Jean-François Cars was born in Lyons on 16 October 1661, the son of François Cars père [Senior], and his wife, Virginie Chesne. His father was an engraver and printseller who had come from Paris to settle in Lyon, at rue [Street] Mercière, with his brother, Gabriel, also an engraver. They were the sons of Jean Cars, an artisan and a sculptor “de peu de notoriété” [“of little notoriety”] of Paris, and his wife, Maria Firans, the daughter of an engraver. So Jean-François and his brothers, François fils [Junior] (1682—1763) and Joseph, were the fourth generation of engravers in their family. Baptized on the next day, Jean-François had as his godfather another engraver, François Demasso of Lyon, who also worked as a merchant of prints and figurines.
Jean-François learned his craft in the workshop of his father, as well as from the maker of intaglios, Pierre Husson (1675–1676), and the printer of intaglios, Chabrilland. However, his earliest prints by hand dated only from 1693, when, in the wake of his father, he provided the plates for the illustrations of the works being published in Lyon.
On 18 October 1695 in Lyon, Jean-François married a Parisian, Marie Barbery, the sister of the engraver Louis Barbery. They had seven children, including Laurent Cars and a daughter, Agatha, who married the King’s printer Gabriel-François Quillau. The family lived with François Cars at first and then settled, under their own sign, “A Saint-Hubert”, at rue Mercière, in 1698. At this shop, Jean-François engraved portraits of local notables as well as vignettes for the works that were being published in Lyon. He also engraved the titles and frontispieces of the books for the libraries of Lyon.
He had several presses and employed several Lyonnaise engravers, including Claude Séraucourt and especially his own brother, François Cars fils.
Jean-François moved to Paris at the beginning of the 18th century, followed by his younger brother, François. However, for nearly ten years, the brothers stayed active in both cities. In Paris, Jean-François had had his shop at rue de la Savonnerie since 1702 yet his youngest son was born in Lyon in December 1704. In 1711, he extended his lease of the Lyonnaise home for five years. In 1720, he bought his own Parisian house at rue Saint-Jacques, where he had already been renting since 1712. It was adjacent to either the Sorbonne or the Collège du Plessis. He changed his shop’s sign to “Au Nom de Jésus” [Latin, “At the Name of Jesus”], and, in 1726, he expanded his shop to a bigger building, probably to move his operations. He continued not only to make engravings (an activity he gradually abandoned) but also work as a publisher and seller of prints. He specialized, among other things, the placards for the theses for the Jesuit colleges, especially the ones in Paris and Bordeaux.
Jean-François kept a workshop where many apprentices, especially François Boucher and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau learned and worked; in 1730, it had six presses for making the intaglios. But he also found the time to serve his parish church, Church of Saint-Benoît-le-Bétourné, just down the street from his house, as a commissioner of the poor and a churchwarden.
The works of Jean-François Cars are not considered to be equal of those of his more famous son, Laurent Cars. His plates are sometimes marked “J. F. Cars” but more frequently “J. F. Cars fils [Junior]”. He is known to have engraved the portraits of the following notables:
- Louis XIV, engraved at Lyons, sold at Paris, marked “J. F. C.”
- Père Nicolas de Dijon, Superior of the Order of Capuchins at Lyons, engraved at Lyons, 1694, under the title “R. Ad. P. Nicolas Divionensis” [Latin, “Nicholas of Dijon”] and signed “J. f. Cars le fils”
- Henri, Prince de la Tour d'Auvergne, 1699.
- Charles le Goux de la Berchere, Archbishop of Albi, 1702
- Étienne, Cardinal Le Camus, Bishop of Grenoble, 1703.
- François-Joseph de Grammont, the Archbishop of Besançon, 1706.
- Pierre de Sève, Baron de Fléchères, engraved and signed “J. f. Cars”, 1706, after Rigaud
- François Blouet de Camilly, Archbishop of Tours, 1707
- Camille de Neufville de Villeroy, Archbishop and Count of Lyon, engraved and signed “J. f. Cars”, 1717, after Grandon of Lyons
- Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Fleurieu, Seigneur d’Armenonville, Keeper of the Seals of France [Garde des sceaux de France], 1720, after Rigaud
- Melchior, Cardinal de Polignac, 1720, after Rigaud
- Michel Poncet de la Rivière, Bishop of Angers, 1722, signed “J. F. Cars”
- Dominique de Saint Clair, Bishop of Séez
- Louis Auguste, Prince de Dombes, signed “J. f. Cars le fils”
- Louis, Vicomte d'Aubusson
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Rondot, Les gravers d’estampes sur cuivre à Lyon: au XVIIe siècle, page 111
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Martin-de Vesvrotte, et al., Dictionnaire des graveurs à Lyon, pages 30-34.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Societé de l’Histoire de l’Art Français [Society of the History of French Art], Actes d'État-Civil d’artistes français, peintres, graveurs, architectes, etc.: extraits des registres de l’Hotel-de-Ville de Paris [Civil Registers of French Artists, Artisans, Engravers, Architects, etc.: Extracts from the Registers of the City Hall of Paris] (Orléans: H. Herlusion, Libraire, and Paris: J. Baur, Libraire, 1873), page 65. Jean was described as an artisan and sculptor by his widow’s death certificate, dated 14 November 1651.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Baron [Melchoir-]Roger Portalis and Henri Béraldi, “CARS (Laurent)”, Les graveurs du dix-huitième siècle, tome premier: Adam–Dossier [The Engravers of the Eighteenth Century, First Volume: Adam–Dossier] (Paris: Damascène Morgand et Charles Fatout, 1880), page 301
- Pierre Firens (c. 1580–1638) was one of the major Flemish engravers and publishers at the beginning of the 17th Century.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Maxime Préaud, et al., “Jean-François Cars”, Dictionnaire des éditeurs d'estampes à Paris sous l'Ancien Régime pages 73-74.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Actes d'État-Civil d’artistes français, op. cit., page 66.
