|Born||24 January 1674
|Died||1 July 1735|
Jean Ranc (28 January 1674 – 1 July 1735) was a French painter, mainly active in portraiture. He trained under his father Antoine Ranc and his father's former student Hyacinthe Rigaud and served in the courts of both Louis XV of France and (from 1723 onwards) Philip V of Spain.
Ranc "the younger" was born in Montpellier, the son of the renowned provincial portraitist Antoine Ranc "the elder" who ruled the art scene in that town, which had also produced the talents of Sébastien Bourdon and Françoise de Boyere among others. In this era, every painter – including Antoine – battled to obtain lucrative municipal contracts to decorate public buildings. Antoine was a man of taste, forming a personal collection of paintings by the European masters and received many young artists into his studio, including Hyacinthe Rigaud from 1671. The connections between Rigaud and the Ranc family were to prove long and fruitful, even if Rigaud's glory somewhat eclipsed the efforts of that family.
Jean soon moved to Paris, in 1696, where he became the devoted student of his Catalan compatriot and friend Rigaud, working in his studio. His art still showed certain influence from his elder compatriot. He registered the Académie on 30 December 1700, being received into it on 28 July 1703 as a portraitist for his portrait of Nicolas Van Plattenberg, known as "Platte-Montagne" (1631–1706) and that of François Verdier (1651–1730). Despite aspirations to become a history painter, he was never received as such by the Académie.
Jean Ranc then became established as a portraitist to the Parisian bourgeoisie and produced a large number of paintings in the styles of Rigaud and Nattier. Cheaper than Rigaud, Ranc found his public until the Spanish arrival. On 13 June 1715 he married his god-daughter and the niece of his teacher, Marguerite Elisabeth Rigaud, daughter of the painter Gaspard.
On the Bourbons' arrival in Spain with the coronation of Philip V, grandson of Louis XIV of France, none of the French painters sent to Spain seemed to be making any impact. Repeated excuses were made to the French court for the low quality of the portraits sent them by the Spanish Bourbons. Philip V wrote to Versailles in 1721 not only to obtain a beautiful portrait of the teenage Louis XV but also to obtain a French painter worthy of this name amidst the famous triumvirate De Troy, Largillierre and Rigaud. Rigaud was most preferred by Philip, having painted him masterfully in 1701, but Rigaud guided him towards the young artists better suited to moving to a far-off country, such as Jean Raoux from Montpellier. Raoux refused the offer and next Rigaud thought of Jean Ranc, who had married Rigaud's niece in 1715. All these transactions were aided by cardinal Dubois, then first minister to Louis XV. Thus began Ranc's main career.
Hoping to have a high-flying career in a country where there was no French portraitist to equal or surpass him, Ranc left for Madrid, arriving in 1724 with his first children: Antoine Jean-Baptiste, Hyacinthe, Marguerite Elisabeth, Claude and Hyacinthe-Joseph. His last two children, Jean-Baptiste and Antonia, were to be born in Madrid.
Ranc then spent a year in Lisbon from 1729 to 1730 to sketch the faces of the Portuguese monarchy. Thanks to his fashion of allying the "melting touch of Riaud with the Castillian vehemence of Vélasquez", he gave birth to a new iconography for the Spanish Bourbons. This met with the approval of Philip V, who found in Ranc's portrait of his son Charles III a good alternative to Spanish works by Carreno de Miranda (portrait of Charles II).
Suffering from criticism by Spaniards "who sought to do only harm to a foreigner", Ranc's stay in Spain was not at all restful. In vain he demanded the cross of the Order of Saint Michael or the post of Maestro de Obras Reales (Master of Royal Works), left vacant by the death of Andréa Procaccini (1671–1734). In Spain he had a long and serious dispute with his colleague Michel Ange Houasse due to their artistic jealousy and desire to excel at court. The fire at the Royal Alcazar of Madrid at Christmas 1734, which completely destroyed the old Habsburg palace, started in Ranc's room (he had sight problems) and he plunged into a severe depression, dying in Madrid, a year after the fire, aged 61.
