Lagrenée l’aîné

Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, also known as Lagrenée l’aîné, was born on December 30, 1724, in Paris. He studied under Carle Vanloo. In 1749 received the Prix de Rome. After studying at the French Academy in Rome he returned to Paris in 1754. In 1755 he became a member of the Royal Academy, presenting as his diploma picture The Rape of Deianira.

In 1760 he came to St. Petersburg at the invitation of the Empress Elizabeth to complete the work in the Winter Palace, begun by Louis Joseph Le Lorrenom, and he was entrusted with the management of the Imperial Academy of Arts. His prolific pedagogical activities at the Academy of Fine Arts had a great influence on the formation of Russian academic art. In Russia, painted a portrait of Empress Elizabeth (Douai Museum). In 1762 he returned to Paris. 1781–1787 he was Director of the French Academy in Rome. In 1804 Napoleon conferred on him the cross of the légion d’honneur, and on June 19, 1805 he died in the Louvre, of which he was honorary keeper.

He painted large decorative, allegorical, historical and religious works and small-format paintings on the same topic, widely represented, in addition to the Louvre, in many state museums in France, and in other European collections.

Translated from this article, with some additions from Wikipedia.

Vasari: Antonio and Piero Pollaiuolo

MANY MEN BEGIN in a humble spirit with unimportant works, who, gaining courage from proficiency, grow also in power and ability, in such a manner that they aspire to greater undertakings and almost reach Heaven with their beautiful thoughts. Raised by fortune, they very often chance upon some liberal Prince, who, finding himself well served by them, is forced to remunerate their labors so richly that their descen- dants derive great benefits and advantages from them. Wherefore such men walk through this life to the end with so much glory, that they leave marvellous memorials of themselves to the world, as did Antonio and Piero del Pollaiuolo, who were greatly esteemed in their day for the rare acquirements that they had made with their industry and labour.

These men were born in the city of Florence, one no long time after the other [sic], from a father of humble station and no great wealth, who, recognizing by many signs the good and acute intelligence of his sons, but not having the means to educate them in letters, apprenticed Antonio to the goldsmith’s art under Bartoluccio Ghiberti, a very excellent master in that calling at that time; and Piero he placed under Andrea dal Castagno, who was then the best painter in Florence, to learn painting. Antonio, then, being pushed on by Bartoluccio, not only learnt to set jewels and to fire enamels on silver, but was also held the best master of the tools of that art. Wherefore Lorenzo Ghiberti, who was then working on the doors of S. Giovanni, having observed the manner of Antonio, called him into that work in company with many other young men, and set him to labor on one of the festoons which he then had in hand. On this Antonio made a quail which is still in existence, so beautiful and so perfect that it lacks nothing but the power of flight. Antonio, therefore, had not spent many weeks over this work before he was known as the best, both in design and in patient execution, of all those who were working there, and as more gifted and more diligent than any other. Whereupon, growing ever both in ability and in fame, he left Bartoluccio and Lorenzo, and opened a fine and magnificent goldsmith’s shop for himself in the Mercato Nuovo in that city. And for many years he followed that art, never ceasing to make new designs, and executing in relief wax candles and other things of fancy, which in a short time caused him to be held as he was the first master of his calling.

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Boccaccio on Giotto

GIOTTO was of so excellent a wit that, let Nature, mother of all, operant ever by continual revolution of the heavens, fashion what she would, he with his style and pen and pencil would depict its like on such wise that it shewed not as its like, but rather as the thing itself, insomuch that the visual sense of men did often err in regard thereof, mistaking for real that which was but painted.

Wherefore, having brought back to light that art which had for many ages lain buried beneath the blunders of those who painted rather to delight the eyes of the ignorant than to satisfy the intelligence of the wise, he may deservedly be called one of the lights that compose the glory of Florence, and the more so, the more lowly was the spirit in which he won that glory, who, albeit he was, while he yet lived, the master of others, yet did ever refuse to be called their master. And this title that he rejected adorned him with a lustre the more splendid in proportion to the avidity with which it was usurped by those who were less knowing than he, or were his pupils.


Decameron VI 5. Translation by James M. Rigg.

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