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Robert Nanteuil



French engraver and crayonist, b. Reims, 1623 (1626, or 1630) d. at Paris, 1678. Little is known of his early life save that his father, a merchant of Reims, sent him to the Jesuit school, where he received a splendid classical training but no encouragement to draw. In every spare moment he was busy with his pencil or burin, and he even engraved on the trees in the forest. He cut in wood a "Christ" and a "virgin", copying from old copper plates. He later went to the Benedictines, who fostered his artistic bent, one of the order, who patiently sat for him, is seen in the "Buste d'un Religieux" (published in 1644). He also engraved ornaments for his thesis in philosophy in 1645 (Piety, Justice, and Prudence Saluting the University), both these early attempts with the graver being notable successes. His family being in dire financial straits, Nanteuil went to Paris (1648), and worked with Regnesson whose sister he had married. His style now changed and developed quickly: his first method had been to use straight lines only, shallow or deep; then he practised cross-hatching and added Stippling for the middle-tints (in this following Boulanger). The acme of his style shows special strokes and individual treatment for each part of the face and for each texture of the draperies. His crayon and pastel portaits brought him a pension of 1000 lives and the appointment of Royal Engraver (1658), together with an atelier in the Gobelins. Two years later Louis XIV issued an edict, mainly inspired by Nanteuil, lifting engraving out of the realm of mechanical arts and giving to engravers all the privileges of other artists.

Nanteuil's bold, broad, and vigorous pastel or crayon life-size sketches have nearly all disappeared for he used them only as studies for his engravings; and his rich, yet delicate and silvery tones, his splendid modelling of the face, his suggestion of colour throughout the plate and unaffected justness of the likeness are largely due to his following the fresh and crisp sketch in chalks. He engraved portraits of many of the princes of Europe and of all the celebrated men of France in Louis XIV's time. Of the Grand Monarque alone he made nineteen portraits at various periods of his life. He was rich, affable, and very generous, and would often send back payments for great plates when he found the sitters were poor. He was received by the nobility and men of letters, and himself wrote poetry and recited pleasingly. His verses are often to be found beneath his portraits. He was the pioneer of modern engraving, and much of his work equals and strongly resembles the best of recent times. He was a rapid and prolific worker many of his 243 plates being life-size. Fairthorne, a great English engraver, learned much from him, and Edelinck was his friend and follower. His masterpieces are: J.B. van Steenberghen (after Duchatel), called "L'Advocat de Hollande" (1668); M. de Pomponne (after Le Brun); Jean Loret; Duchesse de Nemours; and Marshal Turenne. A few of his chalk in the Bibliotheque Richelieu.

RICHARD, Magazin Pittoresque (Paris, 1859); DUMESNIL, Le Peintre Graveur Francais, IV, (Paris-); DELABORDE, La Gravure (Paris, s.d.).

LEIGH HUNT








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