On Ranc's death, Rigaud was once again asked to choose an official painter to the Spanish court, as attested by Dezallier d'Argenville:
|“||On the death of sieur Ranc his nephew, he had to appoint the first painter to His Catholic Majesty, Rigaud, commissioned to choose him, sent Monsieur Vanloo le fils there, who long occupied this rank with distinction, and who is no less distinguished in this town now.||”|
Rigaud had been a student of Jean Ranc's father Antoine and so the relationship between Jean and his friend and teacher Rigaud went well beyond their relationship via marriage. Jean thus applied Rigaud's precepts but with more entrenched attitudes. His portraits of Joseph Bonnier de la Mosson and his wife were attributed by some to Rigaud and wrongly said to represent the President of La Mésangère and his wife on its trip to the auction house at Drouot in 1993 and came back on the Venetian art market as attributed to Largillierre. The old master had painted busts of these last two but in three quarter length on two independent canvases. Thus, while the male portrait at Drouot proved to be an exact replica of the portrait of Joseph Bonnier de La Mosson at Montpellier (musée Fabre) by Ranc, its female pendant imitated a formula used by Rigaud in his portrait of Madame Le Gendre de Villedieu, thus showing how thin and porous is the boundary between Rigaud's and Jean Ranc's styles and how dangerous attributions can sometimes prove.
In 1710, Ranc produced a portrait of Joseph Delaselle, a merchant and arms-dealer from Nantes (Nantes, musée des Beaux-arts) in which he used the same vocabulary of drapery and a relaxed pose in a rural landscape as Rigaud. Moreover, his 1719 portrait of Louis XV in royal costume aged nine (Versailles, musée national du château, right) confines its imitation to Rigaud's portrait of the five year old Louis XV in his coronation costume (Versailles, musée national du château). The imitation is such that Ranc uses not only similar regalia, but also the heavy drape animating the scene, the column and the ermine mantle. Later, in his portraits of members of the Spanish court, Ranc tried an even closer approach to Rigaud's style, but still failed to fully imitate his suppleness or vitality.
Perfecting Rigaud's techniques, he re-used some military poses established by Rigaud to spruce up a portrait of Daniel-François de Gélos de Voisins d’Ambres, comte de Lautrec. Even if this work's attribution to Ranc has sometimes been called into doubt, it reprises Rigaud's vocabulary of a baton decorated with fleur-de-lys held lightly in the marshal's hand, the other hand held, the tree trunk and the battle scene. Another version of this painting and its female pendant have been attributed to Jean-Marc Nattier (Geneva, musée des Beaux-arts) but nothing prevents us definitively discerning in this portrait, if not Rigaud's hand, then the pure and simple form of a Catalan formula after him by Ranc or one of his studio assistants.
In conclusion, Ranc's style was very close to that of Rigaud, but his technique is still very recognisable from the very sharp hands it produced and especially from the very brittle folds he used in his portrayal of drapery – those of Rigaud are more supple and melting. Unlike Rigaud, who gave faces an extraordinary truth, Ranc often betrays a certain dryness in his fairly static portrayal of faces. However, Ranc's art was mainly one of pageantry and colour, in which he certainly was talented.
King Louis I of Spain
Diana the huntress, in 1715 (private collection)
Philip I of Parma as a child
Portrait of the painter Nicolas Van Plattenberg, known as "Platte-Montagne" (1703, Versailles, musée national du château)
- (French) Paris, Archives Nationales, Minutier central des Notaires parisiens, Etude XIII (Goudin, Mathieu), Liasse 184. Published for the first time by Henri Jouin, « Contrat de mariage de Jean Ranc » (1715), in Nouvelles archives de l’art français, 1887, p. 140-143.
- Born 30 July 1717 and known as Page to the Chamber to the King of Spain in 1747
- Born 9 August 1718
- Born 21 August 1719
- Born 29 September 1720 and known as officer of the troops of Philip V of Spain in 1747
- Born 26 January 1722, known as a cornet in the dragoons of the régiment de Numance in the Spanish army in Italy, he solicited the Académie Royale after Rigaud's death to receive some subsidies.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jean Ranc.|
- (Spanish) J.J. Luna, "Jean Ranc: Ideas artisticas y métodos de trabajo, a través de pinturas y documentos", A.E.A., 1980, p. 449–465.
- (Spanish) J.J. Luna & A. Ubeda de los Coos, Guia de la Pintura europea del siglo XVIII, Museo del Prado, 1997.
- (French) Ponsonailhé, "Les deux Ranc, peintres de Montpellier" in Réunion de la Société des Beaux-arts des départements, XI, 1887.
- (Spanish) Catalogue of the exhibition El arte en la corte de Felipe V, Madrid, 2002–2003.