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New facts about Mme Labille-Guiard’s family

Labille Guiard Autoportrait avec 2 elevesAdélaïde Labille-Guiard (whose famous self-portrait with pupils, above, is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, having been rejected by the Louvre in 1878 as “sans valeur artistique”) needs no apology for detailed attention – although, as a female artist, she is sure not to lack it from a new generation of academics for whom gender seems to dominate other considerations. But despite recent publications, some basic facts about her family seem to have escaped everyone (the assumption[1] seems to have been that Marie-Anne Passez, author of the 1973 monograph on the artist, will have found anything worth gleaning from archives), and so I’ve gathered together some observations I’ve made in the hope that future publications will make full use of these minutiae. Perhaps you will think them all trivial; but the theme that emerges (here, and in so much of the archival work I do) is just how close-knit were the artistic families in the ancien régime. You can follow the discussion by referring not only to the Labille-Guiard article in the main Dictionary of pastellists, but also to supplementary documents such as the Labille genealogy.

First, her father – whose bust (by Pajou) you can just see peeping out behind the canvas above. Claude-Edme Labille is normally presented as the fashion shopkeeper, best known for employing the future Madame Du Barry in 1761–62. He was indeed a marchand mercier, but it doesn’t seem to have been noticed that, on 18.ix.1761, he sold the “fonds de boutique de mercier” at the rue Neuve-des-Petits-Champs, to a Mlle Josèphe Blondelu, fille majeure d’un marchand mercier.[2] So it is unlikely that (as Passez surmised) Labille-Guiard rubbed shoulders with the royal favourite for any length of time. Shortly before, he was described in another document[3] as “receveur de la loterie de l’École-militaire.” This was the ambitious scheme suggested by Casanova and promoted by Mme de Pompadour and Joseph Paris-Duverney for financing a military education for impoverished nobility: Labille had been involved from the start, as this entry in the Journal historique et littéraire for June 1758 makes clear:

Loterie Journal 1758

By 1772 he was also “directeur de la Poste de Paris”.[4] He was still active at the lottery, although by then the idea was struggling, as we can see from documents such as this memorandum[5] proposing revisions to the Loterie royale militaire bearing his signature in 1776:

Labille sig on lottery

Despite the various attempts to fix its problems, the lottery was never a success. And this I suggest is what Labille-Guiard meant by “toutes ses pertes” in the impassioned letter she wrote to the comtesse d’Angiviller in 1783 about the distress caused to him by the pamphlets attacking her.[6] Whatever the challenges, Labille’s involvement in high finance and court circles must have been far more important for his daughter’s social success than would have been the opportunity to sell ribbons with a girl who had not yet progressed far on that ladder.

Another reason for Labille’s retirement in 1761 (when he was aged 56 or so) was that (contrary to Passez, who gives a much later date), his wife, Marie-Anne Martin or Saint-Martin, had just died. (They were married at Saint-Sulpice on 16.ii.1740.) I will leave it to others to explore the psychological significance of losing a mother at the age of 12 rather than 19 (as previously thought), particularly for an artist renowned for her “neuf muses au berceau”, the female pupils she protected. But the burial entry in the registers of Saint-Eustache for 1.iv.1761 (the day after Mme Labille’s death) reveals three new facts: her age – she was 44 – unsurprising, but hitherto unremarked; that her burial was attended not by her widower, but by a son, Edme, of whom Passez makes no mention; and that another witness was “Pierre Baudoin, garde meuble du roi.”

This Pierre Baudouin (1709–1787), bourgeois de Paris (the name is common, and he is not necessarily a relation of Boucher’s son-in-law), is discovered again in a series of documents[7] in the registres de tutelles concerning his 36-year-old daughter Félicité-Marguerite, born mentally retarded but looked after by her mother, Jeanne-Marguerite Le Clere, until the latter’s death resulted in a need for formal certification (“interdiction”). One of the witnesses to that was the peintre en miniature, Jean-François-Marie-Louis-Auguste de Lorraine. Another relative was Nicolas Guiard, whom you will recognise as the artist’s first husband: of him more later. But in passing let us note that Guiard was there described as “premier commis de M. Saint-Julien, trésorier du clergé”. François-David Bollioud de Saint-Julien (12.vii.1713–20.ix.1788), receveur général du clergé de France, known to art history for commissioning Fragonard’s L’Escarpolette, is often confused with the art critic and collector Guillaume Baillet, baron de Saint-Julien (c.1715–1795). Bollioud de Saint-Julien’s wife was Anne-Madeleine-Louise-Charlotte-Auguste de La Tour du Pin – she of course was the “Madame Dupin de Saint-Julien” whose (lost) pastel Labille-Guiard exhibited in the salon de 1785, no. 96 (J.44.253; Passez 56, citing Portalis’s cryptic remark but without tying it together with her name, let alone the relationship with the artist’s husband; Portalis then proceeds to confuse the receveur with the critic).

Of Labille-Guiard’s sister Félicité, Passez tells only (correctly) that she died in 1768, and (incorrectly) that she married a Simon Gros, thus missing one of the significant artistic connections of our subject. In fact Félicité Labille (1748–Paris 27.v.1768) married, in Paris, Saint-Eustache on 27.ii.1764 (contract of 21.ii.1764, AN mc/lxxxviii/492), the toulousain miniaturist[8] Jean-Antoine Gros (1732–1790). Two years after her death he married the miniaturist and pastellist Pierre-Madeleine-Cécile Durant; their son was the famous history painter and portraitist, Antoine-Jean, baron Gros (1771–1835).

Passez describes Labille’s unsatisfactory first marriage to “Louis-Nicolas Guiard”, whom she suggests she met because they were neighbours, or perhaps through the agency of the sculptor Gois, a friend of Vincent with connections in Guiard’s native Dijon. Passez gives his age as 27, so many sources have inferred that he was born in 1742; some recent genealogical sources give his birth as 1744. In fact a trawl through the parish records for Dijon produces his baptismal record, in Saint-Michel, in 1741:

Guiard Nicolas bpt Dijon st Michel6iii1741

Nicolas (there was no Louis at his baptism) was born on 6.iii.1741 (and baptised the following day as was the norm), to Jean-Hugues Guiard (1709–1758), procureur aux cours royales de Dijon, and his wife Anne Molée, daughter of a huissier at the court. Although Nicolas’s grandfather was a menuisier, the Guiard were long established in Dijon, with legal connections.[9] Nicolas’s uncle and cousin were, like his father, procureurs at the court, the cousin being guillotined in 1794, while an aunt was married to a musicien de la chambre du roi. We can also add that after his divorce from the artist, Nicolas Guiard’s second marriage, to Marie-Catherine-Charlotte Robert (Passez, p. 39, n.6) took place in Paris, 2.vii.1795.

Ducreux Joly de Gevry Par22vi2007 L95Nicolas had several sisters. One of them, Michelle-Ursule (1746–a.1808), married, in Dijon in 1777, one Philibert Joly (1751–1808), avocat, son of a Bénigne Joly (1726–1810), a landowner in Gevrey in the same diocese. This I think provides a clue to a pastel (J.44.198, right) described as of “le chevalier Bénigne Joly de Gevrey, docteur en droit”, which was exhibited in 1933 as by Ducreux. When it came up for sale in 2007 with that attribution, Joseph Baillio and I independently considered it more likely to be by Labille-Guiard. It subsequently appeared as no. A20 in Auricchio 2009; without examining it de visu, its appearance makes me retain the possibility that it has either been restored or is a copy of a lost Labille-Guiard. But the sitter is evidently Philibert, not his father, nor his son, also Bénigne, born 1780. The date of the pastel, read as 1752 in 1933 and 1772 in 2007, is most likely 1777, that of the marriage.

But what of Passez’s speculations about the artist’s introduction to Guiard? As we have seen, Adélaïde’s mother was probably related to the Baudouin family who were also connected to Nicolas Guiard. But there is a much earlier connection which requires us first to investigate another branch of her family, the Charlot and Frémy, found in the Aube area.

Labille Guiard Mme Charlot Nevers11xii2004The connection arose through Adélaïde’s aunt Catherine Labille (c.1713–1788) who, in Sommevoire (near Troyes) in 1732, married Claude-Charles Charlot (c.1700–1759), from Bar-sur-Aube, notaire, procureur fiscal. Their son was Claude III Charlot (1739–1788); for obvious reasons he is unlikely to be the male sitter painted in an II (1793/4) which Passez (no. 134) identifies as him. As to Passez no. 148, Auricchio no. U29, a mother and child painted in 1798/99 (left), that may well be the second wife of Claude II’s son, Nicolas-François Charlot, who married Marie-Nicole-Adélaïde Regley (1771–1827) in 1787. Let us note however that Mme Labille-Guiard was marraine (in absentia, represented by Marie-Julienne Régley, the infant’s grandmother) at the baptism of the older child, Adélaïde Charlot, on 6.vii.1791 at Ricey Haute Rive. There is then a gap in online genealogies until Vincent is born, in 1803; but I have found, and publish here, the entry in the parish records for Les Riceys for another daughter, Léontine, on 21 fructidor an V (7.ix.1797), which seems to fit well.

But I want to look in more detail at Claude III Charlot’s sister Madeleine (1734–1800). Once again research has been set back by an amateur genealogy site that confidently posted details of her marriage, said to have taken place in Troyes in 1758, and resulting in many hours of fruitless search. In fact (spoiler alert for those who enjoy a puzzle: at the time of writing you won’t find this indexed online) it was in Vendeuvre-sur-Barse, on 19.ii.1753, that she married François-Nicolas Frémy, sgr de La Marque (1727– ).

That name will of course be familiar to those who know Passez: Mlle Frémy was one of her special pupils, and has always had her entry in the Dictionary of pastellists (and of course Ratouis de Limay etc.). Mlle Frémy is first mentioned in 1781, displaying her “first attempts” at the salon de la Jeunesse; but in fact she was already 27, as we can see from Marie-Magdeleine’s baptismal record in Vendeuvre in 1754:

Fremy bpt

(I should take this opportunity to point out that one of the other celebrated pupils, Mlle Carraux de Rosemond, who appears in the Met painting behind her teacher, was only 20 at the time of the picture. Her background hitherto unknown, she was Swiss, baptised in the canton du Valais 12.ix.1765:

Carraux marguerite bapteme 1765

Her family name does not have an e. Her guardians included Vincent and Suvée.)

Magdeleine Frémy’s parrain was Nicolas Frémy, marchand à Troyes (surely her grandfather, and probably receveur du marquisat de Vendeuvre).[10] She is last mentioned at the time of Claude Labille’s death, when Mme Labille-Guiard left her the furniture from her father’s estate at Étampes (Passez 1973, p. 31). It has been suggested that she looked after Labille in his final years; but she did not attend his burial at Saint-Basile, Étampes, 11.ii.1788.

But I want to revert to her parents’ marriage in Vendeuvre-sur-Barse, not in Troyes, in 1753:

Fremy mariage

It provides several important links. First, the groom, François-Nicolas Frémy, was the son of Nicolas Frémy, seigneur de La Marque and Jeanne Baudouin. The latter was surely a relation of the Pierre Baudouin who attended the burial of Labille-Guiard’s mother. But two witnesses to the marriage are also noteworthy. “Nicolas Guiard, marchand à Paris” was the bride’s uncle (this cannot be the 12-year-old future husband of Adélaïde Labille, but is likely to have been a close relation). Further a cousin of the groom, one François de Vertu “demeurant au Susain”, of whom nothing is known (is his illegible residence a misspelt Sézanne?).

Scholars have puzzled for years over the surname “des Vertus” later used by Labille-Guiard: some have seen it as a nom de fantaisie, and enlisted it in support of feminist theses about women painters. (Strictly speaking, as far as I am aware, she didn’t sign the Académie’s register this way, but her name was entered thus twice in the registers at the time of her admission in 1783; and she used the name again in 1785, when issuing a receipt for her royal pension.) Could she have acquired an estate with this name from a cousin?

