Premier peintre du Roi

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The Premier peintre du Roi (First painter to the King) was a court painter position within the administration of the Bâtiments du Roi of the Département de la Maison du Roi in France under the Ancien Régime. Its holder occupied a similar position to that of Premier architecte du Roi (albeit a far less prestigious one). The holder was not in charge of any other court staff, and the role was often without a holder.

Charles Le Brun, portrait by Nicolas de Largilliere

Unlike other countries, the Premier peintre was often, even usually, not a specialist portrait-painter, but was always a native Frenchman. The most famous holder, Nicolas Poussin, was persuaded to return to France in 1640 to take the office, but returned to Rome after a little more than a year. Despite this, he held the position for another 23 years.

In contrast, his successor Charles Le Brun devoted most of his time to his work for Louis XIV, decorating his palaces and designing for and supervising the royal factories of the Savonnerie manufactory for carpets and the Gobelins Manufactory for tapestries and furniture. Le Brun had a bitter, life-long rivalry with the portraitist Pierre Mignard, who finally succeeded him at the age of 78, but only held the post for the five years before he died.[1]