The life of this artist was just as varied as the subject matter and style of his extensive oeuvre. Born in the south of France around 1634, Sébastien Bourdon travelled by way of Paris and Bordeaux to Rome. There, instead of joining the circle around Poussin as a Frenchman, he called attention to himself with skilful imitations of such very different artists as Claude Lorrain, Benedetto Castiglione, or the 'Bamboccianti'. His hasty return to France, possibly for religious reasons, led him to Venice and northern Italy. Artistic impressions he received there - Venetian colourism and the figural style of the Emilian painters Corregio and Carracci - prepared him for his later commissions. Back in Paris by the late 1630s and sponsored by Simon Vouet, Bourdon gained a foothold. In 1643 he painted the May picture at Notre-Dame ('The Beheading of Peter', Musée du Louvre), and in 1648 he was a founding member of the Academy. Summoned to Stockholm from 1652 to 1654 as court painter to Queen Christine, Bourdon proved himself to be above all a gifted portraitist. Aside from a lengthy stay in Montpellier, until his relatively early death Bourdon then worked in Paris, where he was one of the most admired and versatile artists. The masterpiece of his later years was the gallery of the Hôtel Bretonvilliers, now destroyed. In his last two decades he took up the style of Poussin, mainly as a painter of religious scenes and landscapes, but he lacked both the consistency and intelligence of his model. Perhaps precisely thanks to the certain charm of his artistic disposition, expressed in a decorative concept of colour and a tendency to exploit it for its own sake, he became an effective mediator of the classical style. He was also a gifted graphic artist, leaving behind more than forty etchings, as well as a spontaneous and delightful draughtsman who was especially admired in the eighteenth century.