of pomp' which was to be spread throughout the European courts of the first half of the 18th century. Examples of his huge output can be seen in some of the best art museums in Europe and North America. For details of other celebrated artists and master craftsmen active in France during his day, see: French Baroque Artists (c.1600-1700) and French Decorative Designers (c.1640-1792).



Life and Works

After moving to Montpellier at the age of 14, Rigaud was first apprenticed to Paul Pezet, then to Henri Verdier and Antoine Ranc, who introduced him to the Baroque painting of the great Flemish master Anthony Van Dyck. At 18 he went to Lyons and finally arrived in Paris in 1681 where he enrolled at the Academy and in 1682 won the Prix de Rome with his "Cain Building the City of Enoch". However, he gave up the idea of studying in Italy on the advice, it is said, of the French arts supremo Charles Le Brun, in order to devote himself to portraiture. He worked with Francois de Troy and with Nicolas de Largilliere, and soon made a reputation in this field.

In 1684 he was made an associate of the French Academy of Fine Arts for his painting of the "Crucifixion", although his reputation really blossomed when, in 1688, he painted "Monseigneur", the brother of Louis XIV (now lost), and the following year his son Philippe d'Orleans, the future Regent. In 1700 he was elected a full member with two portraits of the sculptor Desjardins (one in the Louvre, painted 1692) and from that time climbed up the ladder of an academic career, finally becoming Director of the French Academy in 1733. Rigaud's clientele of bankers and financiers grew swiftly. The King himself sat for Rigaud: "Portrait of Louis XIV in Armour" (1694, Prado Museum) and "Louis XIV in Coronation Robes" (1701, Louvre), which is still Rigaud's most famous painting. A perfect emblem of the French monarchy, it was painted shortly after the portrait of Philip V of Spain (1700, now at Versailles), which was unanimously admired. Following this Rigaud executed brilliant official portraits of the young Louis XV in 1717, and again in 1730 (both Versailles).

Rigaud painted over 400 pictures. His clientele soon spread outside France: see: "Portrait of the Elector Augustus III" (Gemaldegalerie, Dresden); "Portrait of Count Sinzendorf" (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). The etchers Edelinck and Drevet helped to circulate Rigaud's work. Often he was so overburdened with commissions that he used collaborators to help in the least important sections of his huge portraits. The "Portrait of Bossuet" (Louvre) was painted with the aid of Sevin de La Penaye; Joseph Parrocel put in the background of the battle in the "Portrait of the Duke of Burgundy" (1704, Versailles).

Rigaud is happiest with dazzling and sumptuous portraits against the rich backgrounds that were his speciality: see, for instance, "Marshal Charles-Auguste de Matignon" (1708, Karlsruhe Museum, Germany); "President Hebert" (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC); "Cardinal Dubois" (1723, Cleveland Museum); and "Cardinal Fleury" (Budapest Museum). His canvases aim at decorative splendour and pictorial magnificence, as in the portrait of the "Marquis de Dangeau" (1702, Versailles Palace), where the sitter is shown in his theatrical costume of Grand Master of the Order of St Lazarus, and in the comically over-ornamented portrait of "Gaspard de Gueidan Playing the Bagpipes" (1735, Aix-en-Provence Museum).

Further Resources on Baroque Art in France

Fontainebleau School of Art (c.1528-1610)
French Decorative Arts (c.1640-1792)
French Royal Furniture (c.1640-1792)
Palace of Versailles (c.1624-98)

• For more biographical details about famous painters, see: Homepage.
• For an evaluation of important pictures, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed.

Visual Artists, Greatest
© visual-arts-cork.com. All rights reserved.