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French sculptor, b. at Lyons, 9 January, 1658; d. at Paris, 1 May, 1733. He was the son of a wood-carver, from whom he received his first instruction in art. At the age of eighteen he went to Paris, and studied under the tutorship of his uncle, the sculptor Coysevox. On the occasion of Colbert's last visit to the Royal Academy, Coustou received from his hands the gold medal for sculpture (Colbert prize), which enabled him to go to Rome as a pensioner from 1683 to 1686. Here he applied himself especially to the study of Michelangelo and Algardi, hoping to unite in his own work the strength of the one and the grace of the other. On his return he settled in Paris, and showed his independence by declining to submit to the decrees of the ruling school of sculpture. The design made by him for a public monument being refused, he appealed directly to the king, who decided in his favour and awarded him the commission. Nicolas was joined by his younger brother Guillaume, also a sculptor, whom he admitted to a share in his labours, so that it is not always easy to ascribe particular works definitely to one or the other. In 1720 Nicolas was appointed rector of the academy of painting and sculpture and held his post until his death, shortly before which he was also made chancellor of the academy. Coysevox and the Coustous formed a school in French sculpture and were distinguished by grace, naturalness and truth to life. Many of the works of Nicholas were destroyed in the fury of the Revolution, but a number still remain. Chief among them are the "Union of the Seine and Marne"; the "Huntsman Resting" (called in French "Berger Chasseur"); "Daphne Pursued by Apollo". All of these are now in the garden of the Tuileries; further, the statues of Julius Caesar and Louis XV in the Louvre, and the "Descent From the Cross" in the choir of Notre-Dame, Paris, one of his best efforts. There are also statues by Coustou at Versailles and Marly. A good terra-cotta bust of him by his brother Guillaume is in the Louvre.
M. L. Handley.