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Charles-Antoine Coypel
French, 1734
38 5/8 x 31 1/2 in.

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Wearing the official academy costume--a brown velvet waistcoat, lace shirt, and long powdered wig--the French artist Charles-Antoine Coypel gracefully turns towards the viewer. When he made this half-length self-portrait, Coypel was forty years old and already a full professor at the Académie Royale in Paris.

With an open-handed gesture, Coypel presents both himself and his work to the viewer. He stands against a portfolio containing colored paper; underneath, a silver holder contains sharpened pieces of chalk, the medium essential to his profession. Written on the portfolio is a dedication: "Charles Coypel has painted himself for Philippe Coypel, his brother and his best friend, 1734." Coypel's younger brother was a valet de chambre to King Louis XV, so the picture served also as a tool for self-promotion. Displayed in the Philippe's house, the self-portrait would have boldly presented the confident image of Charles to the powerful members of the king's inner circle.

A brilliant portraitist, Coypel excelled in the medium of pastel. He first drew a detailed underdrawing lightly in pencil, then made crisp outlines using a sharpened pastel crayon. The soft, harmonious coloring completes the work and conveys the differences in texture between his thick velvet waistcoat, the gossamer white lace, and the smooth and shiny buttons.