In fact another document confirms this theory. This is the renonciation à la succession[11] of one Nicolas-François Charlot des Vertus of 2.ix.1789, in which the surviving children of Claude-Charles Charlot disclaim the estate of their youngest brother. This Charlot des Vertus was the uncle of the Nicolas-François Charlot mentioned above. MM. Charlot des Vertus & Compagnie, Négociants, rue Bourbon Villeneuve, Paris, can be found in a few journals of the time: in 1781 they advertised seeking to collect charitable donations for the city of Troyes following a fire on 24.v.1781 which in less than two hours destroyed 80 houses, causing nine deaths and losses of 200,000 livres. Just days before this Charlot des Vertus advertised[12] for sale a “fermage sis à Vauchonvilliers” (near Troyes) for 6220 livres. I suggest that the reason for the sale was Charlot’s financial situation (resulting in an estate not worth claiming just seven years later), and that other disposals may also have taken place privately, to relatives such as Labille-Guiard herself, including (although the transport has not itself been discovered) the fief of Les Vertus. Today this place may have disappeared – although it could refer to a village just north of Sézanne (about 70 km from Troyes).

The witness at Frémy’s marriage was surely another member of the Charlot family from whom the fiefdom had passed. Whether it had legally been conveyed to Labille-Guiard in 1783, or perhaps just promised, is not yet clear.


[1] Among the more recent publications is of course Laura Auricchio’s monograph, published by the Getty in 2009; my review of it appeared in Apollo in December 2010, but didn’t have room for these details. Passez itself is rather unhelpfully unencumbered by the dates and details that normally enhance pedigrees and chronologies. For the Met picture itself there is a very comprehensive bibliography here, to which I can add the article by Paul Mantz,“Les portraitistes du XVIIIe siècle. IV”, L’Artiste, xii, 1854, pp. 177-79, in which he describes the picture as “exempte surtout de cette sentimentalité plate et menteuse dont madame Lebrun se montrait si fière”, adding “cette toile vaut mieux que tous les pastels de madame Guyard.”

[2] AN mc/lxxxiv/478. In 1767 Marie-Josèphe Blondelu, then aged 34, married a cousin, François-Antoine Debacq (dispensations de consanguinité, AN Z10 179); later she was remarried, to a Charles Blanvin. Her niece was the artist, Mme Charpentier, née Constance-Marie Blondelu (1767–1849).

[3], AN mc/lxxxiv/477.

[4] AN Y4960B, registres de tutelles, 24.i.1772, concerning a distant relation.

[5] AN 745AP/48, Dossier 9.

[6] Published, like much of the archival material known to date, in baron Roger Portalis’s GBA articles, 1901-2, pp. 98f.

[7] AN Y5129A, 6.v.1785; Y5156B, 18.viii.1787.

[8] Neither his correct date birth nor his first marriage is in Lemoine-Bouchard.

[9] A Hugues Guyard, conseiller at the parlement in 1704, may have been a distant relation.

[10] They were no doubt also related to the Nicolas Frémy, a priest at the cathedral of Troyes.

[11] AN Y 5202. He had died in 1788: inventaire après décès, 29.iv.1788; mc/re/lxxvii/5.

[12] Affiches, annonces et avis divers de Reims et généralité de Champagne, 21.v.1781, p. 82.


The National Gallery’s Eighteenth Century French catalogue


Humphrey Wine’s long-awaited catalogue of the French eighteenth century pictures has now appeared. I shall leave it to others better qualified than I to discuss broader aspects of the book’s achievement and limitations – indeed Wine’s own text is candid about the deficiencies and historical reasons for the NG’s coverage of the dix-huitième compared with its holdings in virtually all other schools and periods.[1]

In the hopes that the NG will soon put its wonderful series of catalogues online, I thought it might nevertheless be helpful to record a few minor observations and tangential remarks I made on a quick read through the book (concentrating on the chapters that interested me). Several years ago I was able to offer a number of comments (on the texts concerning the NG pastels) which the author has generously acknowledged, but further points have arisen since the text was completed (in May 2016 – the delay will confuse many readers, particularly as a few parts, such as the index, were compiled later). I’ve passed over minor typos. Some of the corrigenda below refer to entries by Wine’s contributors (which perhaps he was unable to review): 13 of the 72 entries, and 23 of the 32 artist essays are by others.


Page 16. Pillement returned to France in 1760, not 1763.

Page 27. Watteau’s Le Sommeil dangereux in Liotard’s sale: the 1773 catalogue lists 120 guineas as an asking price; it wasn’t sold then. It was finally sold in 1788 for “un vil prix”. The reference cited is Glorieux (who had not seen the 1773 catalogue and relied on Graves: there is a copy in the Frick, from which I prepared the entries in my exhibitions document in the online Dictionary of pastellists) but not the later discussion in Roethlisberger & Loche 2008, p. 153, and the sources cited there.

NG 1090 Boucher

Page 66 n.25. “Gaspard de Sireul”: this form, with the particle, is repeated in the index, although the biographical dates added, 1713–1781, were first published by me in November 2016 in my article on “Jean-Claude-Gaspard Sireul”.

Louis de Boullongne

Page 72. “The year 1722 also brought admission to the Ordre de Saint-Michel… In November 1724 Louis de Boullogne [sic] was ennobled.” However widely repeated, this sequence is not possible: the order can only be conferred on nobles. In Boullongne’s case the explanation is that he was already noble, having acquired the office of Conseiller du roi … en la Chancellerie près le parlement de Rouen in 1718. The 1724 letters so often cited merely made his status more ostensible.[2] Pedantic the point may be, but there is some historical interest in knowing whether the king was prepared to exempt his premier peintre from the chivalric rules everyone else had to observe, or indeed that a second application of savonnette à vilain could be required.

NG 1664 Chardin

Page 85. There are three, not two, pastel self-portraits in the Louvre.

Pages 90, 94. In an image where the cistern is 5 cm tall, the woman’s height is closer to 13 cm than the 17 cm used in this computation. This means the capacity of the cistern is significantly underestimated – at about half the correct number (the linear error is cubed).

Page 103 line 1 and p. 110. Jean-Jacques Lenoir, sgr de La Motte (1707–1796), the son of Alexandre Lenoir, marchand orfèvre à Paris, married Marie-Josèphe Rigo or Rigault in Paris, 12 février 1730 (AN mc/x/388), not 1731.

NG 6598 Danloux

Page 117. Danloux (whose first name was I think properly spelled Henry, not Henri) married Marie-Pierrette-Antoinette de Saint-Redan on 28 juillet 1787, not 1785 (AN mc/xxvi/761).

Page 123. Fig. 8 (J.257.109 in the online Dictionary of pastellists) is a copy (not in pastel but coloured chalk) of the lost Groult oval drawing (in chalk and watercolour) of an unknown lady.

Page 139 n.136. “Jeffares 2011” (my Gazette des Beaux-Arts article on Pommyer) is cited but not found in the bibliography; an update of that article can be found here.

NG 6495 David

Page 143. Exhibitions: The Dutch in Paris 1789–1914, Amsterdam, 2017–18.

The catalogue (in accordance with its rules) appears to make no mention of the other great David in the NG collection, from the nineteenth century.

NG 4253 Drouais Vaudreuil

Page 177. Marguerite Mathilde Slidell, Mme Erlanger died 18 février 1927, in Paris.

Page 183. Étienne-François, known as the duc de Choiseul (as he is correctly called on p. 191), was the younger, not older, brother of the comte de Stainville. (Stainville is omitted from the index, while Choiseul gets two entries.)

NG 6440 Drouais Pompadour

Page 187. The absence of information on frames is here particularly regretted, as this picture has had three frames recently: see n.12 to my post where I cite and expand Peter Schade’s note in The National Gallery Review of the Year 2009–2010, pp. 23ff, which itself is omitted from the bibliography.

Page 187. Related works: there are a number of omissions, three copies in pastel alone, nor I think is there mention of the version at Welbeck in 1936 (Goulding no. 254). It is unhelpful that the list on p. 187 has to be compared with p. 190 and then n.21 on p. 197 – which sends one to a different publication entirely. Neither the version sold Drouot, 10 June 1988, Lot 57 (and again at Neuilly, 14 December 1995, Lot 24; Drouot, 21 October 1999, Lot 124; Tajan, 18 December 2018, Lot 38) nor that at Monaco, Sotheby’s, 26 June 1983, Lot 494 seems to have been listed.

Page 190. Reference to the Valade pastel is to J.74.201 (and see my article), but the title is given erroneously as of “Madame Faventines de Fontenille”, daughter-in-law of the Mme Faventines intended.

La Tour’s famous pastel in the Louvre, which has so many relevant connections, is mentioned only in relation to the books it shows her to have read (p. 197, n.20).

Page 197 n.17. The picture sold in Paris, Sotheby’s, 25 June 2008, Lot 66 is not in pastel and is not the one in the inventory.

Page 197 n.26. Thiéry was “employé dans les vivres”. “Veuve Godefroi” deserves her own name: née Marie-Jacobe Van Merle ( –1764).


Page 200. The essay on Ducreux retains such myths as “possibly only pupil” of La Tour. Marie-Antoinette was never Louis XV’s “daughter-in-law”, nor was she Antoinette-Clémence’s godmother. (Georgette Lyon’s book is unreliable, as in the next sentence she transcribes the girl’s baptismal entry, where the marraine is her sister, not the queen of France.) The daughter who modelled for Greuze was not “Antoniette” as misspelled here but her sister Rose-Adélaïde. There were at least two more sons.

NG 1882 “French eighteenth century”

Page 216. This is probably a copy of the 1815 engraving by S. A. Oddy for Smollett’s England, which (unlike the Wille, Basan and Anker Smith prints suggested) is in the same sense as the miniature.


Page 220. The dauphine was Marie-Josèphe, not Marie-Louise, de Saxe (although she is indexed with the right dates). Severus’s nomen was Septimius, not Septimus.

NG 5584

On the NG website, the (supposed) sitter’s dates are still given as “about 1732 – 1795” but no dates seem to be given in the catalogue. I published (on Twitter, two years ago) her marriage record giving her age (13 at the time, 26 December 1748).

NG 1019

Page 229. Charles-François-René Mesnard de Clesle’s dates were 1732–1803, not as given.

The 1783 Vigée Le Brun portrait of La Reine en gaulle is elsewhere described as in Eichenzell (p. 526) or Kronberg (p. 518); the picture in the NGA Washington is a later copy.

Page 232. In this article the imperial pouce has been converted at the incorrect 2.54 cm instead of the correct 2.707 cm used in other parts of the book (so for example 14.5 pouces becomes 36.8 instead of 39.25 cm).

NG 1393 Lacroix

Page 245. Why would Grenier de La Croix be related to Charles-François de Lacroix, who had a different family name?

Page 245. Boyer de Fonscolombe was born 1716, not 1719, and died 1789, not 1788. Mrs Tarratt’s dates were 1813–1893 (she died in Cheltenham on 16 June 1893); her son Daniel predeceased her, in 1888, and so could not have inherited from her.

NG 6663 Lagrenée l’aîné

Page 252. Lagrenée’s year of birth is disputed – 1724 or 1725; but when he was appointed Conservateur et administrateur honoraire du Musée he was probably 79, not 80.

Page 253. The bibliography has been omitted. The Goncourt reprint of the Lagrenée list is conveniently available online (nor is there any reference to J. J. Luna’s Lagrenée article in Archivo español de arte, xlvi, 1973, pp. 35ff). The entry omits the price (3000 livres, notably high for two small pictures) of the two pendants sold to Lord Shelburne. Isn’t it quite possible that the painting in Lansdowne’s 25 February 1806 sale was bought in, and simply represented on 19–20 March 1806?

The Morellet–Lansdowne correspondence was published in 1898 (it’s been available online at EE since 2011), and includes references to Mme Geoffrin and Joseph Priestley, who noticed a resemblance between the children and his own; it deserves more extensive discussion, not least because it proves that the subject of the Shelburne pictures included children. The frames and transport costs are also mentioned.

The reading of the Mémoires secrets as interchangeable in hang is too contrived; it surely refers simply to the vagueness of the titles.

