François Le Moyne

  • 1688 - 1737
  • Artist
  • French

Consumed with ambition, hard on himself and everyone else, François Le Moyne simply wanted to paint great ceiling decorations. Despite winning the Prix de Rome in 1711, Le Moyne could not visit Italy until 1723 and then spent only a few months there. His Parisian instructor, however, introduced him to the art of Raphael, Correggio, and Peter Paul Rubens. Like his Baroque predecessors, Le Moyne covered vast spaces with ambitious mythologies, yet his elegant figures and precious colors anticipated the Rococo. From Jean-Antoine Watteau he borrowed a refined figure type and Rubensian coloring.

In 1727 Le Moyne was forced to split first prize in the Duc d'Antin's famous competition to promote history painting with his rival Jean-François de Troy. Probably in 1728, King Louis XV offered Le Moyne his most important commission: the ceiling of the Hercules Salon at Versailles. Completed in 1736, the Apotheosis of Hercules contains 142 figures, brilliant coloring and, contemporaries believed, the qualities of an epic poem. Louis XV immediately named Le Moyne premier peintre. Soon after, broken by excessive work, court jealousies and intrigues, and his wife's death, Le Moyne went mad and silently stabbed himself nine times. Le Moyne's pupils included François Boucher.