Sphinx Fine Art
Henri Gascars is thought to have been the son of Pierre Gascars, an obscure Parisian painter and sculptor. He travelled to Rome in 1659 and returned to Paris in 1667, but was probably in Amsterdam later the same year, working on the portrait of the diarist Nicolas Delafond (Hermitage, St Petersburg). In 1672, Gascars’ Morceau de Reception, a portrait of Louis de Bourbon, the Grand Dauphin, was rejected by the Académie Royale, and two years later Gascars departed for England where he was better received.
From 1674 to 1677 he worked at the English Court, and found particular favour with Louise de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth and mistress to Charles II. Gascars’ portraiture reveals the influences of his contemporaries at Court, particularly that of Sir Peter Lely (1618-1680), from whom he adopted the use of repeated poses for convenience. Gascars created a number of very fine portraits, including that of James, Duke of York (National Maritime Museum, London). His sitters are often depicted as mythological deities, set against a marble column, drapery and landscape. Portraits of children also follow this model.
In 1678 Gascars was again in the Netherlands, where he depicted the signing of the Nijmegen treaty between France and Spain (Commanderie van St. Jan, Nijmegen). He returned to Paris in 1679, where he was received as a member of the Académie Royale the following year with portraits of Louis Elle the Elder and Pierre de Sève the Younger (both in the Château de Versailles). In 1681 he travelled again to Italy, visiting Modena and Venice in 1681 an 1686 respectively, and to Poland in 1691, eventually settling in Rome, where he died in 1701. Gascars’ oeuvre is best known by the large number of engravings made after his portraits.