(b. 1640, Lyon, d. 1720, Paris)

Charles Le Brun

Terracotta, height 66 cm
Wallace Collection, London

It is in the busts of the later years that the real novelty of Coysevox's style lies. For those of the King and the great dignitaries of the Court Coysevox continued to use the formula which he had evolved as early as 1686. But when he came to portray his personal friends he dropped all formality and swagger and replaced them by penetration of character and naturalism of rendering. We find this tendency as early as the 1670s in his busts of Le Brun. Here, beneath the classical drapery, there appears the pleated linen shirt of the day; and in the rendering of the mask itself the sculptor makes no attempt to reduce the features to classical canons.

The picture shows a full-sized model exhibited to the Académie Royal in 1676, from which Coysevox carved the marble bust now in the Louvre. Le Brun was one of the founders of the Académie and the King's First Painter, this terracotta is, therefore, a major document of 'le grand siècle'.