COUSIN, Jean the Younger
(b. ca. 1525, Sens, d. ca. 1595, Paris)


Painter, part of a French family of painters, draughtsmen and designers. From the 17th century until the 20th century, historians had fused two artists, father and son, into one personality that had become almost entirely mythical, with a career that spanned virtually the entire 16th century. Archival researches demonstrated that there had been an elder Jean Cousin, born probably no earlier than 1490 and surely not much after 1505, who died in 1560 or possibly 1561, and a younger Jean Cousin, his son, also an artist, who was a student at the University of Paris in 1542 and died around 1595. A seemingly unrelated sculptor of the same name was active in Paris in the 1540s but was dead by 1549. No work by him has been identified, but he was commissioned in 1541 to execute six statues for the cloisters of the convent of the Célestins in Paris. Although few paintings can be securely attributed to Jean Cousin the Elder, he was a major figure in the classicizing trend of French art in the 1540s and 1550s. Jean Cousin the Younger is a more shadowy figure, who carried on his father's workshop and style into the second half of the 16th century.

Jean Cousin the Younger was a student at the University of Paris in 1542, an interesting index of his father's social and cultural ambitions. He must have learnt and practised art in his father's studio until the latter's death and continued very much in the same vein. Although he is mentioned by a number of contemporary writers, his artistic personality is even more elusive than his father's. One painting can be definitely ascribed to him and shows his style in later life: the Last Judgement (Paris, Louvre), which shows innumerable figures in a vast space but on a small canvas. It is painted with great finesse but little energy and displays a sophisticated sense of colour. A book of emblems of Fortune (Paris, Institut de France), which bears a date of 1568, was certainly drawn by him. On the basis of this work a whole corpus of drawings is attributed to him, but recent studies have shown that the style of some of these drawings is so close to the manner of his father that the distinction between the two is by no means easy.