Moillon, Louise (1610–1696)

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Moillon, Louise (1610–1696)

French still-life painter. Born in 1610 (some sources cite 1615, others 1609) in Paris; died in 1696 in Paris; daughter of Nicolas Moillon (a painter and picture dealer) and Marie Gilbert; married Etienne Girardot (a wood merchant), in 1640; children: at least three.

Selected paintings:

The Fruit Seller (1629); At the Greengrocer (1630); Basket of Fruit with a Bunch of Asparagus (1630); A Dish of Grapes with Figs (1631); Basket of Apricots (1635); Still Life with Grapes and Vine Leaves (1637); Still Life with Grapes, Melons, Squashes and Apples (1637); The Lunch (n.d.); Still Life of Curaçao Oranges (n.d.); Still Life with Peaches, Asparagus, Artichokes and Strawberries (n.d.). Most paintings produced before 1642; career resumed in 1670s.

Although still-life painting originated in the Low Countries of Flanders and the Netherlands at the beginning of the 16th century, Louise Moillon, whose contemporaries included Jean Picart, Lubin Baugin, and Pierre Dubois, is considered a pioneer of the genre in France, having produced most of her dated works before 1642. Art historians Ann Sutherland Harris and Linda Nochlin unequivocally call Moillon "one of the finest still-life painters of the first half of the 17th century in France." Her works are primarily studies of fruit, although she also occasionally painted vegetables; several of her paintings, notably The Fruit Seller (1629) and At the Greengrocer (1630), also successfully integrate human figures within the still-life composition.

Moillon was born in Paris in 1610, one of seven children of Nicolas Moillon, a Protestant painter and picture dealer, and Marie Gilbert , the daughter of a goldsmith. Although she may have received her earliest artistic instruction from her father, he died when she was about nine, and it is generally agreed that the man her mother soon married, François Garnier, was the more important influence on the young artist. Garnier was also a painter and picture dealer, and even before he married Moillon's mother he drew up documents providing for the sale of Moillon's future works, an indication that he saw great promise in the child.

Her earliest known work, dated 1629, is a still-life depicting peaches. More restrained than the riotous extravagance of the typical Dutch still-life, Moillon's paintings have been hailed for their elegance and beautiful composition, and more than 30 extant works have been attributed to her thus far. Most of these date from before 1642. Moillon married wood merchant Etienne Girardot in November 1640, and had at least three children, and it is speculated that the domestic responsibilities of marriage and motherhood interrupted her artistic career. She seems to have begun painting again in the 1670s. Her last dated work, a still-life of peaches and grapes, is dated 1682, and hangs in the Museum of Strasbourg. Most of her known paintings are in private French collections, although At the Greengrocer hangs in the Louvre, and Basket of Fruit with a Bunch of Asparagus (1630) is held by the Art Institute of Chicago. Little is known about Moillon's later life except that, as a Protestant, she suffered persecution both before and after the 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes. She died in Paris in 1696.


Harris, Ann Sutherland, and Linda Nochlin. Women Artists: 1550–1950. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

Uglow, Jennifer S., ed. and comp. The International Dictionary of Women's Biography. NY: Continuum, 1989.

Ellen Dennis French , freelance writer, Murrieta, California