The brothers Crozat were born in Toulouse, France, the son of peasants. He and his brother Antoine were opportunistic self-made men, rising from obscurity to become two of the wealthiest merchants in France - Pierre was known ironically as Crozat le pauvre, to distinguish him from his even wealthier brother. He was one of the most prominent French financiers and collectors, becoming the treasurer to the king in Paris, and gradually acquiring a notable collection of pictures, old master drawings and objets d'art. He was the principal patron of Antoine Watteau, who painted for his dining room, a suite of Four Seasons, and of other early Rococo artists. Pierre Crozat's collection of old master drawings was already one of the most important in France at the beginning of the 18th century.
From 1714 until the purchase was finally concluded in 1721, he worked as agent and negotiator for the Regent, Philippe II, Duke of Orléans, on the purchase in Rome of the art collection of Queen Christina of Sweden for the Orleans Collection.
Between 1729 and 1742, a finely illustrated, two-volume work was published, known as the Cabinet Crozat, including some of the finest pictures in French collections. Many of his old master drawings, catalogued by Pierre-Jean Mariette, one of the four acknowledged expert connoisseurs in Paris, were dispersed at auction in Paris in 1741, an occasion that Michael Jaffé termed "the greatest public sale of drawings held in the dix-huitième."
Most of Crozat's treasures were inherited by his nephews, Louis François (d. 1750), Joseph Antoine (d. 1750), and Louis Antoine (d. 1770), who added to them. They were dispersed after their deaths; the collection of Louis Antoine Crozat was bought in 1772, through Denis Diderot, by Catherine II of Russia and went to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.
- Cordélia Hattori, "The drawings collection of Pierre Crozat (1665-1740)", in Christopher Baker, Caroline Elam, Genevieve Warwick, eds. Collecting prints and drawings in Europe, c. 1500-1750, 2003.
- Benedict Leca, "An Art Book and Its Viewers: The "Recueil Crozat" and the Uses of Reproductive Engraving", Eighteenth-Century Studies 38.4 (Summer 2005:623-649).
- Jaffé, "Two Rediscovered Antwerp Drawings from Crozat's Collection", Master Drawings, 32.1 (Spring 1994):54-59) p. 54. Jaffé notes (pp 54, 56) the other three eminent experts as Gabriel Huquier, Edme-François Gersaint and François-Charles Joullain
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.