The 1806 purchaser, Mr Taylor, cannot be George Watson-Taylor, who only added “Taylor” to his name in 1815 (having married a Miss Taylor in 1810, four years after the sale where “Taylor” is recorded). As Taylor also bought pictures at the Lansdowne sales that year by Titian, Guercino, van Slingeland, van Gool and Pietro Fabris, he was probably a dealer. I suggest he was almost certainly Josiah Taylor (1771–1850). A colourful character who deserves a higher profile, he was the proprietor of the St James’s Gallery of paintings at 58 Pall Mall, where he had previously run a gaming house with Crockford and mixed with high society (the Duke of Wellington is described as “godfather” to Taylor’s son, baptised six months after his birth in 1817). The Lagrenée must have been sold before Taylor’s bankruptcy led to a series of London auctions between 1828 and 1837, when more than 3700 old master paintings were disposed of (including some 70 on copper).

NG 3883 Largillierre

Page 318. Mme de Souscarrière’s dates are known (1684–1733) – they were printed in the Mercure de France, 1733, p. 2089: she died 12 September 1733, aged 49. She married Bosc in January 1704, leaving two daughters.

NG 5118 La Tour, Dawkins

This is J.46.1612 in the online Dictionary of pastellists.


Page 340. This alludes to my observation (first published in 2016 here and reprinted here) that Liotard’s contract with Massé was of allouage, not apprentissage, but the contract did have a “pedagogical” element – “[Massé] promet montrer [Liotard] tout ce dont il se mêle et entremêle dans l’art de la peinture”. What was different was that it did not lead to maîtrise.

Page 340. The greatest works listed in the autobiography were four in number; the self-portrait described could be that in Geneva or the Uffizi picture. The Uffizi inscription spells Vienne correctly.

NG 4460 Liotard, Grand vizier

This is J.49.2425 in the online Dictionary of pastellists.

NG 5586 Nattier Balletti

Page 352. Exhibitions: omits Portraits anciens, Société artistique des amateurs, Galerie Jacques Seligmann, hôtel de Sagan, mars–avril 1933, no. 29, where the work was mentioned in all the contemporary reviews and reproduced in Vanderpyl, “Portraits d’autrefois”, Le Miroir du monde, 8 avril 1933, p. 6. (These were also overlooked by Xavier Salmon in his 1999 exhibition catalogue.) More recently the picture was in the Casanova: the seduction of Europe exhibition in Fort Worth, San Francisco and Boston, 2017–18.

The picture has been widely reproduced beyond the references cited.

Page 358 n.1. The Dictionary (J.46.2972) reproduces the La Tour pastel of Silvia said to be known only from the print. The provenance of the La Tour pastel and the Nattier oil are intertwined with the intricacies of the Balletti/Fortier pedigree, for which see here.

As to the argument that NG 5586 might have been commissioned by one of Manon’s suitors, the pedigree illustrates (as is suggested by the eight family portraits in the 1759 inventory) that the Balletti family had connections with a number of artists, starting with Rosalba Carriera (as I signalled on this blog and in my annotated transcription of her diaries): Margherita Balletti, the wife of composer Bononcini and Manon’s aunt, sought advice on miniature painting from Carriera, who in turn made a miniature of her brother-in-law, Luigi Riccoboni. Also active in Manon’s circle was the artist Balletti mentions in a later part of the 7 February 1760 letter to Casanova cited on p. 356. In this she refers to the amateur actor in her group (rather more talented as an artist), Louis-Michel Brun, dit Lebrun, peintre du roi, who is known as a miniaturist (although practically none of his work has survived) and nephew of Jean-Baptiste Van Loo. My recent research (see the article on his daughter Rosalie, Mme Vaïsse and genealogy) reveals that his wife was a Blondel, so the relationship may have been even closer than the letter suggests. He was probably the miniaturist Lebrun to whom the princesse de Talmont wished to lend La Tour’s pastel of Prince Charles Edward Stuart to be copied in 1759 (the suggestion – elsewhere – that this was Louis-Michel’s father Michel Brun, dit Lebrun cannot be right, as he died in 1753). Was he (or his mother – “de Lebrun” could be dame or dite) the Lebrun present at Tocqué’s marriage to Marie-Catherine-Pauline Nattier in 1747?

The group of black and red chalk drawings formerly attributed to Nattier, including the one of “Mlle Balevi”, remain problematic. Should we consider among the possible artists Nattier’s son-in-law, the painter Charles-Michel-Ange Challe, whose widow bequeathed a couple of pastels “ouvrage fait avec soin par Mr Challe quoi que ce ne fut point son genre”? To the numerous examples known (which go well beyond those cited on p. 358: Phyllis Hattis first started to list them in 1977) should now be added the double portrait[3] of Mlle Baron et sa mère, formerly in the Schwitter collection: its quality perhaps requires us to reconsider the attribution of others in the group – not least because the two figures in the drawing seem to show quite different techniques without being by different hands. Were we (going back to Xavier Salmon’s Apollo article in 1997, in the days when articles with 47 footnotes were published there) too hasty in dismissing Nattier? As noted by Philippe Renard (Nattier, 1999, p. 166f, where the six drawings from the Guérault sale are reproduced), Nattier’s daughter Mme Challe mentioned in her will “…un petit cadre noir et or renfermant sous verre six têtes de la famille dessinées par mon père” and “un grand cadre renfermant sous verre huit têtes de la famille et d’amis.”

NG 6435 Perronneau Cazotte

Page 370. The painting appeared in the recent Perronneau exhibition in Orléans in 2017 (no. 56).

Page 378. The suggestion that Perronneau asked Cazotte to wear a costume not his own strikes me as far-fetched. The wig is indeed the style Beaumont called “à la mousquetaire” – but indistinguishable from the ailes de pigeon style, the much commoner term, employed for Vaudreuil (p. 181) – which makes the idea of dating from it questionable.

Page 378. It is perhaps worth noting that Cazotte’s large collection included no pastel, providing a hint as to why Perronneau was commissioned to paint him in oil (the sitter’s choice).

NG 4063 Perronneau Legrix

This is J.582.1522 in the online Dictionary of pastellists. The pastel appeared in the recent Perronneau exhibition in Orléans in 2017 (no. 59).

Page 382. Marthe-Marie-Madeleine Legrix married Dublan not in 1759, but 19 juin 1760, in Talence.

NG 3588 “Perronneau” Girl with kitten

This is J.582.189 in the online Dictionary of pastellists. See the entry for a fuller bibliography, including for example Florence Ingersoll-Smouse.

Page 388. Provenance (p. 396 n.4: “There is no certain reference to NG 3588 in the Duveen Brothers records”): for an extended discussion of the information gleaned from the multiple references in the Duveen records, see my blog post.

Page 390. The presence of zinc and tin in recent examination of the “Perronneau” does raise questions which in the present state of our knowledge of materials used in pastel (whether pigments themselves, or the fillers or binders) cannot be definitively answered. But the occurrences in two Liotard pastels (both in his studio at the end of his life) are arguably less relevant than Chaperon’s manual of Paris procedures which Perronneau (who, unlike Liotard, was no maverick, and who had not travelled to the East) is more likely to have followed in 1743. The reasons for questioning the pastel’s authenticity are primarily connoisseurial.

Page 391. “Demoyel” was a misprint in Guiffrey’s 1869 reprint of the 1746 livret (and repeated elsewhere); the name was originally printed Desnoyel as I have at J.582.129. The child might be one of the sons of Charles Desnoyel ou Desnoyelles, a maître charcutier, rue Saint-Honoré; the cock then a reference to the family business.

Page 392. In the quote from me “[weaknesses]” is supplied where “pastiche elements” is intended.

Page 394. The “certain Brown” was Eric Brown, director of the National Gallery of Canada, with whom Ricketts had an extended correspondence.

Page 396 n.3. The “Two pastels by Perronneau of the same lady in different positions” in Duveen’s stock books were the pastels later sold to Edward Stotesbury (see my blog post).

NG 903 Rigaud studio

Page 433. “recently”: 2004.

NG 5588 After Roslin

Page 435. Numerous related works have been omitted, including an engraving by Gautier-Dagoty; see the list in for MV 6763, J.629.156 and the following items.

Page 438 n.15. François was indeed Fredou’s brother-in-law.

NG 4097 Tocqué

Page 472 & 603. “1920–1 London, Burlington Fine Arts Club”: it isn’t immediately obvious which exhibition this is. The painting is reproduced and discussed in The Connoisseur, lxii, 1922, pp. 199, 238, where the suggestion that it had been exhibited in the Burlington Fine Arts Club may have originated.

NG 3964 After Tocqué

Page 483 and n.30. The “hypothesis” I suggested was the identification of the Orléans sitter as Joseph-Thérèse, not his associé position.

Vigée Le Brun

Page 518. Did Mme Geoffrin and the duchesse de Chartres really commission Mlle Vigée c.1769? The claims of the latter are not verified, but at least link to her text (the earliest portrait known is 1778, and Vigée Le Brun often distorted dates); but Mme Geoffrin visited only as far as I know.

Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun was the great-great-nephew, not great-nephew, of Charles Le Brun.

NG 1653 Self-portrait

Page 519. The A. P. Pickering of 23 Queens Gardens was Arthur Proctor Pickering (1818–1902), a solicitor, and brother of the barrister Percival Andre Pickering QC (1810–1876) referred to on p. 530 n.1. The sale was not posthumous, nor apparently forced: A. P. Pickering’s estate was valued at nearly £25,000. The dealer identified here only as “S. T. Smith” was Samuel Theobald Smith (1842–1904), grandson of the famous John Smith who (in the 1820s) had handled the other (i.e. Rubens) Chapeau de paille now in the National Gallery.

Page 520. The only reason to assume that the self-portrait (lent by M. Péan de Saint-Gilles) from the 1891 exhibition of works from “the beginning of the [19th] century” should relate to the NG picture seems to be the description in Helm 1915, p. 207 (not cited): he must have seen it to offer the description, but he specifically separates it from the versions of the NG painting and suggests a later date. (It is however worth noting that Armand-Louis-Henri Péan de Saint-Gilles (1791–1860) was co-exécuteur of the will of Vigée Le Brun’s brother Louis-Jean-Baptiste-Étienne in 1820.)

Pages 527f. In addition to the numerous salon critiques cited, the original version is also discussed in the “Letter from a gentleman on a tour in Paris, to his friend in London”, which appeared in the Morning chronicle and London advertiser, 19 September 1783, but is omitted from standard bibliographies of salon criticism (e.g. McWilliam & al. 1991).

Page 530. Baillio’s 1987 letter, 31 years ago, should be viewed in the context of his decision to reproduce a print when the primary version of the painting was not available for the 2016 catalogue. Haroche-Bouzinac’s biography, of which the note on p. 552 is cited on p. 530, reproduced the NG on the cover of the first printing (January 2012, despite the copyright date of 2011) but replaced it with a reproduction of the original on the next impression (October 2013).

NG 5871 Mlle Brongniart

Page 538. Anne-Louise d’Aigremont was not Hazon’s granddaughter. Émilie’s brother Alexandre married, in 1800, Jeanne-Cécile Coquebert de Monbret (1782–1862), petite-fille de Michel-Barthélémy Hazon, who was only 19 years older than Mlle d’Aigremont. (The error also appears in Anne Lajoix’s article on Brongniart in The Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory exhibition catalogue, 1997.)

Page 539. I published the complete list of the petitioners here including a reproduction of Brongniart’s signature.

Page 543 n.2. Whether the “Adam” who bought the picture in 1897 was Charlotte Adam-Pichon or her mother is settled by consulting the 1901 exhibition catalogue, where the lender is explicitly mentioned as “Mme Adam, née Pichon”, i.e. the mother. The sources giving her death as 1896 are mistaken: online genealogies give it as “after 3 June 1896”, while consulting the État civil for Paris 8e reveals that in fact she died on 29 October 1929. Similarly (n.3) “one Mme Off” is a reference to Mme Adam’s other daughter, Rosalie-Josephine-Victoire (1870– ), who married, in 1896, one Georges Off.


