Most of the paintings in this room were made in Paris around the middle of the 17th century. Increasing French power and self-confidence are qualities evident in Philippe de Champaigne’s full-length portrait of Cardinal de Richelieu of 1633–40. The political ambition to make of Paris a new Rome, resulted in more French-born painters making their careers in the French capital. This trend was encouraged by the founding in 1648 of a royal academy of the arts, and by many wealthy individuals refurbishing their homes.
The greater simplicity of architecture in Paris compared to that in Italy was echoed in the paintings commissioned for the city’s buildings. A distinctly French style emerged which rejected flamboyance and strong contrasts of light and shade, instead favouring restraint, even lighting, elegance and clarity of composition. These characteristics can be seen as much in the history paintings of Eustache Le Sueur as in the more down-to-earth subjects of the Le Nain Brothers.