BERAIN, JEAN (1638-1711), known as "the Elder," Belgian draughtsman and designer, painter and engraver of ornament, was born in 1638 or 1639 at Saint Mihiel (Meuse) and died in Paris on the 24th of January 1711. In 1674 he was appointed dessinateur de la chambre et du cabinet de Roi, in succession to Gissey, whose pupil he is believed to have been. From 1677 onward he had apartments, near to those of André Charles Boulle (q.v.), for whom he made many designs, in the Louvre, where he died. After the death of Le Brun he was commissioned to compose and supervise the whole of the exterior decoration of the king's ships. Without possessing great originality he was inventive and industrious, and knew so well how to assimilate the work of those who had preceded him (especially Raffaelle's arabesques) and to adapt it to the taste of the time that his designs became the rage. He furnished designs for the decorations and costumes used in the opera performances, for court festivals, and for public solemnities such as funeral processions, and inspired the ornamentations of rooms and of furniture to such an extent that a French writer says that nothing was done during his later years which he had not designed, or at least which was not in his manner. He was, in fact, the oracle of taste and the supreme pontiff whose fiat was law in all matters of decoration. His numerous designs were for the most part engraved under his own superintendence, and a collection of them was published in Paris in 1711 by his son-in-law, Thuret, clockmaker to the king. There are three books, OEuvre de J. Bérain, Ornements inventés par J. Bérain and OEvres de J. Bérain contenant des ornements d'architecture. His earliest known works show him as engraver - twelve plates in the collection of Diverses pièces de serrurerie inventées par Hughes Brisville el gravées par Jean Bérain (Paris, 1663), and in 1667 ten plates of designs for the use of gunsmiths. M. Guilmard in Les Maîtres ornemanistes, gives a complete list of his published works.
His son Jean Bérain, "the Younger" (1678-1726), was born in Paris, where he also died. He was his father's pupil, and exercised the same official functions after his death. Thus he planned the funeral ceremonies at St Denis on the death of the dauphin, and afterwards made the designs for the obsequies of Louis XIV. He is perhaps best known as an engraver. He engraved eleven plates of the collection Ornements de peinture et de sculpture qui sont dans la galerie d'Apollon au chasteau du Louvre, et dans le grand appartement du roy au palais des Tuileries (Paris, 1710), which have been wrongly attributed to his father, the Mausolei du duc de Bourgogne, and that of Marie-Louise Gabrielle de Savoie, reine d'Espagne (1714), etc. His work is exceedingly difficult to distinguish from his father's, the similarity of style being remarkable.
Claude Bérain, brother of the elder Jean, was still living in 1726. He was engraver to the king, and executed a good number of plates of ornament and arabesque of various kinds, some of which are included in his more distinguished brother's works.
(J. P. B.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)