[1] Perhaps a topic that may not be covered in the conventional reviews is that the NG’s aversion to the French eighteenth century in its permanent collection has been largely mirrored in its choice of temporary exhibitions: the pictures from Lille shown in 1993, Tradition & revolution in French art 1700–1880, tried to argue for a continuous tradition, a thesis anathema to any dix-huitiémiste (will the impending Boilly show be able to avoid this?), while the London leg of the Pompadour show in 2002 was such a pale version of the Versailles exhibition that it elicited scathing treatment from Richard Dorment and Alden Gordon – the latter blaming the then director rather than the NG curator.

[2] The numerous roturiers on whom it was conferred first had to buy ennobling offices before their admission. The small number of those (mostly foreigners) entitled by letter of the king to wear the decoration à titre honorifique were not members of the order: see Benoît Defauconpret, Les Preuves de noblesse au xviiie siècle, 1999, p. 86. Caix de Saint-Aymour’s 1919 monograph on Les Boullongne gives the clearest account of Boullongne’s case and reproduces in an appendix the 1722 document of admission to the order, including the 1718 proof of nobility which satisfied Clairambault.

[3] Lyon, Bérard Péron, 1.x.2016, Lot 10; subsequently shown by Talabardon & Gautier at the Salon du dessin in 2007, where it reportedly sold for a six-figure sum.



Duveen’s pastels

Perronneau JF au chat NG Duveen albumEveryone reading this will know of the art dealers Duveen Brothers, probably because of their association with the famous expert Bernard Berenson and the much discussed conflicts of interest arising from their relationship. Plenty of books have followed, so there is no need for me to say more. And some of you will be aware that the firm’s records are available online, at the Getty Research Institute’s portal. They’ve been available since 2007, but it’s fair to say that the sheer volume of material makes these files rather hard to use, and accordingly I suspect they have not yielded all their gems.

Browsing through the archives one cannot escape some reflections on the nature of the business. First, particularly in the early years, pictures were only a tiny part of what was a general antiques and decorators’ business. The stock books (the best place to start) have everything from rolls of fabric and slabs of marble to miniatures and even a Michelangelo sculpture (though at a price that suggests otherwise). There are Romneys more valued than Rembrandts, and knick-knacks the inadequacies of whose description disables cynicism. Of course when one of the magic names can be claimed, it will be: clients want to know whether it’s a Reynolds or a Gainsborough, not whether it’s a great example by a lesser name: it has always been thus. So the eighteenth-century portraitists admitted into the fold included also Hoppner, Nattier and Vigée Le Brun – but remarkably few others. However in amongst the tens of thousands of objects there are some great masterpieces, and even a few significant pastels. It is the latter that I want to note here. Among pastellists, the roll call is short – and slightly surprising: the inevitable Rosalba (but sold in pairs with nothing to identify them); the newly saleable Daniel Gardner; lots of John Russell; four “Perronneaus” and even some Coypels (of these more below) – but oddly no La Tour. Liotard of course was unknown then, at least in the furniture trade.

The business model seems to be very client-focused: the traditional trope of the wealthy but ignorant American (of course there were exceptions) to be fed by a vast quantity of items sent on approval. The accountancy practices might raise some eyebrows, as many of these transactions are recorded as firm sales when the items return soon after (for the same price) and receive new stock numbers. The huge range of items surely meant that the firm could not have been expert in all these fields – an impression reinforced by the amount of trade between dealers and intermediaries. Most depressing of all are the summary descriptions of so many items – “2 small oval pastels of ladies” and so on, which even I can’t usefully record in the Dictionary.

JeansAnother unusual feature from a modern perspective is the absence of catalogued exhibitions. An exception was an exhibition of “ten pastel drawings by John Russell, RA”, the (unillustrated) catalogue for which bears no date, but must have been about 1911, since an additional item at the end was Gardner’s Sir John Taylor, which the firm bought and sold that year. One of the Russells is the magnificent Mrs Jeans now in the Louvre (J.64.1863) and which I blogged about before (and here); I had worked out then that it had been sold c.1910, but I didn’t know to whom. Duveen sold it on within the trade; it was the firm Jacques Seligmann that sold the pastel (in 1919) to Mme Démogé (she eventually gave it to the Louvre). Among the other “Russells” in that show were three which corresponded to pictures Williamson 1894 had catalogued as lost. (We know the firm had a copy of Williamson, as it was meticulously recorded in the London stock book, purchased in February 1901 from Sotheran’s for £4/10/-.) The Duveen versions have been lost again, so it isn’t possible to form a useful view as to whether they were tempted to borrow the names to decorate anonymous works, just as spies are said to adopt the identities of dead infants.

gri_2007_d_1_b512_f01_129An insight into the firm’s practices can be seen in this entry, for the rather wonderful Labille-Guiard pastel exhibited in 1783, Mme Mitoire et ses enfants (J.44.221), shown here in its splendid frame. What the invoice shows is that the purchase (from Kraemer frères, recorded in July 1901) was sold on “after copy made”. That work is surely the pastel I catalogue as a copy (J.44.224) on appearance only; it has been sold repeatedly, between 1919 and 2018, as autograph, and appears in Mme Passez’s catalogue raisonné as such (no. 44):


Gardner Lady with Mask Abbot HallAnother example is the Gardner pastel of an unknown Lady holding a mask of Comedy, now in the Abbot Hall Art Gallery (my J.338.1901). This was purchased for £500 in 1906 from a Mr Fulcher, but Duveen also paid 30 guineas (to Vicars Brothers, another dealer in Bond Street) to have a copy made to “give” to the vendor. Recorded without identity in the 1906 stock book, the following year it is annotated as “Miss Ross of Cromarty”: a somewhat improbable suggestion as the Ross of Cromarty at the time had a (deceased) son but no daughter.

A good set of Rosalba’s Four Seasons was purchased in 1901 from the celebrated antiquaire Mme Lelong in Paris. (They could well be the protoypes for the set of copies now in Bergen op Zoom, Markiezenhof.) They were divided – the records are confusing as to which seasons were in which – with two being sold almost immediately to the Duke of Marlborough for a generous mark-up (£4750, against £700 allocated cost). The stock book indicates that “Mr Joe says write off 1/2”. The Duke sent his two back the following year. Either they or the other two were sent then to George Jay Gould in Lakewood before again being returned; Duveen sold them to Lucius Peyton Green and his wife in Los Angeles. One of them is now in the Huntington Library (J.21.1353), the others lost. Other pastels in public collections for which this research has uncovered hitherto unknown provenances include the Coypel marquise de Lamure (J.2472.174) in the Worcester Art Museum and those mentioned below.

Perronneau Mme Richemont

But most surprising perhaps is the number of Perronneau pastels that can be found in the books. One of them, Mme Le Boucher de Richemont (J.582.1518), is uncontroversial – setting aside the minute point that the inscription the Duveen stock book records (in translation), “peinte en mars 1770, âgée de 42 ans et 7 mois”, implies she was born in 1727, not 1728; and I can add now that she died in 1797 – but apart from that everything is correct in the recent Dictionary entries, up to the 2015 sale when it sold for $5000 (or $6250 with costs). Duveen bought it at the Cronier sale in 1905 for 10,600 francs (£469 then, about £50,000 today adjusted for RPI inflation), and sold it four years later for 11,710 francs (to Alphonse Kann).

You will all recognise the famous National Gallery “Perronneau” (inv. NG 3588; my J.582.189) at the head of this article, given by Sir Joseph Duveen to the nation in 1921. I have previously said that too much has already been written about this wretched pastel which I and many others regard as “wrong”. I had rather hoped that Humphrey Wine’s new National Gallery catalogue would finally complete the story and spare me the need to mention it again. But while I commend the essay on this picture to you, there are some critical gaps in the story which I think worth filling in. I don’t just mean the omission of references in the literature (although I should not have missed out Florence Ingersoll-Smouse in La Revue de l’art ancien et moderne, xli, 1922, repr. p. 401, where it is described as “le plus séduisant portrait d’enfant de Perronneau…le chat merveilleusement rendu”), nor the fact that Charles Ricketts’s letter to “a certain Brown” was to Eric Brown, director of the National Gallery of Canada. And here I pass over the technical discussion.

Rather I want to deal with Wine’s footnotes 3 and 4 on his p. 396 which are founded on the idea that “there is no certain reference to NG 3588 in the Duveen Brothers records.” Indeed his provenance shows no event between the purchase from Lady Dorothy at an uncertain date to the donation to the NG in 1921. He explores instead the reference which he did find in the records to “2 pastels by Perronneau of the same lady in different positions” bought from Lady Dorothy Nevill in December 1902 for £366/7/7 and sold to Sir Joseph in 1908, cautiously concluding that the discrepancies in the description preclude certain identification of either with NG 2588.

In fact those two “Perronneaus” are the works supplied by Duveen to Edward Stotesbury in Philadelphia. They were sent on approval in 1922, but not paid for until 1930 (for $15,000) after a letter chasing payment (the invoice listing “A pair of Old French Pastels. Portraits of Ladies by PERRONNEAU” in Mrs Stotesbury’s boudoir):

Stotesbury letter

Unfortunately many clients were unable to provide pastels with a museum-standard environment. By 19 March 1930 the housekeeper at Whitemarsh Hall sent them back to Duveen Brothers to be “put in first class condition” before the Stotesburys returned, on1 April: they were not ready by then, as Duveen explained to the staff:


They depict one of Lady Dorothy’s ancestors, Mrs Thomas Walpole, née Elizabeth Van Neck. The pendants have since been split up, and their attributions confused and identities lost: in the 1944 Stotesbury sale, a pastel by Valade took on the name of Elizabeth Van Neck, the Perronneaus now unidentified. One (which you won’t find in Arnoult 2014 – it is J.582.1798), anonymous French school in 1944, sold last year as anonymous British school for $1250, a tiny fraction of the price Stotesbury paid, although its present condition is poor and it has lost the magnificent frame in which Duveen’s photograph showed it.

But returning to NG 3588, there is indeed not one, but numerous certain references to be found in the Duveen archive if you have the patience. Easiest to find is the image among the album of 40 photographs of pictures from the French school, which I show above. Of course the pastel is known from many reproductions, going back to the colour plate accompanying Lady Dorothy’s article about her own collection published in The Connoisseur in February 1902. Wine thought its reuse in 1909 might indicate the date when Duveen acquired the pastel. In fact Duveen bought it much earlier – just a few months after Lady Dorothy’s article appeared. And the circumstances are (almost) exactly as Edward Fowles relates in his 1976 memorandum (as you will find in Wine), writing about events that occurred 74 years before – when he, as the 17-year-old office boy, was sent to the bank to collect £1000 in gold sovereigns for the quaint old lady. That £1000 cost is indeed what we see from the London stock book entry:

Perronneau JF au chat NG 3588 Duveen 1902 acq

What we also see, and which perhaps as office boy Fowles didn’t know, was that a 10% commission was payable to one “Kopp”. I think Fowles would have mentioned this if he knew, because much later in his memoir he has a wonderful story about this confidence trickster. Gottfried Kopp, of humble origins, reinvented himself as Godfrey von Kopp, an Austrian aristocrat, setting up an art dealing business in Rome, Paris and London, in the course of which he “sold” the original Arch of Constantine to one American tycoon, and Trajan’s Column to another. Needless to say the transactions involved advance fees, and delivery did not follow. In 1905 bankruptcy proceedings were commenced against him in London, and he was not heard of again.

In any case Duveen had acquired his “Perronneau”, for the not insignificant sum of £1100 (multiply by at least 100 for RPI inflation, any larger number you like for purchasing power equivalence). The business depended on cashflow as much as profit, and as you can follow from the books it was sold almost immediately to one of Duveen’s American clients, Mrs Mason. You need to consult the sales ledger to find the price (and Perronneau’s name doesn’t appear there, but the stock numbers are unambiguous): £2700.


This was Mrs T. Henry Mason, née Emma Jane Powley (1850–1918), previously Mrs Lewis; her second husband, whom she married in 1899, was a mining tycoon who died in 1902. She lived in New York, Paris and London. She had form in the return stakes. In May 1906 Duveen sold her the magnificent Coypel of the Jullienne couple now in the Met (J.2472.171); she returned it in August. Duveen records also note other pastels sold to her, as well as a disturbingly high invoice of $1042.10 for “restoring three pastels”. Correspondence after her death indicates that one of the Russells Duveen had bought back from her (Mrs Meyrick, described as “very fine” when original despatched to her in July 1901) was in such poor condition that it could be sold for decorative purposes only.

