Attiret, John Denis

, a French Jesuit and painter, attached to the mission to Pekin, was born at Dole, in Tranche-Comté, July 31, 1702, and at first took lessons in painting, and made considerable proficiency under his father, who was an artist. He then went to Rome, under the patronage of the marquis de Brossa, and on his return, painted some pictures at Lyons, which procured him great reputation. In his thirtieth year he entered among the Jesuits, in the humble character of a lay- brother, and some, years afterwards, when the missionaries of Pekin demanded | the services of a painter, he obtained the appointment, and went to China about the end of 1737. He had no sooner arrived at Pekin than he offered the emperor a painting of the Adoration of the Kings, with which the emperor was so much pleased that he ordered it to be placed in his interior apartment. Notwithstanding this promising outset, he underwent many mortifications, in being obliged to comply with the bad taste of the Chinese in what paintings he executed for them, and was so teazed by the emperor himself, that, in order to please him, he was obliged to take lessons from the Chinese artists but finding that a compliance with their instructions must spoil his performances, and injure his reputation, he declined painting for his majesty. Ddring the years, however, from 1753 to 1760, distinguished by many victories gained by the emperor Kien Long, he had frequent orders for battlepieces, &c. which he executed so much to the satisfaction of that monarch, that he created him a mandarin, and when Attiret refused to accept it, the minister of state told him he should have the revenues, although he declined the honour. The missionaries speak in the highest terms of his talents, modesty, and piety. He died at Pekin, Dec. 8, 1768, and the emperor defrayed the expences of his funeral the large pictures he painted for the emperor are in the palace, but never shown the missionaries can exhibit only one picture, “The Guardian Angel,” which is in the chapel of the Neophites, in the French missionary church at Pekin. There is nothing of Attiret' s in print, except a letter in the “Recueil des Lettres Edifiantes,” vol. XXVII. which was translated by the late Rev. Joseph Spence, under his assumed name of sir Harry Beaumont, entitled “A particular account of the emperor of China’s gardens near Pekin, in a letter from father Attiret, a French missionary, now employed by that emperor to paint the apartments in those gardens, to his friend at Paris,London, 1752, 8vo. 1


Biog. Universelle. Journal de Savants, for June 1771, Month. Rev. vol. ­VII. where there is a long extract from Attiret’s letter.