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Courtois, Jacques

COURTOIS, JACQUES (1621-1676) and GUILLAUME (1628-1679). The two French painters who bore these names are also called by the Italian equivalents Giacomo (or Jacopo) Cortese and Guglielmo Cortese. Each of the brothers is likewise named, from his native province, Le Bourguignon, or Il Borgognone.

Jacques Courtois was born at St Hippolyte, near Besançon, in 1621. His father was a painter, and with him Jacques remained studying up to the age of fifteen. Towards 1637 he came to Italy, was hospitably received at Milan by a Burgundian gentleman, and entered, and for three years remained in, the French military service. The sight of some battle-pictures revived his taste for fine art. He went to Bologna, and studied under the friendly tutelage of Guido; thence he proceeded to Rome, where he painted, in the Cistercian monastery, the "Miracle of the Loaves." Here he took a house and after a while entered upon his own characteristic style of art, that of battle-painting, in which he has been accounted to excel all other old masters; his merits were cordially recognized by the celebrated Cerquozzi, named Michelangelo delle Battaglie. He soon rose from penury to ease, and married a painter's beautiful daughter, Maria Vagini; she died after seven years of wedded life. Prince Matthias of Tuscany employed Courtois on some striking works in his villa, Lappeggio, representing with much historical accuracy the prince's military exploits. In Venice also the artist executed for the senator Sagredo some remarkable battle-pieces. In Florence he entered the Society of Jesus, taking the habit in Rome in 1655; it was calumniously rumoured that he adopted this course in order to escape punishment for having poisoned his wife. As a Jesuit father, Courtois painted many works in churches and monasteries of the society. He lived piously in Rome, and died there of apoplexy on the 20th of May 1676 (some accounts say 1670 or 1671). His battle-pieces have movement and fire, warm colouring (now too often blackened), and great command of the brush, - those of moderate dimensions are the more esteemed. They are slight in execution, and tell out best from a distance. Courtois etched with skill twelve battle-subjects of his own composition. The Dantzig painter named in Italy Pandolfo Reschi was his pupil.

Guillaume Courtois, born likewise at St Hippolyte, came to Italy with his brother. He went at once to Rome, and entered the school of Pietro da Cortona. He studied also the Bolognese painters and Giovanni Barbieri, and formed for himself a style with very little express mannerism, partly resembling that of Maratta. He painted the "Battle of Joshua" in the Quirinal Gallery, the "Crucifixion of St Andrew" in the church of that saint on Monte Cavallo, various works for the Jesuits, some also in co-operation with his brother. His last production was Christ admonishing Martha. His draughtsmanship is better than that of Jacques, whom he did not, however, rival in spirit, colour or composition. He also executed some etchings. Guillaume Courtois died of gout on the 15th of June 1679.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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