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Louis Carmontelle

real name Louis Carrogis, 1717–1806, Paris

Louis Carmontelle, a highly gifted chronicler of his times, was the son of a cobbler and, as an artist, self-taught. A combination of natural talent and mastery of the social graces enabled him to rise to the highest circles of French society. In 1763 he entered the service of the Duc d’Orléans, at whose court he distinguished himself as an organizer of festivities, playwright and portraitist up to the outbreak of the French Revolution. During this period he changed his name from Carrogis to the more mellifluous Carmontelle so as to fit better into his aristocratic milieu. In 1757/58 Carmontelle began to draw portraits, showing great dedication and astonishing skill. For the rest of his life the artist was to execute portraits of personalities he encountered privately, noble patrons and visitors to the court of the duke, including such luminaries as Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin and the young Mozart. His masterly, never banal, portrait draw­ings offer a visual cross-section of the various social strata of the ancien régime.