In any case, NG 3588 came back to London, although not necessarily to Duveen Brothers itself. It may be that Sir Joseph privately tried to market it through other channels. It seems highly likely that this was the “Lady with a cat, a large and magnificent pastel in blue tones”, advertised by the dealer Albert Berthel, 32 Museum Street, London, in The Connoisseur, May 1918, p. xiv, for the price of £450 (a more realistic level, perhaps suggesting that Duveen had found it difficult to shift – unless of course it was simply a copy):


Fairly soon after, another Duveen client received NG 3588: one “Mrs Webb”. Duveen had two clients of this name: one was Mary Welsh Randolph, Mrs Francis Egerton Webb (1868–1962) of 405 Park Ave, but I suspect this was Electra Havemeyer, Mrs James Watson Webb (1888–1960), collector and founder of the Shelburne Museum. Perhaps Duveen had not noticed that Mrs Webb’s tastes had changed, and instead of the French dix-huitième, she was now focused on simple New England folk art. In any case, once again the work came back, in August 1921, the refund of £1650 no doubt representing the price Mrs Webb had been invoiced.

ex webb

Perronneau JF au chat NG

By this stage Duveen had had enough. He ordered a rather splendid (if opulently proportioned) Louis XV reproduction frame from Cadres Lebrun (the firm still exists but Mme Fouquin Lebrun has kindly informed me that their archives only go back to 1931) for 2200 francs (about £44, say £4400 today) in time to present the pastel to the National Gallery.

Postscript (19 December):

Ólafur Þorvaldsson has kindly drawn my attention to a second image in the Duveen archive, showing NG 3588 in the frame it had before Cadres Lebrun came to the rescue:



A Liotard sleeper

Liotard Dormeuse 3At the time of the Liotard exhibition in London in 2015, I noted that some visitors might go away with the impression that Liotard was a brilliant enamellist, a great oil painter, an exquisite draughtsman…but rather less accomplished as a pastellist than might have been expected. That was a comment about the difficulties of obtaining the best pastels for loan exhibitions, in turn because their owners are justifiably concerned for their safety in transit, and because a good proportion of the pastels have already lost some of their original impact. But the enamels have not: they are as fresh as the day they were done, and their rarity (only a couple of dozen survive) gives them an added cachet.

Jean-Étienne Liotard’s initial training in Geneva was as a miniaturist and enamellist and in some ways he retained those instincts throughout his life. So, while (as readers of this blog will recall) he failed to win acceptance in France as the genius he perceived himself to be (and as many today now recognise), contemporaries made an exception for his enamels, seeing in him the reincarnation of Petitot, another Protestant Genevois whose exquisite distillations of the court of Louis XIV thrill us today. Thus Saint-Yves[1] (1748) was willing to lament the absence from the Louvre exhibitions at least of Liotard’s enamels, an art which the French had allowed to die since Petitot brought it to perfection:

On avoit laissé périr parmi nous un art que Petitau avoit porté à sa perfection, & que M. Liotard vient de nous rendre. Pourquoi le Public est il privé du plaisir d’en voir les ouvrages au Salon?

(We know also, from Liotard’s own autobiography, written in 1760, that the artist had borrowed and copied a Petitot enamel in his youth – while still at Geneva, before 1723: “Celui qui le lui avoit prêté étoit Peintre, & fut trompé en prenant la copie pour l’original.”)

Liotard as we know was not allowed into the salons du Louvre, and would exhibit instead at the Académie de Saint-Luc – pastels only in 1751 and 1753, mainly pastels but some drawings and one enamel – a self-portrait – in 1752. Moving to England soon after, he returned to the craft of enamelling once more. The process is elaborate and required equipment he would not always have had available during his travels, so it is unsurprising that he worked only occasionally in the medium.

Of course as always the first place to turn for anything about Liotard is the 2008 edition of Roethslisberger & Loche which reproduces all the enamels beautifully. Or not quite all – for one, cat. no. 387[2], has been missing since it was last mentioned in 1774. And thanks to a private collector with an excellent eye it has now been rescued, and appears with his kind permission at the top of this article.

Although the enamel itself is unsigned, it was found mounted in a late 18th century giltwood frame (probably French, 1770s), which has Liotard’s signature on the back:

Liotard Dormeuse v det 3

That takes us straight to the exhibitions and auction where Liotard tried to dispose of his collections – of old master pictures and of his own work, with catalogues that provide some complicated information which you need to turn to R&L to decipher. Notably the Christie’s sale of April 1774, where Lot 62 on the second day was “A lady sleeping, enamel”, estimated at £30. (It followed an enamel by Petitot, of Chancellor Le Tellier; the unanswerable question crosses one’s mind as to whether this might in fact be Liotard’s own copy with which he so proudly duped the owner of the original.) The Lady sleeping was recorded as sold to “Del.”, apparently an abbreviation of “Deleroux”, the name recorded against a dozen or so lots in the sale. But the Christie’s annotated sale catalogue is treacherous, as are the second-hand reports of the earlier selling exhibitions that Liotard organised in Paris and London. For example the Watteau painting which Liotard owned, Le Sommeil dangereux, was listed in his 1773 London exhibition with a price of 120 guineas – reported by Graves as the sale price.[3] It was then included in the Christie’s auction the following year, apparently being sold to the same Deleroux for 12 guineas, but in fact unsold. It was finally disposed of by Liotard’s son in 1788 for “un vil prix”. Deleroux was evidently a straw man, and the subsequent fate of the present enamel until its recent re-emergence remains a mystery.

But the catalogues for these exhibitions and sale do provide some crucial evidence: in the Paris 1771 show, the same item (no. 93) was “Une dormeuse, en émail, d’après Santerre. Par le même [Liotard]”.

Based on that alone, R&L speculated that the work might relate to a painting by Jean-Baptiste Santerre known from an engraving in 1711 by N. Château, of which an oil version had passed through Drouot. Fortunately Santerre’s work has been catalogued, by Claude Lesné (BSHAF, 1988): a number of genre pieces are known, several of which were engraved by Nicolas Château, and the new enamel does in fact correspond with Lesné’s no. 52, a Jeune femme dormant. The original is no longer known, but a number of copies have passed through the salerooms and there are oil versions in the musée Hyacinthe-Rigaud at Perpignan, where it is known as Femme turque endormie (apparently on account of the turban: there is little specifically Turkish about it, but it may nevertheless have caught Liotard’s fancy), and this version at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona:

Santerre Dormeuse MNAC Barcelona

We should not forget just how enormously popular these Santerre figures were at the time. He was perhaps the Rotari of his day. A passage in an article on Santerre by a marchand joaillier and picture dealer called Nicolas Malafaire in the Nouveau Mercure (September 1718, p. 73) explains, and might even refer to, this Santerre figure:

C’est dans ce tems-là, qu’il imagina de peindre seulement une demi-figure dans chaque Tableau, qui represtentât un art, une science, ou quelques actions naïves, ausquelles il sçut donner une finesse de pensées & d’expressions, qui lui étoit toute particuliere. La nouveauté & l’agrément, qui étoient dans ces Ouvrages, les firent estimer universellement, & donna l’envie à plusieurs d’en avoir: Mais, le Peintre employoit beaucoup de tems à les faire; c’est pourquoi on se les arrachoit, pour ainsi dire, des mains; & on les poussa à un prix si considerable, qu’une personne donna jusqu’à cent pistolles d’une seule demi-figure qui représentait une dormeuse.

But it is the Château engraving to which we should turn for a more explicit description of the erotic purpose of this image:

Chateau ar Santerre Dormeuse

Here are the verses (which there’s no need for me to translate):

Ne reveilléz point cette Belle
Marchéz doucement parlez bas;
Epouse encore toute nouvelle
Le repos nourrit ses apas

Fidelle au Dieu de L’hymenée
Elle veut en avoir son fruit;
Et ne dort pendant la journée
qu’afin de mieux veiller la nuit.

When did Liotard make the enamel, and from what source? The popularity of Santerre continued for a long time. Indeed one finds numerous pastel copies of another popular Santerre piece, known incorrectly as Mlle Desmares but again popularised by an engraving by Château, 1708; in 1763 Guillibaud even adapted the print, giving it a new face to produce a portrait of Mme Revilliod de La Rive (J.367.145). Even more proximate, yet another Santerre piece, La Géométrie – again known from numerous probably secondary versions (Darmstadt, Tours etc.), and a print, by Claude Bricart (1711) – was copied not once, but twice, by Liotard’s brother Jean-Michel. The drawing, dated 1762, is reproduced in R&L (cat. no. JML36, fig. 894); the pastel version which has recently surfaced on the art market (J.4912.101) is here:

LiotardJM Geometrie

R&L also note that in Liotard’s collection was a painting by Santerre of a Dame riant, perhaps more accurately known as La Menaceuse, the title under which it was probably exhibited in the salon of 1704. Again a picture of which numerous versions are known, the premier peintre Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre did not much like it when Liotard tried to sell it to the French royal collection, annotating the picture on Liotard’s list “Mauvais, a tout hazard”; Santerre it seems had fallen out of favour by 1785.

All of this suggests that Liotard’s enamel of La Dormeuse could have been made at any stage of his career. My own view however is that the work might well belong to the very earliest period when he was still in Geneva. This is based on the strong similarities with the only surviving enamel from that period, the Sélène et Endymion in the Musée de l’horlogerie de de l’émaillerie at Geneva (inv. E 137; R&L 7), signed and dated 1722:[4]

Liotard Selene et Endymion Geneve

This, as Hans Boeckh discovered, was based on a painting by Trevisani of which the original is in Kassel, and does not seem to have been in Geneva at the time Liotard’s enamel was made. Once again which version or print was copied eludes us. But what is clear is that, well before Liotard’s arrival in Paris, he had the skill to produce an extremely sophisticated work in a technically demanding medium. The artist to whom he was briefly apprenticed, Daniel Gardelle (1679–1753 – a distant relative through the Mussard family), specialised in miniatures on vellum but also worked in enamel (one example was jointly signed with his brother Robert): Liotard claimed in his autobiography that he stayed with Gardelle only four months, and already worked in miniature, enamel, oil and pastel. The Dormeuse, at 8.3×6.4cm, is on an enamel plaque of similar shape to the Selene (5.2×7.0): Sturm suggests that the latter may have been intended as the lid of a snuff box, but the orientation and case of the Dormeuse makes this less likely.

In any case this is a work which Liotard seems to have retained for half a century before it disappeared for another two and a half.


[1] Charles Léoffroy de Saint-Yves, Observations sur les arts et sur quelques morceaux de peinture et de sculpture, exposés au Louvre en 1748, où il est parlé de l’utilité des embellisements dans les villes, 1748, p. 114.

[2] Page 537 of R&L; the picture is also mentioned on pp. 143 and 426; without an image it was impossible to place it chronologically.

[3] The was reported, with doubts, in Glorieux’s 2006 survey of Watteau prices (Glorieux had not seen the 1773 catalogue and relied on Graves: there is a copy in the Frick, from which I prepared the entries in my exhibitions document on, but of course cleared up in R&L, p. 153. Nevertheless a very recently published museum catalogue failed to refer to R&L.

[4] In addition to R&L, there is a good account by Fabienne-Xavière Sturm in the Liotard 2002 exhibition catalogue, and of course Hans Boeckh’s account of the work in Genava, xxxvii, 1989, pp. 117–28. Sturm believed that Gardelle did not work in enamel, but R&L corrected this.

Postscript (10 December 2018)

The enamel was almost certainly purchased soon after the Christie’s sale by Liotard’s great patron, the future Lord Bessborough, as it appeared in his sale, 6 February 1801, Lot 8 (A girl sleeping, an enamel), sold 14 guineas (see R&L p. 162).

