Puget, Pierre

Puget, Pierre, called the Michael Angelo of France, on account of his ability in painting and architecture, as well as in sculpture, and perhaps also on account of a kindred enthusiasm and decision of character, was born in 1622 at Marseilles, where his father practiced as an architect and sculptor. It was from him that he received his first instructions in art, after which he was placed under a shipwright, or builder of galleys, to learn to carve the ornaments used in these vessels. Disgusted with the drudgery of such workmanship, he set out for Italy, and passed a considerable time at Florence, where he pursued his studies as a sculptor with great success. He next repaired to Rome, whither he was attracted by the fame of Pietro de Cortona. He became the pupil of that artist, but made such progress that he accompanied him to Florence as assistant to paint the ceilings of the Pitti palace. He suddenly resolved upon returning to France, when only twenty- one. But, commissioned to design a vessel of extraordinary magnificence, Puget proceeded a second time to Rome, and there spent between five and six years: what afterwards became of his valuable collection of drawings is not known. On his second return from Italy he painted; but excessive application so seriously affected his health that he confined himself thenceforth to architecture and sculpture. His talents met with employment at Toulon and Marseilles, and for the latter city he projected many embellishments, which established his reputation as an architect; and he further gave proof of great skill in engineering by different ingenious machines and inventions. He was sent by Fouquet to Genoa for the purpose of selecting marble for some of the works proposed to be executed at Marseilles; but that minister being shortly afterwards disgraced, instead of returning home, Puget preferred remaining at Genoa, where he produced some of his most noted pieces of sculpture, the two statues of St. Sebastian and St. Ambrosius, and the grand bas-relief of the Assumption, in the chapel of the Albergo de' Poveri, besides various architectural ornaments. At length he was recalled by Colbert, who obtained for him a pension of 1200 crowns, in consee quence, it is said, of the earnest recommendation of Bernini. That the patronage of the one and the recommendation of the other were not discredited is proved by his two celebrated performances at Versailles, the Milo of Crotona and the group of Perseus and Andromeda, the former of which is generally reckoned the chef d'euv'e of his chisel, and a work that will bear comparison with the antique. He died at Marseilles, where he spent his last days, Dec. 2, 1694. — Engl. Cyclop. s.v.; Lenoir, Musie des Monuments Francais, s.v.; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, s.v.

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