Jean Bérain the Elder  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Jean Bérain the Elder (Saint-Mihiel, Meuse, 1640 – January 24, 1711, Paris) was a draughtsman and designer, painter and engraver of ornament, the artistic force in the Royal office of the Menus-Plaisirs du Roi where all the designs originated for court spectacle, from fêtes to funerals, and many designs for furnishings not covered by the Bâtiments du Roi. The "Berainesque" style of light arabesques and playful grotesques was an essential element in the style Régence that led to the French rococo.

Born in the Austrian Netherlands, the son of a master gunsmith, in whose line of work engraving was a prominent technique, he spent his career at Paris. Long after his death the connoisseur Pierre-Jean Mariette wrote of him, "Nothing was done, in whatever genre that it might have been, unless it were in his manner, or where he had given designs for it." Through his engravings and those of his son, his style was highly influential beyond the court and Paris, notably in the Low Countries, Germany and London. His close friendship with Nicodemus Tessin the Younger ensured that Berain's own nuance in the Louis XIV style was transmitted to court circles in Sweden.

Berain was established in Paris by 1663. On 28 December 1674 he was appointed dessinateur de la Chambre et du cabinet du Roi in the Menus-Plaisirs (a post he retained until his death), in succession to Henri de Gissey, whose pupil he is believed to have been. From 1677 onward he had workrooms and an apartment in the Galeries du Louvre near to those of André Charles Boulle, for whom he made many designs for furniture. After the death of Charles Le Brun Berain was commissioned to compose and supervise the whole of the exterior decoration of the king's ships. His first designs for royal interiors date from the years 1682-84.

He was inventive and industrious, and, beginning with interiors at the Hôtel de Mailly (1687-88) assimilated and adapted Raphaelesque grotesque ornament to the taste of the time. He provided arabesque designs for the manufacture of Beauvais tapestry. At Meudon for Louis, le Grand Dauphin, whose favourite designer he remained Berain's decors, beginning in 1699, initiated the Régence style that was a precursor of the Rococo.

His numerous designs were for the most part engraved under his own supervision; a collection of them was published in Paris in 1711 by his son-in-law, Jacques Thuret, clockmaker to the king from 1694. There are three books, L'Œuvre de J. Berain, Ornements inventés par J. Berain and Œuvres de J. Berain contenant des ornements d'architecture.

Désiré Guilmard in Les Maîtres ornemanistes, gives a complete list of his published works.

His son and pupil, Jean Berain the Younger, (1678-1726), was born and died in Paris. He exercised the same official functions after his father's death and worked in a very similar taste.

References

  • Fiske Kimball, Creation of the Rococo, (Philadelphia Museum of Art) 1943
  • Jérome de La Gorce, Berain, dessinateur du Roi Soleil, Paris, Herscher, 1986
  • Roger-Armand Weigert, Jean I Berain, dessinateur de la Chambre et du Cabinet du roi (1640-1711), Paris, Les Éditions d'art et d'histoire, 1936




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jean Bérain the Elder" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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