French painter and architect Charles Le Brun was one of the most important and influential artists of the Louis XIV style.
Le Brun exhibited great talent from an early age, as shown by the portrait of his father Nicolas Le Brun as an elegantly dressed gentleman. Turned towards the viewer, with a red cape draped decoratively over his left shoulder, Nicolas Le Brun points at a statuette – possibly a plaster cast of one of his sculptures, entitled Antinous of Belvedere. Antinous, who drowned in the Nile during one of Hadrian's journeys to Egypt, was a favourite of the Roman emperor, and was deified after his death.
Only when further versions of the statue had been found, did it transpire that it was in fact a representation of the god Mercury. The Antinous motif was highly popular with both sculptors and painters in 17th-century France.