Born in Geneva, Jean-Pierre Saint-Ours received his first lessons from his father, Jacques Saint-Ours (1708-1773), an enamel painter and teacher of drawing. In 1769 the younger artist relocated to Paris and became the student of Joseph-Marie Vien, through whom he met Jacques-Louis David. Having won the Prix de Rome in 1780, Saint-Ours left immediately for Rome, where he remained until 1792. As a Swiss citizen, however, he was denied an official place at the Académie Française and could not compete for large, official commissions. The commissions he did receive, including that for which LACMA’s painting Cupid and Psyche was a preparatory sketch, came from patrician circles, to which he was introduced by Cardinal de Bernis, the French ambassador. In 1792, the year the ancien régime fell, Saint-Ours returned to Geneva, where he played an active role in politics and was elected to the Genevan Assemblée Nationale. Saint-Ours retired from politics in 1796 and returned to painting, concentrating on portraits and Italianate landscapes. He also designed illustrations for books, among them Le Lévite d’Ephraim, written by his friend the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
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