Philip James de Loutherbourg

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Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (Self-portrait) Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg.jpg
Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg (Self-portrait)
The Battle of Camperdown (1799) CamperdownLoutherb.jpg
The Battle of Camperdown (1799)
Landscape with cows, Wilanow Palace, Warsaw Loutherbourg Landscape with cows.jpg
Landscape with cows, Wilanów Palace, Warsaw
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Battle of Maida

Philip James de Loutherbourg RA (31 October 1740 11 March 1812), whose name is sometimes given in the French form of Philippe-Jacques, the German form of Philipp Jakob, or with the English-language epithet of the Younger, was a Franco-British painter who became known for his large naval works, his elaborate set designs for London theatres, and his invention of a mechanical theatre called the "Eidophusikon". He also had an interest in faith-healing and the occult and was a companion of the confidence-trickster Cagliostro. [1]

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

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Early life

Loutherbourg was born in Strasbourg in 1740, the son of an expatriate Polish miniature painter. [1] Intended for the Lutheran ministry, he was educated at the University of Strasbourg. [2]

Strasbourg Prefecture and commune in Grand Est, France

Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin department.

Portrait miniature very small painting

A portrait miniature is a miniature portrait painting, usually executed in gouache, watercolor, or enamel. Portrait miniatures developed out of the techniques of the miniatures in illuminated manuscripts, and were popular among 16th-century elites, mainly in England and France, and spread across the rest of Europe from the middle of the 18th century, remaining highly popular until the development of daguerreotypes and photography in the mid-19th century. They were usually intimate gifts given within the family, or by hopeful males in courtship, but some rulers, such as James I of England, gave large numbers as diplomatic or political gifts. They were especially likely to be painted when a family member was going to be absent for significant periods, whether a husband or son going to war or emigrating, or a daughter getting married.

University of Strasbourg university in France (from 2009)

The University of Strasbourg in Strasbourg, Alsace, France, is a university in France with nearly 51,000 students and over 3,200 researchers.


Rejecting a religious calling, Loutherbourg decided to become a painter, and in 1755 placed himself under Charles-André van Loo in Paris and later under Francesco Giuseppe Casanova. His talent developed rapidly, and he became a figure in the fashionable society of the day. In 1767 he was elected to the French Academy, although below the age required by the rules of the institution, and painted landscapes, sea storms, and battles, all of which work had a celebrity above those of the specialists then working in Paris. He made his debut with the exhibition of twelve pictures, including Storm at Sunset, Night, and Morning after Rain. [2]

Charles-André van Loo French painter

Carle or Charles-André van Loo was a French subject painter, son of the painter Louis-Abraham van Loo, a younger brother of Jean-Baptiste van Loo and grandson of Jacob van Loo. He was the most famous member of a successful dynasty of painters of Dutch origin. His oeuvre includes every category: religion, history painting, mythology, portraiture, allegory, and genre scenes.

Francesco Giuseppe Casanova Venetian painter

Francesco Giuseppe Casanova was an Italian painter who specialised in battle scenes. His older brother was Giacomo Casanova, the famous adventurer, and his younger brother was Giovanni Casanova; also a well-known painter.

Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588-08-08 by Philip James de Loutherbourg, painted 1796 Loutherbourg-Spanish Armada.jpg
Defeat of the Spanish Armada, 1588-08-08 by Philip James de Loutherbourg, painted 1796
An avalanche, painted 1803 Philipp Jakob Loutherbourg d. J. 003.jpg
An avalanche, painted 1803


Loutherbourg then travelled through Switzerland, Germany and Italy, distinguishing himself as much by his mechanical inventions as by his painting. One of these, showing new effects produced in a model theatre, was the wonder of the day, with its use of lights behind canvas representing the moon and stars, and the illusory appearance of running water produced by clear blue sheets of metal and gauze, with loose threads of silver. [2]



In 1771 he settled in London, where David Garrick paid him £500 a year to design scenery and costumes and oversee the stage machinery at the Drury Lane Theatre. [3] His stage effects attracted the admiration not just of the general public, but also of artists, including Joshua Reynolds. He devised scenic effects in which, for instance, green trees gradually became russet and the moon rose and lit the edges of passing clouds: [2] illusions achieved through the use of coloured lantern-slides and the ingenious lighting of transparencies. [4] He continued to work at the theatre until 1785. [3]

David Garrick English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer

David Garrick was an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century, and was a pupil and friend of Dr Samuel Johnson. He appeared in a number of amateur theatricals, and with his appearance in the title role of Shakespeare's Richard III, audiences and managers began to take notice.

Theatre Royal, Drury Lane West End theatre building in Covent Garden, London, England

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building is the most recent in a line of four theatres which were built at the same location, the earliest of which dated back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London still in use. According to the author Peter Thomson, for its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre". For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" drama in London.

Joshua Reynolds 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits

Sir Joshua Reynolds was an English painter, specialising in portraits. John Russell said he was one of the major European painters of the 18th century. He promoted the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was a founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, and was knighted by George III in 1769.

