Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée

Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée

Self-portrait, 1750s
Born Paris, (1724-12-30)30 December 1724
Died Paris, 19 June 1805(1805-06-19) (aged 80)
Nationality French
Known for Painting
Movement Lagrenée's work was Rococo in style, directly influenced by the Bolognese School of painting.

Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée (a.k.a. Lagrenée the elder) (30 December 1724 19 June 1805) was a French rococo painter and student of Carle van Loo. He won the Grand Prix de Rome for painting in 1749 and was elected a member of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1755. His younger brother Jean-Jacques Lagrenée (a.k.a. Lagrenée the younger) was also a painter.

Lagrenée's notable career appointments included:

In July 1804, Napoleon I conferred upon Lagrenée the rank of chevalier (Knight) of the Legion d'Honneur.[1]

Lagrenée died in June 1805, aged 80 years and 6 months.

Early life

The Abduction of Deianeira by the Centaur Nessus, (1755).

Lagrenée was born in Paris on 30 December 1724 and from an early age he showed promise in drawing and painting.[2] During his youth, master painter members of the French Royal Academy offered a rolling programme of courses, open to the public (for a small fee), in life drawing and the principles and techniques of art. These courses gave academy members a chance to identify and nurture six of the most gifted young students in any given year and offer them a place on a scheme known as the École royale des élèves protégés, a scheme which offered free tuition with a small stipend, for three years, preparing students for Prix de Rome competitions.[3] After being selected for and completing this three-year programme, under the tutelage of Carle van Loo, Lagrenée won the Grand Prix de Rome on his first attempt in 1749, with the painting Joseph interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh (now lost).

Study in Rome

The love of art comforts painting, over the ridiculous and venomous writings of her enemies, (1781).


As a student at the French Academy in Rome, Lagrenée developed a "Formative if youthful fixation with Baroque painting".[4] Above all, Lagrenée was inspired by the Bolognese School , particularly by the work of Guido Reni (1575–1642) and Francesco Albani (1578–1660). Later in his career, Lagrenée acquired the epithet 'the French Albani' (l'Albane Francais).[5]

Academy membership

Mars and Venus; an allegory of Peace, (1770).
Diana and Endymion, 1776.
Venus and Nymphs Bathing (1776).
The ascent of Aurora, (1763).

After returning from Rome in 1753, Lagrenée set to work on a large painting - The abduction of Dejaneira by the centaur Nessus (musée du Louvre) - which, when finished in 1755, was the reception piece which earned him membership of the Académie de peinture et de sculpture, by a unanimous vote. By this time, Lagrenée was already considered something of a celebrity.[6]

By royal appointment


Lagrenée's career blossomed in Paris, by completing many commissions for eminent patrons and members of a flourishing new financial community as well as submitting regular entries to Paris salon exhibitions. His reputation caught the attention of Elizabeth Petrovna, Empress of Russia, who, in 1760, appointed him to the office of the director of the Academy at St. Petersburg and that of her principle painter.[7]


After only two years in Russia, Lagrenée returned to Paris to take up the appointment of professor-rector of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture.


Lagrenée spent the years between 1781 and 1787 at the Villa Medici in Rome, in his capacity as director of the French Academy (Académie de France à Rome).


A final return to Paris saw Lagrenée appointed to the position of honorary curator-director (administration) of the Louvre museum, a position which he held until his death in 1805.

Legion of Honour

Apelles falls in love with Campaspe; beloved of Alexander the great. (1772).

Lagrenée was made a Knight of the Legion of Honour (Legion d'honneur) on 15 July 1804 by Napoleon I.[8]

Public records

On Monday 10 July 1758, at the age of 33, Lagrenée married 16-year-old Anne-Agathe Isnard. Fifty-five years later, on 19 June 1805, Lagrenée's death certificate recorded that they were still married.[9]

Works in Public Collections (non exhaustive)



Vénus aux Forges (vers 1760), Tapestry in wool and silk, 3 x 5,90 m., musée départemental de la tapisserie d'Aubusson.



  1. Archives Nationale, Paris. Cote: LH/1443/12, LAGRENEE AINE, No. 1443012.
  2. Dictionnaire historique, critique et bibliographique Menard & Desenne, Paris, 1822, 15th ed.
  3. Louis Courajod, Histoire de l'enseignement des arts du dessin au XVIIIe siècle. L'École royale des élèves protégés, précédée d'une étude sur le caractère de l'enseignement de l'art français aux différentes époques de son histoire, et suivie de documents sur l'École royale gratuite de dessin fondée par Bachelier, Paris, J.-B. Dumoulin, 1874, cité par Annie Verger, « Entrer à l'Académie de France à Rome -- La faveur, le droit, le choix », dans Gérard Mauger, Droits d'entrée: Modalités et conditions d'accès aux univers artistiques, Paris, Ed. MSH, 2006 (lire en ligne [archive]), p. 13-46.
  4. Gallery Notes publication, W. J. Mitchell, London, November 2010, p.2
  5. A Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, M. Bryan, (enlarged by George Stanley),London, 1849.
  6. Dictionnaire historique, critique et bibliographique Menard & Desenne, Paris, 1822, 15th ed.
  7. A Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, M. Bryan, (enlarged by George Stanley),London, 1849.
  8. Documents in Archives Nationale, Paris. Cote: LH/1443/12, LAGRENEE AINE, No. 1443012.
  9. Actes d'Etat-civil d'Artistes Francais; Extraits des registres de L'Hotel de Ville de Paris(collaborative), 1873, p.201.
  10. Pascal-François Bertrand. Aubusson, tapisseries des Lumières, Paris, Snoeck / Aubusson : Cité de la tapisserie, 2013, p. 201-211.


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