Prud'hon, Pierre Paul [key], 1758–1823, French painter; 13th child of a Cluny stonemason. He gained recognition in 1796 with Truth Descending from the Heavens Led by Wisdom (Louvre). A favorite of two empresses, Josephine and Marie Louise, he received many commissions for the decoration of public and private buildings, including the Gallery of Laocoön of the Louvre. Prud'hon's private life was tragic. An unfortunate marriage embittered his earlier years, and his long and happy relationship with his pupil Constance Mayer ended with her suicide in 1821. Prud'hon is noted for his subtle use of light and shadow, derived in part from his admiration for the Italian masters, especially Correggio. His work reveals a tender and poetic quality, especially evident in his portrait of Empress Josephine (Louvre). Many of his canvases are badly deteriorated because of his experiments with bitumen pigments. He is represented in many galleries, including the Louvre Wallace Collection, London, the Metropolitan Museum, and the New-York Historical Society.
See his selected writings ed. by S. Edwards (1969).
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