Jean-Jacques LAGRENÉE

Paris 1739 - Paris 1821


A pupil of his elder brother, Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée, called Lagrenée l’aîné (who was sixteen years older), Jean-Jacques Lagrenée (also known as ‘Lagrenée the Younger’) studied at the Ecole des Elèves Protégés and earned a second-place prize in the Prix de Rome competition of 1760. The same year he accompanied his brother to Saint Petersburg, where Louis had been appointed painter to the Empress Catherine the Great. The two brothers remained in Russia until 1762, when they returned to Paris. In 1765 Jean-Jacques left for Rome, where he was able to study at the Académie de France, although not officially as a pensionnaire. It was in Rome, where he lived until 1769, that the young Lagrenée developed a particular love of classical art, and made an intensive study of ancient Roman wall paintings and decorations. He also established a reputation as a painter of decorative ceiling paintings, winning a commission from the Roman senator Abbondio Rezzonico in 1768 to decorate his Roman residence, the Palazzo Senatorio, with ceiling paintings that were much admired.

Soon after his return to Paris in 1769, Lagrenée was tasked with a cycle of paintings for the abbey of Montmartre, a commission he shared with the painters Charles de La Traverse and Michel Honoré Bounieu. He also painted history subjects and ceiling paintings for the Galerie d’Apollon in the Louvre and at the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Admitted into the Académie Royale in 1775, Lagrenée received commissions from such important patrons as the Comte d’Angiviller, and exhibited paintings and drawings of historical and Biblical subjects at the Salons between 1771 and 1804. His skill as a decorator was also readily evident in his activity as the artistic director of the Sèvres porcelain factory between 1785 and 1800, for whom he created numerous designs, notably the Etruscan service for Marie-Antoinette’s dairy at Rambouillet. He also produced a large number of etchings, both original designs and reproductive works after other artists.

After 1805 Lagrenée seems to have stopped exhibiting, and he ended his career in relative obscurity. Comparatively few paintings by the artist are known today, while drawings by Lagrenée are in the collections of the Louvre, the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin, the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, MA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, and elsewhere.