Hyacinthe Rigaud and his friendly rival Nicolas de Largillière were their era's leading portraitists, but Rigaud painted aristocrats while Largillière concentrated on the wealthy bourgeoisie. Their differing approaches reflect their clients' status. Rigaud's sitters are shown in elegant stances of natural superiority; they are members of society whose costumes and gestures describe their function within the state. He combined Anthony van Dyck's prototypes and opulent style with Philippe de Champaigne's stiff, linear formality. In his unofficial portraits, however, Rigaud's interest in realism and character displays the influence of Rembrandt van Rijn.
Rigaud studied in Montpellier and Lyon before arriving in Paris in 1681. He won the Prix de Rome in 1682 but on Charles Le Brun's advice did not go to Italy. In 1688 Rigaud's flattering, graceful portrait of King Louis XIV's brother brought him favor at court. His subjects included dignitaries at Versailles, visiting royalty, prominent artists, and church and military leaders. His studio employed both part-time specialists and full-time assistants like Jean-Marc Nattier. They often copied his portraits, which Rigaud touched up as necessary. Elected to the Académie Royale as a history painter in 1700, Rigaud later taught there.