BOULLOGNE, Louis the Elder
(b. 1609, Paris, d. 1674, Paris)


French painter, part of a family of painters, father of Bon Boullogne and Louis Boullogne the Younger. After taking his first lessons from a mediocre painter in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, he became a pupil of Blanchard and started to become known. He probably owed his early patronage to his father, who worked at the Hôtel de Ville, Paris. Indeed, a crucifix that Louis painted for one of the rooms in the Hôtel de Ville pleased the municipal magistrates so much that they decided to grant him an allowance to enable him to continue his studies in Italy. Boullogne made the journey with the landscape painter Henri Mauperché (c. 1602-1686). In Rome he met Sébastien Bourdon, with whom he formed a close and lasting friendship.

On his return to Paris, the city authorities continued to support him, employing him to produce the traditional group portrait that, since the Renaissance, the municipal magistrates commissioned to commemorate their election. Boullogne was soon in demand for both religious and secular works, and working for private and official patrons. In 1646 the Goldsmiths' Corporation commissioned him to paint the May of Notre-Dame (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Arras), an altarpiece presented annually to the cathedral in Paris. He was commissioned two more times to paint the May, depicting the Martyrdom of St Simon in Persia (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Arras) in 1648 and the Beheading of St Paul (Musée du Louvre, Paris) in 1657.

Boullogne's other religious works included a Transfiguration (1651) for the altar of a chapel in St Merri, Paris; six large works representing two episodes from the Life of St Anthony, two from the Life of St Bernard, the Dream of St Joseph and a Visitation for the Augustinian nuns of the Abbey (destroyed) of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Paris; and a Purification of the Virgin for the Capuchin monks of the Marais. On the initiative of Anne of Austria, he painted the Martyrdom of St Denis for the abbey of Montmartre.

In 1648 Louis was among the founder-members of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Paris. He was one of the first to donate to it one of his works, a Roman Charity, which he engraved himself; he may also have engraved his Livre de portraicture (1648), a type of anatomical study book. He became a professor of the Académie Royale in 1656, while also teaching his own pupils in his studio. Soon after the establishment of this institution he was asked by the collector Everard Jabach to make copies of works that he had acquired from the collection of Charles I, King of England and Scotland. Boulogne acquired a solid reputation in this field, and it is said that some connoisseurs were deceived, taking his copies for originals. This skill of adapting the styles of others was inherited by his sons, who, like many of their contemporaries, practised the art of pastiche.

As a decorator, Boullogne worked on vast projects in many private hôtels, including two ceiling paintings of Diana and Apollo for the residence that Bertrand de La Baziniere had built on the Quai Malaquais and Apollo and the Nine Muses for Janin de Castille's hôtel in the Place Royale (now Place des Vosges). As Peintre du Roi, Boullogne was commissioned to work at the royal palaces of Vincennes, the Louvre (where the payments for his restorations in the Grande Galerie after a fire, and for other work there are recorded between 1669 and 1671) and Versailles (where he was paid from 1671 until his death for paintings executed in the Appartement de l'Ordre Attique, which was destroyed soon afterwards during construction of the Grande Galerie). He was succeeded at Versailles by his children.