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He was born in Reims in 1623, or, as other authorities state, in 1630, the son of a merchant of Reims. He studied philosophy in his native Reims but was already an engraver by the time he defended his thesis in 1645. He studied engraving under his brother-in-law, Nicolas Regnesson, whose sister he married in 1646. In 1647 he moved to Paris where he worked with the engraver Abraham Bosse and the painter Philippe de Champaigne. His crayon drawings and prints quickly earned him a reputation as the most sought-after portraitist of his time, and he was appointed designer and engraver of the cabinet of King Louis XIV. It was mainly due to his influence that the king granted the edict of 1660, dated from Saint-Jean-de-Luz, by which engraving was pronounced free and distinct from the mechanical arts, and its practitioners were declared entitled to the privileges of other artists. Nanteuil's clientele included the King Sun himself, Cardinal Richelieu, Queen Christina of Sweden and many other high-ranking aristocrats and personages of note. Among the finest works of his fully developed period may be named the portraits of Pompone de Bellièvre, Gilles Ménage, Jean Loret, the duc de la Meilleraye and the duchess de Nemours. He died at Paris in 1678.
The plates of Nanteuil, several of them approaching the scale of life, number about three hundred. In his early practice he imitated the technique of his predecessors, working with straight lines, strengthened, but not crossed, in the shadows, in the style of Claude Mellan, and in other prints cross-hatching like Regnesson, or stippling in the manner of Jean Boulanger; but he gradually asserted his full individuality, modelling the faces of his portraits with the utmost precision and completeness, and employing various methods of touch for the draperies and other parts of his plates.
- Audrey ADAMCZAK, Robert Nanteuil, ca.1623-1678, Paris, Arthena Ed., 2011 (a complete and definitive catalogue raisonné of Nanteuil's works: pastels, drawings & prints)
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