Balthus was born in Paris in 1908 as Balthazar K?ossowski de Rola. The godson of Reiner Maria Rilke – who also gave him his artist’s name –, he was patronised by the same from his early age. Although an outsider to the different trends and currents of his contemporaries, he quickly established himself as a major artist. From 1961 to 1976 he was the director of the Villa Medici in Rome. Balthus died on 18 February 2001 at The Grand Chalet in Rossinière, Switzerland.