(b. 1661, Champigneulles, d. 1743, Paris)
Self-Portrait as a Huntsman1699
Oil on canvas, 197 x 163 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Desportes was the son of a peasant and was born in Champagne. At the age of twelve he was sent by his father to Paris and entered the studio of Nicasius Bernaerts (162078), a Fleming and a pupil of Synders who enjoyed considerable success as a painter of animals. After the death of his master Desportes studied at the Academy and for a time seemed to be settling down to a career as a portrait painter, in which capacity he spent the years 169596 at the Court of Poland. On his return to Paris he began to devote his attention to the painting of animals, in the form either of hunting-scenes or of still-life compositions with dead game. It was for these works that he was celebrated in his own day, and they were bought by all the most important patrons of the day, headed by Louis XIV, who commissioned hunting-scenes, portraits of his favourite dogs, and pictures of rare animals for Marly and the Ménagerie at Versailles.