Louis Testelin (1615-1655)

At the time Louis Testelin was an artist, belonging to the Reformed Church did not prevent one from having a brilliant career.

Louis Testelin was a Protestant artist

Louis Testelin was born in 1615 into a Protestant family. His father, Gilles, an artist in the employment of King Louis XIII, taught him the rudiments of his profession. Then he was Simon Vouet’s pupil and in Vouet’s studio he became friendly with Charles Le Brun. His father Gilles was registered as a Catholic in 1602 – we do not know how he became converted to Protestantism – it may have been when he got married. Louis joined the Reformed Church – indeed, his first biographer, Guillet de Saint Georges, insisted on this fact. “He had the misfortune of always having lived under the Calvinist religion. However, he did not have the extremist opinions normally associated with people contaminated by these mistaken ideas and he did not get carried away in heated, provocative arguments” (This astonishing statement can be better understood if one realises that it was written in 1692).

His paintings were bought by the rich and the famous

  • Louis Testellin, The flogging of Silas and Saint Paul, 1655 © Notre Dame

The fact that he was deeply committed to the Reformed Church did not affect his career as an artist in any way – he undertook work for Anne of Austria and many religious institutions in Paris. He did many paintings, of several different types – unfortunately few still survive, apart from the two altarpieces for Notre Dame in 1652 (St. Peter bringing the widow Tabitha back to life, The Flogging of Saint Paul and Silas) and in 1655.

The Academy

In 1648, Louis Testelin, with his friend Charles Le Brun, took an active part in founding the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. The following year they appointed him secretary, and in 1650 he became a teacher – he was admired by his pupils for his hard work and enthusiasm. Sadly, all this came to an end in 1655, when he died at the age of forty. He was buried in the churchyard of Saints-Pères, with other members of his faith. His wife renounced her faith in December 1685.


  • Books
    • GUILLET DE SAINT-GEORGES, Louis Testelin, Mémoires inédits sur la vie et les ouvrages des membres de l'Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, J.B. Dumoulin, Paris, 1854, Tome 1
  • Articles
    • GUICHARNAUD Hélène, "Louis Testelin : Saint Pierre ressuscite la veuve Tabitha", L'Estampille-Objet d'Art, Numéro 127, p. 83-84

Associated notes

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  • Louise Moillon (1610-1696)

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  • Isaac Moillon (1614-1673)

    Isaac Moillon belonged to a large family of Protestant painters in Paris – they worked in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
  • Mathieu Lespagnandelle (1616-1689)

    This sculptor, who was from a Protestant background and who worked for the king, was torn between his own inherited beliefs and Catholicism – a personal conflict which was typical...