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Louis Jean Desprez

1743 Auxerre – 1804 Stockholm

As early as 1755, at the tender age of twelve, Louis Jean Desprez was apprenticed to no less than Charles-Nicolas Cochin, who taught him the different printmaking techniques. From about 1763 he was a student of Jacques-François Blondel at the Académie Royale d'Architecture. In 1766 he was employed as a drawing teacher at the École Militaire in Paris. Desprez decided against a military career, however, and from 1768 studied under the architect, Charles de Wailly, who aroused his interest in the theatre and with whom he produced stage decorations. In 1784 King Gustav III of Sweden, a great theatre lover, appointed Desprez to the position of theatre architect and stage designer in Stockholm, where he produced decorations for the Royal Theatre as well as for court festivals, carousels and other celebratory events. Although Desprez’ appointment was originally for two years only, he proved so successful in a very short space of time that his contract was extended for a further twelve years in 1786. Following the death of Gustav III in the spring of 1792, however, his artistic flight came to an abrupt end and he spent the last years of his life in straitened circumstances. Desprez was undoubtedly one of the most talented and original scenographic specialists of his time.