CARMONTELLE, Louis Carrogis de
(b. 1717, Paris, d. 1806, Paris)
French painter and writer, also known as Louis Carrogis. He is noted for having created portraits and caricatures of the French nobility, courtiers, distinguished guests to noble households, and soldiers. He is also noted for having painted panoramas 'en transparence' for projection in a magic lantern. He was the designer of one of the earliest examples of the French landscape garden, Parc Monceau in Paris.
Carmontelle came from a modest background - his father was a bootmaker. He studied drawing and geometry, and at the age of twenty three qualified for the title of engineer, and entered the service of the Duc de Chevreuse and the Duc de Luynes at the Château de Dampierre, where he taught drawing and mathematics to the children.
In 1758, he entered the service of the Comte Pons de Saint-Maurice, governor of the Duc de Chartres and commander of regiment of Orléans-dragons as a topographical engineer. In addition to his drawing duties, he wrote farces and tales. After 1763 he entered into the service of Louis Philippe I, Duke of Orléans as a lecteur, responsible for providing theatrical performances for the family. He wrote and directed plays, decorated the scenery and made the costumes. In this way he invented a new genre of play, the 'proverbe dramatique', a scene of light comedy designed to be a point of departure for a theatrical improvisation. He also wrote plays for the famous ballerina, Marie-Madeleine Guimard for performance at the private theater of her residence, Pantin.
In addition to his work in the theater, he was a talented artist, who made portraits in pen and watercolour in less than two hours of notable people that he met. The most famous of his drawings is that of the infant Mozart playing the clavier.
Although the attribution is in dispute, he is traditionally assumed to be the author of an important body of art criticism, written in response to the Salons held between 1779 and 1789 and published anonymously.