He achieved an even greater success with an entertainment called the Eidophusikon , meaning "image of nature". This was a miniature mechanical theatre measuring six by eight feet, and described as displaying "Various Imitations of Natural Phenomena, represented by Moving Pictures". It was presented at Loutherbourg's home from March 1781 in an auditorium seating about 130 people. He used Argand lamps to light the stage and stained glass to change colours.


The Eidophusikon was a piece of art, no longer extant, thought up by the English actor David Garrick and created by 18th-century French painter Philip James de Loutherbourg. It opened in Leicester Square in February 1781.

Argand lamp

The Argand lamp, a kind of oil lamp, was invented and patented in 1780 by Aimé Argand. Its output is 6 to 10 candelas, brighter than that of earlier lamps. Its more complete combustion of the candle wick and oil than in other lamps required much less frequent trimming of the wick.

At Christmas, 1781, Loutherbourg mounted a spectacle at a party in the Egyptian Hall at Fonthill for William Beckford, promising (according to Beckford) to "present a mysterious something that the eye has not seen or heart of man conceived". [4] Following this he attempted rather more fantastical subjects for the Eidophusikon, presenting a scene from Paradise Lost with "Satan arraying his troops on the banks of the Fiery Lake, and the rising of the Palace of Pandemonium". [4] The Eidophusikon soon closed, however, as the income did not cover the costs and the audience demanded new productions faster than Loutherbourg could create them. He has been called the inventor of the panorama but, although it first appeared about the same time as the Eidophusikon, the first panorama was painted and exhibited by the Scottish painter Robert Barker.


Coalbrookdale by Night, painted 1801 Philipp Jakob Loutherbourg d. J. 002.jpg
Coalbrookdale by Night , painted 1801

Despite these other projects, Loutherbourg still found time for painting. Lord Howe's action, or the Glorious First of June (exhibited 1795) and other large naval pictures were commissioned to commemorate British naval victories, many of them ending up soon afterwards in the Greenwich Hospital Gallery (in whose successor, the National Maritime Museum, they still remain). His finest work was the Destruction of the Armada. He also painted the Great Fire of London and several historical works, including the Attack of the Combined Armies on Valenciennes (1793). [2] He was interested in the industrial revolution and his 1801 painting Coalbrookdale by Night shows iron foundries at work.

Seven of his paintings, including Lodore Waterfall and Skating in Hyde Park, are in the Government Art Collection. [5]

He was made a member of the Royal Academy in 1781.


Paysage avec animaux, 1767 Philippe-Jacques Loutherbourg - Musee des Bx-Arts Strasbourg-Troupeau.jpg
Paysage avec animaux, 1767

Two sets of drawings by de Loutherbourg were published, reproduced in aquatint, under the title Picturesque English Scenery in 1801 and 1805. He also contributed illustrations to a bible published by Thomas Macklin in 1800. [3] After his death Cadell and Davies published a volume of the apocrypha. All 110 of his drawings for the vignettes (but not the apocrypha) are pasted in the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum.

Esoteric interests

In 1789 Loutherbourg temporarily gave up painting, in order to pursue an interest in alchemy and the supernatural. [3] He met Alessandro di Cagliostro, who instructed him in the occult. [3] He travelled about with Cagliostro, leaving him, however, before his condemnation to death. [2] He and his wife also took up faith-healing. A pamphlet called A List of a Few Cures performed by Mr and Mrs De Loutherbourg, of Hammersmith Terrace, without Medicine was published in 1789. Written by a follower named Mary Pratt, it claimed that the Loutherbourgs had cured two thousand people between Christmas 1788 and the following July, "having been made proper recipients to receive divine manuductions". [6]


Loutherbourg died in Chiswick in 1812.

There are paintings by him in the collections of several British institutions including Leicester, Farnham and Derby Art Gallery. [7]

Loutherbourg was buried in Chiswick Old Cemetery, adjoining the graveyard of St Nicholas Church, Chiswick. Buried nearby are the artists William Hogarth and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

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  1. 1 2 PD-icon.svg Baynes, T.S., ed. (1875–1889). "Philip James de Loutherbourg". Encyclopædia Britannica (9th ed.). New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "De Loutherbourg, Philip James". Encyclopædia Britannica . 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 973.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Lister, Raymond (1989). British Romantic Painting. Cambridge University Press.
  4. 1 2 3 McCalman, Iain (May 2007). "The Virtual Infernal: Philippe de Loutherbourg, William Beckford and the Spectacle of the Sublime". Romanticism on the Net.
  5. coordinators, Andrew Ellis, director ; Sonia Roe, editor ; Julia Abel Smith & Richard Garner, catalogue (2007). Oil paintings in public ownership in the Government Art Collection. London: Public Catalogue Foundation. p. 183. ISBN   1-904931-42-1.
  6. Mackay, Charles (1852). Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions. 1. London. p. 288.
  7. Philip James de Loutherbourg, BBC, accessed August 2011