- The church and its cemetery no longer exist. They were razed in 1854 to make room for the expansion of the Sorbonne and of the rue des Écoles [Street of the Schools]. The church itself got its nickname, le Bétourné [“Turned the Wrong Way”], because, when it was built in the 14th Century, the altar was placed at the wrong end – in the west. In English, the church would be properly called by the British, “The Church of St. Benedict-of-the-Wrong-End”. Today, a marker commemorates the church as well as the adopted father of François Villon.
- ‹See Tfd›(in English) Michael Bryan, Bryan’s Dictionary of Paints and Engravers, page 243.
- Better known as “Nicholas of Dijon”, Nicolas Peltret, O.F.M. Cap., was a well-known preacher who died in 1649 in Lyon. See ‹See Tfd›(in English) John McClintock and James Strong, “Nicolas, Père”, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 7: NEW – PES (New York City: Harper & Brothers, 1894), page 75 for more details.
- Pierre de Sève (1660-1726) was the Lieutenant-General of the Sénéchaussée [“Bailiwick”] of Lyons and the first President of the Cour des Monnaies [“Currency Court”] of Lyons.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Jacques LeLong, Charles-Marie Fevret de Fontette, and Jean-Louis Barbeau de la Bruyère, “Liste de Portraits”, Bibliothèque Historique de la France, contenant Le Catalogue des Ouvrages, imprimés & manuscrits, qui traitent de l'Histoire de ce Royaume, ou qui y ont rapport; avec des notes critiques et historiques, Nouvelle Édition: Revue, corrigée & considérablement augmentée, Tome Quatriéme [ Bibliographical History of France, containing Catalogue of Books, Prints & Manuscripts Dealing with the History of this Kingdom, from the Available Information; with Critical and Historical Notes, New Edition: Corrected & Greatly Enlarged Review, Fourth Volume ] (Paris: Veuve Herissant, 1775), page 162
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Ph[ilippe]. le Bas [fils], ed., “Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Fleurieu, Seigneur d’Armenonville” [1664-1728], L'univers, ou histoire et description de tous les peuples; Dictionnaire Encyclopédique de la France; Tome Huitième [The Universe, or History and Description of All Peoples; Encyclopedic Dictionary of France, Eighth Volume] (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 1842) page 138
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) F[rédérique]. Bon, État de la question sur Jean-François Cars, graveur et marchand d'estampes [State of the Question about Jean-François Cars, engraver and printseller] (Lyon, 1661 - Paris, 1738), 2 Volumes (Lyon: Mémoire de DEA, université Lyon II, 1997)
- ‹See Tfd›(in English) Michael Bryan, Bryan’s Dictionary of Paints and Engravers, Biographical and Critical, Volume 1: A—K, edited by Robert Edmund Graves and Sir Walter Armstrong (London: George Bell and Sons, 1886), page 243.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Sylvie Martin-de Vesvrotte; Henriette Pommier and Marie Félicie Pérez, Dictionnaire des graveurs-éditeurs et marchands d'estampes à Lyon aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles et catalogue des pièces éditées [Dictionary of Engravers, Publishers and Merchants of Prints in Lyon in the 17th and 18th Centuries and Edited Catalogue of the Pieces] (Lyon: Presses universitaires de Lyon [University of Lyon Press], 2002), pages 30-34.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Maxime Préaud, Pierre Casselle, Marianne Grivel and Corinne Le Bitouzé, “Jean-François Cars”, Dictionnaire des éditeurs d'estampes à Paris sous l'Ancien Régime [Dictionary of the Publishers of Prints in Paris under the Ancient Regime] (Paris: Promodis / éditions du Cercle de la librairie, 1986), pages 73–74.
- ‹See Tfd›(in French) Natalis Rondot, Les gravers d’estampes sur cuivre à Lyon: au XVIIe siècle [The Engravers of Prints on Copper in Lyon during the 17th Century] (Lyon: Imprimerie Mougin-Rusand, 1896), page 111