Audran, the family name of four generations of distinguished French artists, natives of Paris and Lyons, which included eight prominent engravers and two painters. They flourished in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and some of their productions rank among the finest examples of the art of the burin.
CHARLES, b. in Paris, 1594; d. 1674, was the elder of two brothers, some say cousins (the other being Claude the First), who attained reputation as engravers. Charles, who reached by far the greater eminence, after receiving some instruction in drawing, went as a young man to Rome to study further the engraver’s art, and while there produced some plates which attracted attention. He engraved in pure line, and took the work of Cornelius Bloemart, with whom he studied, as his model. On his return from Italy the engraver lived for some years in Lyons before settling in Paris. Among his two hundred or more plates are several original portraits, including one of Henry II, Prince of Conde, and reproductions of works by Titian, the Caracci, Domenichino, Palma the Younger, Albano and Lesueur.
CLAUDE the FIRST, b. in Paris, 1597; d. at Lyons 1677, studied with Charles, but in his portrait and allegorical plates, which were not many, adopted a somewhat different manner. He became professor of engraving in the Academy of Lyons, and left, to perpetuate his branch of the family and its artistic reputation, three sons: Germain, Claude the Second, and Gerard, the last of whom became the most famous artist among the Audrans.
GERMAIN, the eldest son of Claude the First, b. at Lyons, 1631; d. 1710, was a pupil of his uncle Charles and worked both in Paris and Lyons. Among his plates are portraits of Richelieu and Charles Emmanuel of Savoy (the latter after F. de la Monce), landscapes after Poussin, and fancies and ornamental designs, after Lebrun among others. His four sons were Claude the Third, Benoit the Elder, Jean, and Louis.
CLAUDE the SECOND, son of Claude the First, b. at Lyons, 1639; d. in Paris, 1684, was the first painter in the family. After receiving instruction in drawing from his uncle Charles, he went to study painting in Rome. On his return to Paris he entered the studio of the celebrated historical painter Charles Lebrun, on whose style he formed his own. Audran was Lebrun’s assistant in the painting, among others of his works, of the “Battle of Arbela” and the “Passage of the Granicus”. He painted in fresco with much skill, under the direction of his master, the grand gallery of the Tuileries, the great staircase at Versailles, and the chapel near by, at Sceaux, of the chateau of that enlightened patron of art, Prime Minister Colbert.
GERARD, third son of Claude the First, b. at Lyons,1640; d. in Paris, 1703, went to Paris, after being taught engraving by his father and his uncle, to receive instruction from the painter Lebrun, who gave him some of his paintings to reproduce. He worked in Paris four years, and in 1665 went to Rome, where he remained three years and, it is said, became a pupil of Carlo Maratta. He etched as well as engraved, and produced in Rome some plates—notably, a portrait of Pope Clement IX which brought him much admiration. At the suggestion of Colbert, Louis XIV sent for the artist and made him engraver to, and pensioner of the king, with apartments at the factory of the Gobelins. This recognition of his great ability spurred Audran to even greater endeavors, in which he was further encouraged by his former patron, Lebrun, more of whose paintings he reproduced, notably the “Battles of Alexander”. In November, 1681, he was made a member of the Council of the Royal Academy of Painting. The first productions of Gerard Audran were stiff and dry, and his subsequent original and vigorously brilliant style is credited to the counsels of Maratta, Ciro Ferri, and, notably, of his lifelong friend Lebrun. A second visit to Rome was made, where was signed the plate after “The Four Cardinal Virtues”, by Domenichino, which is in the church of San Carlo ai Catinari. Among the original works of this famous engraver are the portrait of the Rospigliosi Pope, already alluded to, those of Samuele Sorbiere, Andrea Argoli of Padua, the Capuchin Benoit Langlois, the Bishop of Angers Henri Arnauld, and the sculptor Francois du Quesnoy, called Fiamingo, “Wisdom and Abundance above two Genii and the vignette, “St. Paul preaching at Athens”. Particularly esteemed among the plates of Gerard Audran are two after cartoons of Raphael “The death of Ananias” and “Paul and Barnabas at Lystra”, “The Martyrdom of St. Agnes”, after Domenichino, and “Coriolanus” after Poussin. Among the other painters whose works he reproduced are Titian, Rubens, Giulio Romano, Annibale Caracci, Pietro da Cortona, Guercino, Guido Reni, Palma the Younger, Lanfranco, Mignard, Coypel, Lesueur, Bourguignon, Lafage, and Girardon. He was at times assisted by his nephews, Benoit the Elder and Jean. In 1683 Gerard published a work called “The Proportions of the Human Body measured by the most Beautiful Figures of Antiquity”, which has been translated into English.
CLAUDE the THIRD, son of Germain, and the second painter of the family, b. at Lyons, 1658; d. in Paris, 1734, was notable as being the master of the famous Watteau. He studied with his father as well as under his uncles, Germain and Claude the Second. Chosen cabinet painter to the king, he was also for nearly thirty years keeper of the palace of the Luxembourg, where he died. He executed considerable work in oil and fresco in various royal residences.
BENOIT the ELDER, third son of Germain, b. at Lyons, 1661; d. 1721, in the vicinity of Sens, was first taught the family art by his father and then by his uncle Gerard. He made an excellent reputation by his reproduction of portraits and historical works. Among his best productions are “The Seven Sacraments”, after Poussin, and “The Bronze Serpent”, after Lebrun. He became a Member of the Academy and engraver to the king.
JEAN, fourth son of Germain, b. at Lyons, 1667; d. 1756, became, next to his celebrated uncle Gerard, the best engraver of the family. He studied first under his father and then with his uncle. He had already distinguished himself at the early age of twenty. He was rewarded for his subsequent successes by being made (in 1707) engraver to the king, with the regular pension and the Gobelin apartments. This was followed next year by membership in the Academy. Jean Audran worked until he was eighty. His masterpiece is considered to be “The Rape of the Sabines”, after Poussin. Among his plates are portraits after Govert—those of Louis XV, Vandyke, Coypel, Largillière, Rigaud, Trevisani, and Vivien—and compositions after, among others, Raphael, Rubens, the Caracci, Guido Reni, Domenichino, Pietro da Cortona, Albano, Maratta, Philippe de Champagne, Marot, Poussin, and Nattier. His son was Benoit the Younger.
LOUIS, the youngest son of Germain, b. at Lyons, 1670; d. in Paris, c. 1712, studied with his father and his uncle Gérard. He assisted his brothers, and did few original plates. A work of his to be noted is “The Seven Acts of Mercy”, after Bourdon.
BENOIT the Younger, b. in Paris, 1698; d. in the same place, 1772, was the last of the remarkable family to have any historical importance artistically. He was a pupil of his father and did plates after, among others, Veronese, Poussin, Watteau, Lancret, and Natoire.
PROSPER GABRIEL, a grandson of Jean, b. in Paris, 1744; d. 1819; he studied with his uncle, Benoit the Younger, and etched some heads. He gave up art for the law and became professor of Hebrew in the Collège de France.
AUGUSTUS VAN CLEEF