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Nicolas de Largillière
(Paris, France, 1656 - 1746, Paris, France)
Although the least familiar of this exhibition’s “masters,” Largillierre was, with Hyacinthe Rigaud, the greatest French portraitist of the age. Conditioned by his youth in Antwerp and then years with the English portraitist Peter Lely, his style is distinguished by a more natural palette, diffuse light, open brushwork, and accessible psychology than in Rigaud’s awesome but remote displays. Consistent with this more optical and intimate interpretation of the French portrait was Largillierre’s specific concern: while Rigaud served the royalty and aristocracy almost exclusively, with his activity centered at Versailles, Largillierre rendered the high bourgeoisie, often including women, and notably artists themselves in Paris.