City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Jean-Bernard Le Blanc (1707-1781)
Jean-Bernard, abbé Le Blanc (1707—1781, Paris) was a French art critic, one of the Parisian literati, who through his patron Mme de Pompadour was appointed historiographer of the Bâtiments du Roi, the defender of state expenditures and official French policy in the arts, and was also an advocate before the Parlement de Paris.
Le Blanc was born in Dijon. His minor orders were strictly pro forma, and he made his reputation with the Lettres d'un François (1745), of which he made an English translation. He had been invited to England by a nobleman in 1737 and remained for a year and a half, passing easily at every level of society, and expressing his observations in ninety-two letters that concerned the English almost entirely, and concentrated on social observation, with a minority of letters on politics and literature, worked up from the notebooks he carried with him everywhere and filled with his jottings on the spot. The results were widely read and approved as the judicious appraisal of particular and characteristic English types, viewed dispassionately.
An early champion of Chardin, his two letters on the Paris salons, of 1747 and 1753, are a guide to enlightened contemporary taste and the defense of the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, whose members had the exclusive right to exhibit at the Paris salons.
He was selected by Mme de Pompadour to accompany her brother Abel-François Poisson, future marquis de Marigny, on an educational trip to Italy in 1749-51, to prepare him for his post as director of the Bâtiments du Roi.
Le Blanc translated David Hume's Political Discourses (1752), and was entrusted, on leaving England, with a copy of Hume's History intended for Voltaire.