Towards a La Tour catalogue

La Tour Auto SQPerhaps one of the biggest questions facing art history is the choice between paper and virtual publishing. There is so much in favour of online approaches (whether structured databases or simply posting book-like documents online) that it is perhaps surprising that the debate hasn’t been decided. But the most serious obstacle has yet to be overcome: the feeling of the book in the hand. You can put three thousand pages of data online, but three hundred pages on paper will impress some people more. I don’t need to list the multitude of advantages of the online approach (ranging from cost to the ability to search and update), but perhaps from time to time it is sensible to lay out more clearly what can already be found online – and where.

On the other hand, when I last wrote about this on my blog, I said in answer to the impermanence concern that “my Dictionary for example is available on the UK Web Archive”. Try the link: it doesn’t work any more. (You can now find the periodic snapshots at a revised UK web archive site, starting here.)

Of course there remain a surprising number of serious art historians who haven’t mastered even the basics of working online, whether it’s Ctrl+F or Ctrl++ (must I explain that “small” images in my pdfs can simply be viewed at 400% enlargement and fill the screen?). I also don’t have a complete answer to the problem that online work isn’t taken seriously: it is freely pillaged without acknowledgement, and – what is worse – is frequently ignored by other scholars who seem not to mind overlooking facts that you’ve published online when they’d be mortified to discover that these facts had appeared in print.

One artist sits at the heart of my Dictionary of pastellists and its online reincarnation, Pastels & pastellists: Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, and as the material I’ve written about him is spread over so many files within the site, let me take the opportunity to set it out as one might the table of contents of a monograph. Remember that while there have been hundreds of books about La Tour, especially on the Saint-Quentin collection, and a major exhibition in 2004, the last catalogue raisonné was published in 1928 by Georges Wildenstein (with an introduction by Albert Besnard, generously given co-author status on the title page: we all know it as B&W). And the only book published in English, by Adrian Bury, is next to useless (how can one have confidence in a monograph which reproduces a work by a different artist on the cover?).

The preface would of course have to confront the fundamental question for any catalogue raisonné of a portraitist: do you arrange the works in chronological order, or in alphabetical order of sitter? In some contexts it is assumed that only the former is a “proper” catalogue, but that is a peculiarly unhelpful approach for certain artists. (No one criticises Mannings’s Reynolds or Smart’s Ramsay for adopting an order that allows users to find the work that interests them.) With many portraitists there are enough dated examples, and a continuous evolution of technique that allows one to place the undated items in chronological order with a reasonable consensus among other experts (although one ends up with a vast number of œuvres mentionnées): Perronneau and Liotard come to mind among La Tour’s rivals. With others – say Rosalba – the alphabetical approach is also of limited value as identifiable portraits form such a small proportion of the œuvre (Sani remains of manageable length only by omitting versions, copies and historical records of lost works – all of which I regard as necessary components of a catalogue raisonné).

Of course tech-savvy readers will immediately point out that the answer is a proper database that users can order at the touch of a button – alphabetically by sitter, chronologically by date of work, thematically by subject – but it’s never quite that simple. In fact when I first put the Dictionary online ten years ago I spent a great deal of time trying to do this before abandoning the project. Nor have I really been convinced by any of the catalogues put up in structured form since: each requires patience to learn how to interrogate, and the interfaces simply seem clunkier and more hostile than book pages (whether printed on paper or viewed on screen). Art history depends on nuanced lists and hierarchies that we are all familiar with on the page; successful IT projects require such relationships to be reduced to the smallest number of moving parts, and afterthoughts result in huge cost overruns. If the software isn’t available off the shelf, it’s a brave (or wealthy) person who commissions what is certain to be a white elephant.

But with La Tour only a hundred and fifty or so works can be objectively dated, and even an art historian with supreme gifts will be unable to arrange the whole catalogue chronologically in a manner compatible with the practical requirements of users. It’s worth remembering too that while John Russell died 23 years younger than La Tour, his work was spread evenly over about 40 years; of La Tour, nothing is known before about 1735, and very little after 1770. The many préparations don’t even include enough costume details to assist in dating. So the structure developed by B&W 90 years ago probably remains the better approach – supplemented by a chronological discussion of specific key works, and underpinned by the chronological table of documents which I’ve reissued at vastly increased length and with careful annotation throughout. (For the time being I’ve retained the use of two typefaces – Times for the original table in B&W, and Garamond for my additions – so you can see how I’ve doubled the quantity of information which is at the heart of La Tour research.)

Here then is a sketch of my work-in-progress on Maurice-Quentin de La Tour:

One of the issues I still grapple with is how best to present the information I have about sitters. Clearly major pastels merit the extended treatment I have given in the separate essays noted above, and those can be accessed through hyperlinks. Some famous sitters have well-known biographies which have almost nothing to do with La Tour or their portrait: is there any point in duplicating material easily accessible elsewhere?  With others where there is little to say, a simple description of dates and quality sits happily in the entry (although I’m not sure how many people realize that more biographical material and sources for many sitters can be found in my iconographical genealogies). But for a great many entries one wants something in between – say 500-1000 words – enough to break the flow of the Dictionary layout, and to strain the patience of readers if buried in hyperlinked documents. Perhaps readers have thoughts about this.

There is as you will see rather a lot of material here already – probably too much for any publisher to wish to print it on paper (do let me know if I’m wrong!). But by having it out there already, you can benefit from it – and I can benefit from any errors or omissions you see. I’m sure there are many – just as I’ve been surprised by how many have hitherto passed undetected.

Moving pastels – again

Readers of this blog will be aware of my scepticism about the safety of moving pastels, and it is encouraging that the debate is taking place more widely. Less encouraging however is the fact that many important pastels continue to travel to loan exhibitions before any consensus has yet emerged. So I make no apology for reverting to the topic, and attach a talk I gave in April to a round-table of professionals held in London. I didn’t post it at the time because I expected a broader statement to emerge centrally, but the issues deserve wider discussion and urgency.

There was a range of different views which I am not going to attempt to summarise. Suffice it to say that some of us disagreed with the idea that there are safe means of moving pastels, or that conservators should agree to unnecessary movement just because there are pressures within their institutions to sanction it. Damage to pastels is a phenomenon recorded over 300 years, and despite every type of handling, cushioning and transport having been investigated over this period, there is no consensus on what minimises, let alone avoids, damage. The mechanisms appear to be subtle but cumulative, making it all the harder to establish any safe harbour.

If you are really interested I recommend you read the more focused discussion in chapter V of my Prolegomena: it is freely available online as a pdf, and has the detailed references you won’t find in a lecture. It also sets out more clearly than I do in the lecture the real barrier to progress in this field: the absence of research into the nature of the bonding mechanisms that hold pastel in place. No real progress will be made until fundamental research is undertaken into bonding – a multi-disciplinary project looking at mechanical, chemical and electrostatic effects at a microscopic level. That research has yet to be done.

Here then is the text of my talk given in April.


We are all here because we want pastels to be better known, and we recognise that loan exhibitions would help with that common objective. But then we divide – not into two, but like Gaul, into three camps: the Enthusiasts, who don’t believe there’s any special problem moving pastels; the Compromisers, who think that the scientific value justifies taking a calculated risk; and the Neinsager, or Naysayers, who think we don’t yet have an effective protocol and so shouldn’t move them unless absolutely necessary. In the 30 years I’ve been interested in pastels I’ve moved from the first, to the second and then to the third camp, where I’ve been since 2004 for reasons I’ll come to later. Incidentally I continue to lend work in other media to travelling exhibitions as I have done since 1981, and I would love to return to the first camp.

I gave a longer talk at the Petit Palais in Paris last October with a fairly complete taxonomy of the risks to pastel. I’ll try not to repeat too much of it. You can also find references in the document called Prolegomena on my website.

But today I do want to ask: how is it that these camps can disagree so fundamentally? Can the differences be explained solely in terms of personality types? Is it pastels which are abnormally sensitive, or just their owners? Or is there a real issue?

As we all know from the third paragraph of Chaperon’s famous treatise, pastel is precarious. It is simply dust rubbed into paper. Not even the binder used in making the crayons is supposed to contribute to adhesion (although personally I’m not entirely convinced of that – the fact is we simply don’t understand the complexities of bonding in pastels). The wonder is not how easily pastels are damaged, but how any pastel survives.

I don’t need to remind anyone here that the official policy of most museums is not to lend, so let us remember that the onus of proof is on the Enthusiasts to demonstrate that moving pastels can be done safely.

No one is suggesting that moving art of any kind is entirely without risk. Other media can also be vulnerable:


This text has got nothing to do with pastels, but when Bernini asked this English traveller about his bust of Charles I which he had sent to London, he was more interested in whether it had survived the journey than in whether its likeness had been praised: “I tooke as much care for the packing as studye in making of itt”. Bernini’s concern brings home to us the moral right of artists not to have their work damaged carelessly.

Now a sculpture either breaks or doesn’t. (A flaw in the marble will probably reveal itself before the sculptor has finished.) But the Neinsager believe that damage to pastels is not binary. The fundamental difference is the possibility of invisible damage.

The Enthusiasts probably share this rather reductionist thinking:


In other words, if you can’t see dust lying on the spacer at the bottom, the picture hasn’t been damaged. What you see is what you get. There’s simply a shock level above which pastel falls, below which nothing has happened.

For the opposite view we need to look at this (conceptual) pigment degradation chart:


When a pastel is made, the last thing the artist does before framing is to give it a tap to release any loose dust. That’s the first stage. The next is the loss of the very delicate “fleur” which I suspect has largely vanished from most 18th century pastels. Now the Enthusiasts think that’s it – barring a catastrophe, no further particles will fall. But the Neinsager identify two further phases, and these are I think at the heart of the disagreement. If you accept either possibility, all the evidence from safely transported pastels becomes irrelevant to our debate.

First there is the concept of latent damage which is completely invisible. I will leave Leila Sauvage to discuss how adhesion may fail after a build-up over time analogous to metal fatigue in aviation engineering. The medical analogy is not so much haemophilia, but brain damage in boxers who appear fit after each fight.

But secondly there is the possibility of damage which appears as a subtle change in luminosity but which doesn’t result in any noticeable displacement of particles. If you haven’t seen this for yourself, you probably won’t believe me. But my Damascene conversion was 14 years ago, when I observed two pastels which travelled to different exhibitions in France. One came back in perfect condition; the other looked fine on immediate inspection and comparison with the Ektachrome taken before it left, but then I began to notice that something wasn’t quite right. Put simply it had become dull. There’s no slide because you can’t see any difference in the photographs – all the particles seem to be in the same place.


But my suggestion is that what may have happened is not complete debonding, but minute realignment. This is happening somewhere between the molecular scale, where the forces that hold crystals together would snap them back into line, and the larger particulate scale, where debonding would lead to falling. In other words the search for failure, through fatigue or otherwise, is focused on the wrong issue: the true enemy is not gravity, but entropy. Instead of the pigment escaping to the bottom of the frame, like the Scarlet Pimpernel, those “demn’d elusive” particles are hiding in full sight.

But we do need to put this connoisseurial assessment onto a scientific basis – perhaps it is visible at ultrahigh magnification, but that type of investigation hasn’t been done, and can’t be done after the fact. At present, you can’t prove the damage, and you can’t make an insurance claim. And anyway insurance policies usually exclude pastels as having what is called inherent vice.

Of course pastels are also exposed to the same insurable hazards as other pictures, including theft


as well as minor damage from chipped frames, broken glass and so on. But the second component of the debate is that for pastels, these have different consequences. Every time a pastel comes out of its frame there are vastly greater risks than with an oil painting. Consequential damage ranges from the danger of touching the surface or cutting the support when you open it to what can happen from the air-borne gesso that pervades the gilder’s workshop when you take it in to be reframed.


Unlike oil paintings which everyone knows have been restored repeatedly, for many of us the great delight of pastels is that they can and should be in their original condition. Pastel damage can’t be mended using reversible techniques – although it’s fair to say that a far larger number of pastels have sadly been “restored” than is commonly realised.

