Search the Collections

Philippe de Champaigne
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Death Date: 
Death Place: 
One of the most important artists in 17th-century Paris, Philippe de Champaigne enjoyed the patronage of royalty, the Church and the French aristocracy over a long career. Famous for his portraits, his religious paintings were equally popular. Born in Brussels to a wealthy family in 1602, an early biographer writes that he received artistic training from local artists before entering the studio of the Flemish landscape painter Jacques Fouquier (ca. 1580-1659) in 1620, whose influence can be seen in Champaigne’s early work. In 1621 he followed Fouquier to Paris, where he spent some time in the studio of Georges Lallemand (1575-1636). Champaigne was hired by Nicholas Duchesne (d. 1628) to work with him and Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) on decorations for the apartment of the Queen Marie de’Medici (1573-1642) in the Palais du Luxembourg; Duchesne was the principal painter for the Queen. Champaigne returned to Brussels in 1627, where he married Duchesne’s daughter Charlotte (1613?-1638). After Duchesne’s death in 1628, Queen Marie appointed Champaigne as “painter to the Queen,” and he returned to Paris. He would continue to receive royal patronage for much of the rest of his career. King Louis XIII (1601-1643) commissioned religious paintings and portraits in the 1630s, as did Cardinal Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu (1585-1642), then the King’s chief minister. Champaigne would go on to paint several portraits of Richelieu. One of the most interesting is a triple portrait, showing the Cardinal in both profiles as well as facing outward, apparently intended as a model for a portrait sculpture. At some point Champaigne established a studio; his student Jean Morin (ca. 1605-1650) produced a number of reproductive engravings after Champaigne’s work. His royal patronage continued after the deaths of Richelieu in 1642 and Louis XIII in 1643. Anne of Austria, regent for her son King Louis XIV (1638-1715) during his minority, and her chief minister Cardinal Jules Mazarin (1602-1661) provided Champaigne with commissions for a variety of projects. Other commissions included a group portrait of the Aldermen of the city of Paris (1648, Paris: Musée du Louvre). In that year Champaigne was one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. By this time Champaigne was influenced by the doctrines of Jansenism, which preached simplicity and predestination. Champaigne’s work became more austere, and many of his portraits were of others involved in the sect. After the unrest in Paris known as the Fronde (1648-1652), Champaigne continued to receive commissions from King Louis XIV, Cardinal Mazarin and other aristocrats. This patronage continued after Mazarin’s death in 1661, when Louis assumed the powers of his former chief minister. At his point Champaigne painted what some consider his best work. His daughter Catherine had entered a convent and in 1662 had recovered from a debilitating illness, a miracle apparently obtained through the prayers of another nun, Mother Catherine-Agnès Arnauld. Champaigne’s austere portrait of the two of them, Ex-Voto (1662, Paris: Musée du Louvre), is thought to be one of the greatest paintings of the period. Late in his life Champaigne concentrated on portraits and religious works. One of the most prolific painters of the century, he died in 1674 in Paris. (TNB 5/2013) Selected Bibliography: Dorival, Bernard. “La Vie et l’homme,” vol. 1 pp. 23-70, in Philippe de Champaigne, 1602–1674; La Vie, l’oeuvre et le catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre. 2 vols. Paris: 1976. Wright, Christopher. The French Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1985.