Noël studied with King Louis XV’s drawing master, Nicolas Charles de Silvestre, and with his son, Jacques Augustin. On Sundays the archives shut down, so I went out to Etampes and had a wonderful lunch on the terrace with the great grandson of Jacques Augustin.
The first artist in the Silvestre family, Israel Silvestre, escaped religious persecution in Scotland and moved to the Duchy of Lorraine. The son of a glass painter who died when he was ten, Israel became a master engraver, and his engravings are still consulted by art and landscape historians. He became the Louis XIV’s Drawing Master, and that title passed down to his son, Nicolas Charles, and to his grandson, Jacques Augustin. Nicolas Charles had a country house in Valenton as well as an apartment in the Louvre, and that is probably when Noël first met him. It’s even likelier that it was Jacques Augustin, who taught art at the Ecuries, who had the most profound influence on Noël. As a young man, Noël did two portraits of Jacques Augustin’s son. Those portraits were still in Jacques Augustin’s possession when the notary came to place a value on his estate. Jacques Augustin’s other protege was Etienne Aubry, a talented painter who never did win the Prix de Rome, but who went there anyway, accompanying Jacques Augustin’s son. Unfortunately, Aubry’s career was cut short. He fell ill in Rome and died soon after his return. With the new information about Noël’s name change, I could finally begin to piece together the link between the country boy and the King’s Drawing Master. I still have a couple of loose ends to tie up, but I’m writing a novel, not a history, and I love it when these holes appear.