The Enthusiasts’ best argument is how difficult it is to identify specific pastels that have actually been damaged by transport. It is indeed very rare that you find reports like this about Russell’s Moon now in the Oxford Science Museum:


There is quite a lot of evidence in Rosalba’s correspondence, but mostly you can’t identify the pastels concerned – if indeed they survived at all. “Survivor bias” is just one of the cognitive errors surrounding the detection and reporting of damage which I discussed in detail in Paris. Indeed there’s a special version of it for those of you who work in museums, and are never exposed to the wrecks that auction houses regularly show me.

The problem has of course been known for a very long time. Here’s the inscription on the back of this 1670 Nanteuil pastel sent to the Uffizi: “don’t handle this picture roughly”. Or the inscription on the reverse of Liotard’s pastel of Lord Albemarle: “aucun coup de Marteau”; nevertheless something has happened to the red coat, more than just light fading.


Or this touching letter from Oudry to his friend comte Tessin sending a pastel to Stockholm as a gift: “transport always displaces pastel onto the inside of the glass and spoils the work”:


And when this account was published in 1742, the notion that pastel was “périssable” was already a trope. Even the poetry of the day accepted that pastel was a metaphor for fragility, as the cardinal de Bernis implied: “à force de venir, revenir, voyager/La couleur se détache & commence à changer!”, then a joking reference to Loriot, the celebrated fixer:


But of course fixing doesn’t work. The poet Ezra Pound put it more succinctly than I can: “great artists don’t like it, ’cause it bitches the colour.” The idea itself is misconceived – one author called it a “profanation”: why destroy the very thing you like about the medium?


And even where it was used 250 years ago, we don’t know if it’s still effective in any particular case. Incidentally when Loriot fixed Perronneau’s portrait of Le Normant du Coudray during a trip to Orléans, the pastel was already six years old and had been back and forth to Paris three years before. You can see that what remains isn’t in brilliant condition. It’s just a bit … dull.


If we take an important artist like Perronneau, where anything with even a partial signature is likely to be kept, we find fewer than 230 autograph pastels are known even from photographs. That is a far higher percentage than for more minor figures, but of this œuvre, on my estimation, half are in compromised condition, and a further quarter perhaps can be described as ruined.


Estimates of losses are always going to be controversial and inaccurate: for only a handful of artists do we have complete work lists. But using statistical sampling methods, it is possible to form order of magnitude estimates. I reckon that the 18,000 or so known images of pre-1800 pastels probably represent less than 3% of the professionally created works of that period. While this is a pretty rough estimate, I think this is a significantly lower survival rate than for oil painting.


The comparison of two autograph versions of the same work which have different conservation histories can provide us with fascinating information, just like medical trials on genetic twins. Here are two versions of Canova in his studio by Hamilton.


Or again Liotard’s Lord Mountstuart: the Getty version left, the other still in the family.


But how much of this is caused by transport? The Enthusiasts will tell us how often they’ve supervised pastels travelling to exhibitions which have returned safely. Incidentally they also tell us that they only allow pastels to travel after a careful selection procedure: is this I wonder to chose those that have already lost their fleur, or only those that still have something to lose? The question isn’t entirely facetious, as you can only answer it if you know the shape of the degradation curve.

The answer is not just that I don’t know, but no one does. That’s the point. The time fuse for latent damage to emerge is too long. Comparison with pre-despatch photos won’t detect subtle realignment. One pastel may be damaged taking it off the wall; another may cross the Atlantic four times without apparent damage. Dealers routinely drag stock from Paris to Maastricht, New York etc. We just don’t know what the causes of deterioration are or why they affect some pastels earlier than others.

What we do know is that today pastels are travelling further and more often than at any time before: you have to ignore the blip caused by a huge dealer’s exhibition in 1911.


And with Emmanuel Macron’s campaign of soft power in full swing, not to mention the problems for museums who can only charge for temporary shows, we can expect more – despite the fact that the money made from travelling programmes is often far less than expected. Pastels can get caught up in politics and the voices of conservators drowned. Official non-lending policies simply get ignored.

As recent reports from the Louvre in relation to the proposed tour of the Mona Lisa put it: “the vibration-free transport system has not yet been devised”. I don’t need to remind you that on her last trips, she survived an attempt to spray red paint over her in Tokyo, while at the Met in New York she was flooded with a faulty sprinkler system. A pastel would not have survived.

Water is the medium’s greatest enemy after kinetic energy. You might think it irrelevant to lending.


But when the La Tour show opened at Versailles, the vernissage was held on a very wet day. When the throng of visitors were finally admitted, humidity levels were high enough for condensation to form inside the windows.

And it’s not only in the lorry that problems can occur when you lend your pastel. Installation and deinstallation, which is often more chaotic:


lighting; maintenance – both floor polishing, and overenthusiastic glass cleaning, particularly with so-called anti-static glass: these are all hazards your pastel won’t face at home. Even if your pastel can be carried by hand, are you sure the other exhibits won’t need something a bit more powerful?


Footfall in the galleries, for example from increasingly popular gymnastics activities,


filming, loud music or even external events can cause concerns sufficient for the board of trustees at this institution to discuss the measures necessary to protect objects from them.


Only a few weeks ago as I visited the Charles I exhibition at the Royal Academy I was shocked by the level of vibration from drilling works for the link bridge connecting Burlington House with the Burlington Gardens building.


Again these problems are not new.


When Henri de Rothschild bought La Tour’s Duval de l’Epinoy, he hadn’t reckoned with the new bus route at his home, and ended up building a new house: as you might say, “ace pastel with quite a nice home attached”. Rothschild may have consulted Charles Moreau-Vauthier, whose La Peinture appeared the following year, and contained a discussion of the effect of vibration on pastels mounted on stretched canvas, noting that the resultant “tambourine…vibrated to the noise from neighbouring streets.”


Moreau-Vauthier proposed a system of double lining pastels with a second canvas, primed on one side, intended to offer destructive interference to counter resonance. My point with this story is that sophisticated solutions to the vibration problem have been suggested for more than 100 years: they just don’t work. We’ve been around these houses before.

Even with lorry transport on which so much research has been carried out as I discussed in Paris, there are concerns. There is much useful research on crates – the smaller the better, but that battle is not yet decided.


We are told of solutions involving extra layers of foam. But these miss the point: as research as shown, you can only eliminate the resonance for one frequency, and you do so at the expense of others. Redistributing kinetic energy is like herding cats. So when I’m told the problems have been solved, and the solution turns out to be … just another layer of foam, I remain unpersuaded.

Take something as basic as glass.


The protocols say: replace it with something stronger. This is slightly curious as it implies that it’s ok to subject the pastel to enough shock to break a sheet of glass, although it does show a better grasp of the consequential damage concept. Let’s not debate whether a much-vaunted make of acrylic sheeting is safe: personally I wouldn’t touch it. But what do you do when your clients don’t want to remove old glass? To have any evidential value a protocol must be consistently applied; it is useless if you abandon it on a whim. But equally, is unnecessarily changing the glass within the ICON duty to “conserve cultural heritage [as] reliable evidence of the past”? Was it not a great tragedy when the original glass for the président de Rieux, now in the Getty, was broken when the picture was dropped while still at the château de Pregny – a sheet so rare that the maker had uniquely etched his name onto it?

We try to devise work-arounds.


So we remove the glass and transport the picture attached only to its strainer. That seems an excellent idea – provided the package isn’t opened by an over-zealous customs inspector – but in fact it would be the very worst thing to do if you believe that the presence of the backing board and glass are essential to damping the vibration in the canvas, as some research shows.

So you switch your attention to the billowing canvas problem. You might put some wadding between the pastel and the backboard to absorb vibrations. But the elasticity of the quilting can potentially exacerbate the problem. And putting polyester wadding in direct contact with parchment (as I’ve seen done) creates static electricity which is worse than taping the glass. So often this can seem like a game of whack-a-mole.

The issue is not that we don’t understand the solution, it is that we don’t really have a holistic grasp of the problem. We’ve no idea what a real pigment degradation curve looks like. We don’t know at what specific frequencies vibration is a risk; we don’t even know if we’re dealing with physics, chemistry, biology or crystallography. This is a multifactorial problem. And because of the innate idiosyncrasy of each pastel, and the fact that we can’t do destructive testing on a representative sample of each class consisting of a single object, we can’t prove that solutions will be effective. Even if you relax the strictness of that logic, a proposed solution would only be credible after many years of use on hundreds of pastels. So my view is that the claims that the problems have been overcome are overambitious.


While what I’ve been saying is aimed at the Enthusiasts, I have one thing to say to the Compromisers: you can’t take calculated risks when you can’t calculate the risk.

Finally I want to talk about another barrier to solving this problem: the culture of secrecy that the art world embraces, particularly concerning damage. For all sorts of reasons damage is rarely disclosed and even more rarely documented with the high-resolution images in repeatable conditions that might give advance warning of failure. What we need is the equivalent of the universal cancer databank that’s just been launched.

This then is a programme for research:

  • Document/share – images and data on pastels, protocols and actual transport histories
  • Don’t think that you can fiddle with just one issue, and declare the problem solved
  • Figure out how pastels disintegrate before trying to figure out how to protect them
  • Figure out if the problem is physics, chemistry, biology or crystallography…
  • If you don’t have a mathematical model that can tell you what one 10g bump in an air cargo ramp equates to in road miles or number of single shocks of 1g on an air-cushioned lorry etc., you don’t know what is happening
  • Stop lending pastels until you know
  • And if you aren’t prepared to lend, should you be willing to borrow from those who may know less?
  • Finally: Remember Bernini.

La Tour, Mme Boët de Saint-Léger

La Tour Boete de Saint Leger SQ

There are many hurdles to be overcome in cataloguing the work of some artists, especially so in the case of Maurice-Quentin de La Tour. With a career almost entirely in Paris, never dating or even signing his portraits, working in a technique that altered little rather than evolving steadily (he exhibited works showing the range of his different styles side by side), La Tour challenges us in many ways. So the art historian must cling on to whatever can be found, and establishing sitters’ biographies is an obvious starting point. I’ve written repeatedly about the hazards of guessing age from appearance in portraits, but at least some bounds can be established for sitters whose identities are known. But not of course for the “inconnus” so many of whose masks are found in the artist’s collection now in Saint-Quentin.

La Tour Maron SQAmong those famous “préparations” are some where the names are known – but seem not to advance us very far, in spite of the apparently exhaustive researches carried out on that collection by dozens if not hundreds of scholars. One such example is the portrait identified in Fleury & Brière 1954, no. 36 (and all earlier and later sources until now) as of “Charles Maron, ancien avocat en parlement”, a phrase derived from a faulty transcription of La Tour’s brother’s will. In fact the transcription correctly has “au parlement”, not “en” – the distinction ignored by Fleury is between a practising lawyer, “au parlement”, rather than a bachelier en droit, called but not practising, to whom the honorific title of “avocat en parlement” applied. (Such pedantry may well have been ignored in the eighteenth century too.) Fleury did of course note that no Charles Maron is to be found among the lists of avocats; but he did not comment on how odd it was that J.-F. de La Tour should have provided a forename for this sitter, but not for the 29 others in his list (apart from a royal). The solution is extremely simple, once you spot it: the sitter was surely Nicolas de Channe-Maron ( –1782), avocat au parlement from 1764; a straightforward mistranscription of Channe as Charles. I’m afraid it means I have to renumber the pastel, which is now J.46.1433 (but I retain a note of the former number J.46.2338: you need to be confident these numbers will always take you to the work).

But the pastel I want to discuss more fully is the study (above; Saint-Quentin inv. LT 50; J.46.1318 in the Dictionary) known in every source as of Mme Boëte (or Boëtte) de Saint-Léger. The name (without a title) comes from La Tour himself – written on the slip of paper that was originally included within the frame, and remains visible in some of the old reproductions, but is no longer to be seen today (the Goncourts 1867 went too far in doubting the inscription, while Champfleury 1886 and later Lapauze 1905 both insisted that the name was written directly on the pastel itself, which is evidently incorrect):

La Tour Boet de Saint Leger SQ old

La Tour paraphe SQIncidentally you can just make out in the lower left corner of this full image (from the 1916 German monograph by Hermann Erhard) the curious paraph that looks like an M which is found on quite a number of the préparations at Saint-Quentin (most again concealed by the new mounts), and has not as far as I know yet been deciphered. My suggestion is that these marks were added by Félix Mennechet at the time of the 1849 inventory; he was the administrator and perpetual secretary of the École de dessin (the symbol is probably a contraction, “Mt”).

