Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Monday, December 21, 2015

Louise Moillon and Still-Life Painting

Louise Moillon (died 21 December 1696)


Born in Paris in 1609, Louise Moillon was the daughter of the artist Nicolas Moillon (1555-1619), only one of whose paintings survives, a portrait. Nicolas Moillon is generally credited as being a landscape painter as well as a portraitist because of three surviving engravings of landscapes. The family was Protestant, protected by the 1598 Edict of Nantes, thus enjoying spiritual, economic, and artistic security. Nicolas Moillon was a member of the Academy of Saint-Luc, functioned as a dealer at his own shop, the Franc Galois, and, later, owned several stalls in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés market. 

The Fruit and Vegetable Monger,
1630, Louvre Museum
Moillon may also have begun the process of training his children as artists--Louise's brother Isaac (1614-73) became a portrait painter at the French court--although there are also doubts about the extent of her father's influence, since he died when Louise was just ten years old. 

After Nicolas Moillon's death in 1619, Louise's mother, Marie Gilbert, married another artist and dealer, François Garnier, who undertook Louise's artistic training. The art historian Reginald Fletcher suggests that she may also have been "a pupil of Jacques Linard (1597–1645), another noted Saint-Germain still-life artist with whom Louise shared close stylistic similarities and with whom she collaborated on a 1641 painting."

In 1629, Louise Moillon's first work, a still-life painting of a bowl of peaches--was exhibited in Grenoble. It sold quickly. An inventory from 1630, on the occasion of Marie Gilbert's death, shows the extent of Louise's body of work--there were already thirteen paintings by Louise Moillon included among her mother's collection.

Impressed by accounts of the sensation caused by Louise Moillon's peach still-life, Louis XIII commissioned works from the young artist; by 1639, King Charles of England had five of her works in his collection. The French Minister of Finance, Claude de Bullion, owned twelve of her paintings, one produced for him by commission.

Still Life with Cherries, Strawberries, and
Gooseberries
, 1630,
Norton Simon Museum
In 1640, Louise Moillon married a wealthy timber merchant. And like so many women, her work more or less stopped. Only one painting, from 1641, dates from the period of her marriage. After the death of her husband in 1648, Moillon did not resume her artistic career. 

Only in the mid-1670s did she begin to paint again; Fletcher notes that works from the decade 1674 to 1684 survive. Today about forty paintings are attributed to Louise Moillon, most of them belonging to the decade between 1630 and 1640.

Louise Moillon's life and renewed career fell victim to politics and religion, however, when the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. At age seventy-five, Moillon fled to England with two daughters, only to discover that her son had been imprisoned in the Bastille.

Eventually Moillon returned to Paris--Fletcher suggests she may have returned in order to avoid the confiscation of her artworks. She was compelled to convert to Catholicism, and received last rites on her deathbed in 1696.

(The Virtual Museum of Protestantism website entry on Louise Moillon details more of the family's experiences after the Revocation and indicates that she "remained faithful to the Reformed faith" until her death.)

Still Life with a Basket of Fruit and a
Bunch of Asparagus
, 1630,
Art Institute of Chicago