Bourdon, Sebastian

, a very celebrated French painter, was born at Montpellier in 1616. His father, who was a glass-painter, gave him the first instructions in his art. When only seven years old, one of his uncles brought him to Paris, and placed him with a very indifferent painter, whose defects, however, were supplied by young Bourdon’s natural genius. Returning to Bourdeaux at the age of fourteen, he painted the cieling of a neighbouring chateau, and then went to Toulouse. Finding here no employment, he went into the army; but his captain, a man of some taste, judging that he would one day excel in his profession as an artist, gave him his discharge. He was eighteen when he went to Italy, and became acquainted with Claude Lorrain, whose manner, as well as that of Saccbi, Caravagio, and Bamboccio, he imitated with great success. After a residence of three years here, he happened to have a difference with a painter, who threatened to inform against him as a Calvinist, and Bourdon immediately set out for Venice, and thence to France. At the age of twenty-seven he painted his famous Crucifixion of St. Peter for the church of Notre Dame at Paris, which could not fail to raise his reputation. Du Guernier, a miniature painter, much employed at court, and whose sister he married, | assisted him with his advice, and procured him work. But the civil wars interrupting the progress of the fine arts, in 1652 he went to Sweden, where queen Christina appointed him her first painter. While employed on many works for her, chiefly portraits, she mentioned to him one day some pictures which the king her father had found when he took Prague; these had till now remained unpacked, and she desired Bourdon to examine them. Bourdon reported favourably of them, particularly of some by Corregio, on which the queen requested he would accept them as a present from her. Bourdon, with corresponding liberality and disinterestedness, represented that they were some of the finest paintings in Europe, and that her majesty ought never to part with them, as a fit collection for a crowned head. The queen accordingly kept them, and took them with her to Rome when she abdicated the throne. After her death, the heirs of Don Livio Odeschalchi, who had purchased them, sold them to the regent duke of Orleans; and they afterwards made part of the fine collection known in this country by the name of the Orleans Collection.

Bourdon, however, not finding much exercise for his genius in Sweden, and the queen having become Roman catholic after her abdication, he returned to France, then more favourable to the arts, and soon had abundance of employment. Among his first performances after his return, were a “Dead Christ,” and the “Woman taken in adultery.” Some business occasioning him to go to Montpellier, during his short stay there he painted several portraits of persons of fashion. An anecdote is told, that, when in this place, a taylor who had a great esteem for him, and knew he was not rich, sent to him, by the hand of one Francis, a painter, a complete suit of clothes, cloak, and bonnet. Bourdon, in return, sent him his portrait dressed in this suit; but Francis, thinking it a very fine specimen of the art, presented the taylor with a copy, and kept the original. In 1663 he returned to Paris, where he continued to execute many fine pictures, until his death in 1671.

He had an uncommon readiness of hand, though he was frequently incorrect, and was particularly so in the extremities of his figures. As a proof of his expeditious manner of painting, it is reported, that in one day he painted twelve portraits afterlife, as large as nature, and those not the worst of his performances. His touch is extremely | light, his colouring good, his attitudes are full of variety, v and sometimes graceful, and his expression is lively and animated. However, it must be confessed, that his conceptions were often extravagant, nor would many of his compositions abide a critical examination. His landscapes are in the taste of Titian, but they seem rather designed from imagination than after nature; yet, in several of them, the product of that imagination has a beautiful effect; and he usually enriched his pastoral scenes with a great number of figures and animals. His pictures are seldom finished, and those which appear most so, are not always his best. The most esteemed work of Bourdon is the Martyrdom of St. Peter, in the church of Notre Dame at Paris, which is considered as a curiosity. Sir Joshua Reynolds had his “Return of the Ark from captivity,” which he bequeathed to sir George Beaumont. Sir Joshua in his fourteenth discourse speaks very highly of this picture. As a proof of the value of Sebastian Bourdon’s piv-tures in this country, we may mention that in 1770, a holy family by him was sold by the late Mr. Christie, for 34 1l. 5s.

Sebastian Bourdon has also a place among engravers. His etchings, which are numerous, are executed in a bold, masterly style; and convey a clear idea of his manner of painting. The lights are broad, the draperies are formed with great taste, and the folds well marked, though sometimes too dark and hard upon the lights; the heads are very expressive; the back-grounds are finely conceived, and executed in a grand style. Some of the principal from his own compositions are the following; the “Seven acts of mercy;” the “Flight into Egypt,” and the “Return from thence;” several subjects of the “Virgin and Child;” in one of which is seen a woman washing linen, hence distinguished by the name of the washer-woman the “Return of the ark,” from the above-mentioned picture, said to be very scarce the “Baptism of the eunuch” “Twelve large landscapes,” very spirited and fine prints. 1

1 D’Angerville. Pilkington. —Strutt,