LA FOSSE, Charles de
(b. 1636, Paris, d. 1716, Paris)

The Finding of Moses

Oil on canvas, 125 x 110 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The two paintings, Eliezer and Rebecca by Antoine Coypel and the Finding of Moses by Charles de La Fosse, were commissioned in 1701 for the Cabinet du Billard at Versailles. They reveal the profound changes taking place in French painting at the beginning of the 18th century.

After the reorganization of the Paris Academy in 1661 by Louis XIV (whose aim was to control all the artistic activity in France) a controversy occurred among the members that was to dominate artistic attitudes for the rest of the century. This was what has been described as the 'battle of styles', the conflict over whether Rubens or Poussin was a suitable model to follow. Poussin's art from his mature period was an ideal model for an academic teacher because his pictures followed such a precise sequence of rules in the placing of figures and in facial expressions. OPn the other hand, the sensuality of Rubens, both in form and colour, was an ideal model to imitate when painting on a grand scale was required, especially for a palace decoration. The sides were never reconciled in theory: the views of the Rubenists and the Poussinists were too opposed; but a surprising number of painters combined the characteristics of both sources, to produce a hybrid art that set the standard for the rest of the century.

One of the earliest and best of the painters involved in the battle of styles was Charles de La Fosse whose style already looks forward to the 18th century. La Fosse's colour is Rubensian, but his compositions are classically inspired. Few painters of the time had La Fosse's energy, and his most important achievement was the decoration of the interior of the dome of Les Invalides in Paris toward the end of his career in the 1690s.

The Finding of Moses is remarkable for its use of light and fresh colour sense.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Gioacchino Rossini: Moses, Moses' Prayer