COYPEL, Noel-Nicolas
(b. 1690, Paris, d. 1734, Paris)


Coypel, family of French painter of which Noel (1628-1707) was the head. He created a successful academic style on the example of Poussin and Le Brun. He was employed on the large decorative schemes of Louis XIV, notably at Versailles, and was director of the French Academy in Rome (1672-76) and then director of the Académie Royale in Paris (1695).

Noel's son, Antoine (1661-1722) went to Rome as a child with his father and there is a strong Italian element in his style. This comes out particularly in his most famous work, the ceiling of the Chapel at Versailles (1708) which derived from Baciccio's ceiling in the Gesů in Rome. This and Coypel's decorations at the Palais Royal in Paris (1702, destroyed) rank as the two most completely baroque schemes found in French art of this period. The Versailles ceiling is more successful than much of Coypel's work, which often combines the bombast of the Baroque and the pedantry of the classical style without the virtues of either.

Antoine's half-brother, Noel-Nicolas (1690-1734) painted with much more charm, mainly mythological subjects, but he seems to have had a rather timid personality and did not achieve the worldly success of the other members of the family. Indeed, he was the best painter of the family, but is the least famous. Chardin was briefly his assistant.

Antoine's son Charles-Antoine (1694-1752) was a much more forceful character than Noel-Nicolas and had a resoundingly successful career, largely due to his administrative capacity in the various official positions that he held. In 1747 he became director of the Académie Royale and chief painter to the king. He also was an accomplished writer of verse and plays as well as art criticism. As a painter he was versatile and prolific, but the weakest member of the family, his Supper at Emmaus (1746) in Saint-Merry, Paris, has been described as 'pathetically inept'.