Louis Chéron, 2 Sep 1660 - 26 May 1725


Louis Chéron 2 Sep 1660 - 26 May 1725


This is a sketch for a ceiling design, one of a set of three in the collection of Manchester Art Gallery. The building for which the designs were made has not been identified, but it seems likely that there was once a fourth design, as each of Manchester’s three works probably represents one of the cardinal virtues. These are the fundamental good qualities identified from ancient Greek philosophy onwards as prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice. Temperance is Manchester’s missing virtue. Together with its two companions, this sketch had been thought of as being by James Thornhill (1635-1734) since 1964, when it was acquired by the gallery. This attribution was questionable, as the work displays none of the smooth pictorial qualities that characterised English decorative painting in Thornhill’s time. The attribution to Chéron has been confirmed by an exhibition of Chéron's work curated by François Marandet at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Caen, in 2021-22. The personification of Prudence is the central figure with the mirror, a hart at her feet. Knowledge, to the left, holds a book and an oil lamp. Beside her is Vigilance, the figure looking at the bird. The other figures are harder to interpret. What could the flying figure, carrying hourglasses, represent, for example? Probably not Time, as he seems too young, although that is how he has been interpreted previously: until 2021 the work was known as ‘Time, Prudence and Vigilance’. Louis Chéron was born in Paris in 1655. From 1678 he lived in Italy for six years, learning his craft initially at the French Academy in Rome. Following the repeal of the Edict of Nantes, which had protected Protestants in Catholic France, he left for England in 1693, where for thirty years he was a Huguenot at the centre of the London art scene. He taught drawing and copying in the style of the school of Rome at the art academy on Great Queen Street. Later, he became one of the founders of the art school known as the first St Martin’s Lane Academy, where William Hogarth (1697-1764) was a pupil. Very few easel paintings by Chéron now exist, as he concentrated on fine drawings and wall paintings. One of his impressive decorative schemes can still be seen at Boughton House in Northamptonshire.

Object Name


Creators Name

Louis Chéron

Date Created



unframed: 24.5cm x 48.5cm
framed: 36cm x 59.5cm

accession number


Place of creation





oil paint


© Manchester Art Gallery

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