Painter, portrait painter, miniaturist, etcher, commercial artist (male) and draughtsman
A relatively short life, spent almost exclusively in provincial France and in Rome, and a painterly oeuvre of high quality with a preponderance of religious subjects, contributed to the exceptional position Subleyras occupies in French art of the eighteenth century. The son of a modest painter, from whom he received his first instruction, he became a pupil of the gifted and idiosyncratic Antoine Rivalz in Toulouse around 1714/15. A three-year stay in Paris from 1724 to 1727 brought him the Academy's Prix de Rome, whereupon he left France forever. After further training at the Académie de France, Subleyras soon gained a foothold in Rome and found patrons and clients in noble and clerical circles - even Pope Benedict XIV. Subleyras's talent for compositions of remarkable concentration and an unmistakable colouring, especially luscious shades of white, was exhibited mainly in portraits and panel paintings. Like many French artists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Subleyras admired the Italian masters but remained wholly dedicated to the classical tradition of his own country. His masterpiece is the large altarpiece for St Peter's with the 'Mass of St Basil', 1745 (now in the Chiesa Maria degli Angeli), which was done in mosaic for the Holy Year 1750. Dezallier d'Argenville aptly described Subleyras's drawings as those of a colourist. He frequently worked with coloured papers, and employed hatching in black and white crayon that allowed him to achieve powerful forms and at the same time an overall tonal effect.