Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste de Forbin

1779 - 1841

French painter and antiquary

Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste de Forbin Biography

Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste, comte de Forbin (La Roque-d'Antheron, Bouches-du-Rhone, was the French painter and antiquary who succeeded Vivant-Denon as curator of the Musee du Louvre and the other museums of France.

Born at his family's chateau, La Roque-d'Antheron, and a Chevallier of the Order of Malta from birth, he drew before he learned to write. In his earliest training he formed a friendship with Francois Marius Granet that lasted through life. In the counter-revolutionary insurrection at Lyon in 1793, where he was getting instruction from Jean-Jacques de Boissieu, he lost his father, the marquis de Pont-a-Mousson, and his uncle, and was saved only by his youth. The marquise withdrew with her children quietly to Vienne and then to Provence, weathering the extreme phases of the Revolution, while Forbin and Granet developed their art by drawing in the countryside. With the Directoire, it was secure for him to go to Paris, where his good looks and easy, elegant manner recommended him as well as his art.[1] He called Granet to join him, and both entered the large studio of Jacques-Louis David, virtually a neoclassical academy, where they matured their taste. Forbin's first submissions to the Paris salon were in 1796, 1799 and 1800.

Forbin was conscripted into the army, married an heiress, Mlle de Dortan, then gained leave from his regiment in 1802 to travel to Rome with Granet, where he fell into the facile manner of a highly-accomplished dilettante,[2] as he was received by the best of Francophile Roman society; in 1804 he was given the post of chamberlain to Princess Pauline Borghese.

Rejoining the army, Forbin served with distinction under Junot in Portugal, and received the Croix d'honneur, then served in the Austrian campaign of 1809, returning to Italy after the peace of Schonbrunn. Here he produced his history paintings, Ines de Castro and The Taking of Granada as well as a sentimental novel, Charles Barimore (published anonymously, Paris 1810).

With the Bourbon Restoration Forbin e was welcome in Paris to assume the post vacated by Vivant-Denon, too indelibly stamped with Napoleonic connections; the comte de Forbin was appointed general director of museums at the Musee du Louvre and Musee du Luxembourg, which were suddenly denuded of their Napoleonic trophies, which were returned to Italy. The Borghese collection of antiquities purchased from Prince Camillo helped fill the void, and the former Cabinet du Roi and works of art in storage at Versailles. The suites of paintings by Rubens and Lesueur from the Palais du Luxembourg now came to the Louvre, and the remnants of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic musee des Augustins, as the works that had been sequestered from churches were returned to them.

The Institut de France was now reorganized, and in the Academie des Beaux-Arts the comte de Forbin received a seat, by royal order, 16 April 1816. Forbin was made a commander of the Legion of Honor and an honorary Gentleman of the King's Bedchamber.