Antoine Coypel (1661-1722) was the son of the painter, Noël Coypel, and the father of a painter, Charles-Antoine Coypel. Trianed by his father, with whom he spent four years in Rome studying art, Antoine was elected to the Académie Royale at the age of 18.
Like his hero, Peter Paul Rubens, Coypel was the artist-courtier par excellence. He was appointed director of the academy in 1714, was named Premier Peintre du Roi in 1716 and elevated to the minor nobility in 1717. He received high-profile commissions from the king (the ceiling painting of for the chapel at Versailles); his brother, the Grand Dauphin (the Cupid and Psyche series of 1700); and the Duc d’Orléans ( the Aeneid mural cycle for the at the Palais Royal). While director of the academy, Coypel edited and published the Discours prononcés dans les conferences de 1’Academie royale de Peinture, a collection of lectures on single pictures in the royal collection presented by academy artists to their colleagues.
Carefully educated in both art and the classics, Coypel was an exemplary history painter, as erudite as he was technically skilled. His real talent, however, was for drawing. With Rubens and Annibale Carracci as his models, Coypel combined Flemish freshness and immediacy with Roman monumentality to create presentation drawings the are intimate and grand at the same time. His blue-ground and trois-crayons chalk drawings were highly-prized by collectors in his lifetime.
In recognition of his virtuosity, Coypel served as the first keeper of the royal drawing collection from 1711-19. An passionate collector himself, Coypel owned over 100 drawings by the Carracci in addition to works by many other Renissance and 17th-century draughtsmen. He bequeathed his collection to his son, Charles-Antoine, who, after an equally successful academic career, willed the drawings to the monarchy in 1752, 280 of which entered the Louvre collections after the revolution.