RIGAUD, Hyacinthe
(b. 1659, Perpignan, d. 1743, Paris)

Portrait of the Artist's Mother

Oil on canvas, 83 x 103 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Parallel with the series of Baroque portraits Rigaud also produced others of a much more intimate and naturalistic type. This tendency is most clearly apparent in the famous double portrait of his mother, painted in 1695 for the marble bust which the artist commissioned from Coysevox. In this strikingly observed portrait there are echoes of Van Dyck and Champaigne, if only in the placing of the two heads on a single canvas; but the real source is a different and a new one. The whole conception of the portrait, the attention with which the wrinkles of the skin are painted, the meticulous handling of the cap, and the dry painting of the white bodice, all combine to prove that Rigaud was here taking as his model Rembrandt's early portraits of his mother. We know that he admired Rembrandt, since the inventory of his pictures, taken at the time of his wedding in 1703, includes seven paintings by the master and two copies by Rigaud after him. In the eighteenth century the art of Rembrandt was to have a wide success in France, but Rigaud was the first French artist since Vignon to study his works, and the first without exception to find in him an inspiration towards naturalism and psychological subtlety.