All the La Tour literature to date has followed La Tour’s phonetic misspelling, and adds only the single fact mentioned in Champfleury’s discussion in 1886 (p. 38; the pastel is reproduced in a drawing by Henri-Patrice Dillon on the opposite page):

Certains de ces portraits portent un nom inscrit sur le papier même du pastel, qui ne laisse aucun doute sur la qualité des personnes: … ; Boëte de Saint-Léger, qui fut presque la compatriot du peintre, et que ses charmes aidèrent à tirer de la tourmente révolutionnaire.

This remark Champfleury justifies in a footnote:

Un registre de 1793 de la mairie de Ham constate que la citoyenne Anne-Julie Boëte de Saint-Léger habitait cette village depuis 1786 jusqu’au 3 février 1793, jour auquel la municipalité lui accorda un certificat de résidence.

And so all subsequent writers. Thus in 1991 Christine Debrie repeats this, adding only “On ne sait rien de plus de cette agréable personne”, described as Anne-Julie, Mme Boëte de Saint-Léger, while Debrie & Salmon in 2000 merely reproduce the pastel under the same name with no further comment. Erhard (1916, no. 37 repr., p. x) phrased it slightly differently: “Die munter-selbstgefällige Frau Boëtte de Saint-Léger stattet er mit einer fast belustigenden Gesundheit aus.”

What Champfleury (and all subsequent writers) failed to disclose was his source for the Ham certificat. It comes from a book by Charles Gomart, Ham, son château et ses prisonniers, 1864, p. 231, where the pastel is explicitly mentioned. The entry in fact spells her name correctly as “Boët de Saint-Léger”. The author was a local historian, and came across a name he recognised (he had donated a view of the Hôtel de ville to the museum in Saint-Quentin in 1850, and was evidently familiar with its contents) and assumed it must be the same person.

And although she (apparently) spent some eight years living in this small town, about 21 km west of Saint-Quentin, she was not in any sense a compatriot of the artist. She was not born there; there is nothing to suggest she lived there before 1785, and an exhaustive search of the burial records at Ham indicates she did not die there. (She might even have claimed a longer residence to avoid disclosing her Parisian background.)

Anne-Julie (Julie was her preferred name) was the daughter of Louis Boët de Saint-Léger ( –1741), an avocat au conseil du roi in Paris (reçu 1692: successive Almanachs record various addresses including the rue Saint-André). He also held a position as conseiller au présidial de Caudebec. The family may well have had its origins in Normandie, although I have been unable to demonstrate the connection with the family of the wealthy négociant Daniel Boüette of Rouen conjectured in one recent source.[1]

We do not know Julie’s exact date of birth, but it is likely to have been c.1720 as she married in 1738, according to this entry in the minutes of the notary (and La Tour subject) Pierre Laideguive (AN mc/xxiii 3.vii.1738):

Buterne Boet de St Leger

Her husband (whose name is not given in any La Tour publication I have seen) was Charles Buterne ( –1752), gendarme de la Garde ordinaire du roi, according to all documents in the Archives nationales. But in fact he was a musician and composer. He was the son of Jean-Baptiste Buterne ( –1727), composer, organiste de la chapelle du roi, maître de clavecin de la duchesse de Bourgogne and a former capitoul of Toulouse. Charles’s conversion from a military career to music is hinted at in the preface to the sonatas and method for the publication of which he obtained a royal warrant in 1745:

(Fétis and all subsequent musicological sources seem to err in misreading the warrant at the end of this volume as conferring on Charles the offices of his father.) The pieces may be slight, but it is difficult not to feel that the composer himself was rather engaging and as amiable as La Tour’s sitter appears. Nevertheless, following the birth of three children in quick succession after their marriage (first a son Louis-Charles, then two daughters, Charlotte-Jacques-Eléonore and Charlotte-Julie, baptised respectively at Saint-Louis-en-l’Isle 16.vii.1740 and Saint-Sulpice 17.x.1741), Julie obtained a séparation de biens from Charles, registered in 1742, after suing her husband for reasons that are not now clear. Charles’s death in 1752 would have simplified her legal position, and the Archives nationales include deeds for a number of property transactions in Paris until the move to Ham for which no other document has been found. One complication however concerned her son: in disposing of some property from their inheritance in 1786, Julie (still apparently in Paris rather than in Ham) required the court’s consent because her son had disappeared for several years without his family having any knowledge of his whereabouts or fate. The amounts involved were small, and it does not seem that Julie was particularly wealthy.

She would have been known as Anne-Julie Boët de Saint-Léger, femme de Charles Buterne. Here is how she signed[2] in 1754, two years after her husband’s death:

Boet de St Leger Avis Buterne AN Y4749B 29xi1754

Of course during the Revolution she was more likely to revert to her maiden name alone, as Citoyenne Boet de Saint-Léger. But La Tour’s inscription was surely written in the 1740s or 50s.

The question neither Gomart nor any subsequent art historian has asked was whether there was another Mme Boët de Saint-Léger? Debrie’s and other authors’ references to “Anne-Julie” simply derive from the Ham reference, which is only linked to the Saint-Quentin portrait by Gombert’s suggestion. The name is unique and the pedigree I have compiled, reproduced here with an extract below, lists only one other possibility (indeed one of the documents in the registres de tutelles comments on the absence of relatives): Julie’s sister-in-law.

Julie’s brother, Gabriel-Louis Boët de Saint-Léger (Paris 22.x.1705– Paris 20.xii.1779), was a wealthy financier with connections in international trade, extending from representing the Rouen Boüettes to Russian and Italian commerce with St Peterburg, Florence and Leghorn. One of the financiers heavily involved with the Italian trade was the subject of perhaps La Tour’s greatest portrait, Louis Duval de L’Épinoy (1745), while another fermier général who joined the same syndicate (awarded a nine-year lease by the state of Tuscany in 1741) was Jean-Baptiste Philippe, the subject of another very fine pastel by La Tour dated 1748 (J.46.2508).  One historian[3] described Boët de Saint-Léger as “un escroc” on the basis of his arbitrage operations for this syndicate, essentially involved in discounting bills on which he was entitled to a commission of 1/3% as well as the profits that accrued to his 5/24ths share of the bank they co-owned. His fraud led to complicated litigation in the 1740s, and it seems from information provided by the marquis de Stainville (Choiseul’s father), the chargé d’affaires for Tuscany in Paris, that Duval and Philippe were implicated in the scam: they and three of their colleagues were expelled from the syndicate. Immediately after, in 1746, Gabriel-Louis went to Russia to establish a new trading business there.

At some stage before 1734 Gabriel-Louis married Charlotte Courtois, the daughter of François Courtois, chef d’échansonnerie and pâtissier du roi (her parents married in 1710, but her date of birth is not known more precisely; she was probably several years older than Julie). There were at least three children, born from 1734 on; a grandchild even had the celebrated composer and chess-player Philidor as godfather (1774). But by 1749 the marriage had soured (perhaps Charlotte had no desire to go to St Petersburg), and Charlotte (like Julie, seven years earlier) obtained a séparation de biens from Gabriel-Louis. Unfortunately such arrangements did not have the full force of divorce, and when, in 1761, Charlotte was entitled to her share of a deceased aunt’s estate, Gabriel-Louis simply refused to give permission, and she had to go to court to obtain the necessary authorisation to inherit. The papers are all in the name of “Charlotte Courtois, femme Boët de Saint-Léger” as of course she still was.

Unless and until a finished portrait turns up corresponding to the preparation with an inscription or provenance that decisively identifies the sitter as Charlotte, Mme Boët de Saint-Léger, or as Anne-Julie Boët de Saint-Léger, Mme Buterne, I don’t think we can be entirely certain which lady La Tour portrayed, or precisely when. If we think the pastel was made in the mid-1740s, depicts a lady of a certain maturity, and was more likely to be commissioned by a wealthy husband of a wife from whom he was not yet separated, that husband working closely with other financiers portrayed by La Tour, we would be inclined to go for Charlotte rather than Julie. Such a narrative can easily be extended to explain why no finished pastel was completed, if the marital breakdown (or the discovery of financial irregularities and flight from France) supervened.

But in either case, the sitter was not a local Saint-Quentinoise: rather a member of a family of wealthy financiers, possibly connected too with the musical world – two of the other spheres from which La Tour drew so many of his clients.

Here is the family pedigree:

Louis Boët de Saint-Léger ( –1741), conseiller au présidial de Caudebec, avocat au conseil du roi à Paris, reçu 1692

⇒Gabriel-Louis Boët de Saint-Léger (Paris 22.x.1705– Paris 20.xii.1779) ∞ a.1734 (séparée 1749) Charlotte Courtois (p.1711–p.1761), fille de François Courtois, chef d’échansonnerie;

⇒⇒Francois-Louis Boët de Saint-Léger (1734–p.1781) ∞ Anne-Marie-Louise Lettrier

⇒⇒⇒Marie-Andrée (12.vi1774– ): parain André Danican-Philidor

⇒⇒Louis Charles Boët de Saint-Léger (1736–1812), chev. SL, capitaine du regiment de Soissonois

⇒⇒Charlotte-Elisabeth (Paris 2.vii.1737 – p.1789), pension 1789 ∞ Jean-Guillaume de Masin, comte d’Arquian, commandeur de ND du Mont-Carmel

⇒⇒⇒Gabrielle-Charlotte-Magdeleine (1767– ) ∞ Alexandre Baudron de La Motte

⇒Anne-Julie (a.1720–p.1793), habite à la ville de Ham 1785–93  ∞ 1738 (séparé 1742) Charles Buterne ( –Paris 17.v.1752), gendarme de la Garde ordinaire du roi, compositeur

⇒⇒Louis-Charles Buterne (absent depuis quelques années en 1786)

⇒⇒Charlotte-Jacques-Eléonore (Paris, St Louis en l’Isle 16.vii.1740– )

⇒⇒Charlotte-Julie (Paris, St Sulpice 17.x.1741– )


[1] Jean-Marie Delobette, Ces Messieurs du Havre. Négociants, commissionnaires et armateurs de 1680 à 1830, 2002, p. 274 & passim.

[2] AN Y4749B registres de tutelles, avis Buterne, 29.xi.1754.

[3] Jean-Claude Waquet,  “La ferme de Lombart (1741-1749). Pertes et profits d’une compagnie française en Toscane”, Revue d’histoire modern et contemporaine, xxv/4, 1978, pp. 513–29.

Liotard’s Le Déjeuner Lavergne

Liotard Lavergne ngLiotard JF au chocolat DresdenIn the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden (until 6 January), you can see the Liotard exhibition “Das schönste Pastell, das man je gesehen hat.” Das Schokoladenmädchen von Jean-Etienne Liotard, based around the hugely famous Belle Chocolatière (left; known under various names, and annoyingly filed in my Dictionary as J.49.1342, under the false name of Gräfin Dietrichstein – lexicographers[1] have to stick to rules even when they yield odd results). The title of the show – “the most beautiful pastel ever seen” – is attributed to Rosalba Carriera, but comes to us indirectly from a letter by Algarotti to Graf Brühl:

Je ne parlererai pas ici de la Magdelaine de la Rosalba, regardée par elle mème comme son chef d’œuvre, ni de la Stoubmenche [de Liotard] qui a été considerée par tous les Peintres de Venise, et par la Rosalba même comme le plus beau Pastel qu’on ait jamais vu.

But the key here (after what today we would call full disclosure: Algarotti had just bought the Chocolatière for Dresden) is the date, 23 April 1746: some 18 years before the pastel reproduced at the top of this post, Le Déjeuner des demoiselles Lavergne (or whatever it should be called – it is no. J.49.1795 in the online[2] Dictionary of pastellists), had been produced.

Rosalba Marie Madeleine Dresden P61Although Le Déjeuner is in a private collection and has not been seen in public since 1916, many Liotard experts – including Marcel Roethlisberger, author with Renée Loche of the monumental and definitive catalogue raisonné on the artist (I shall refer to the 2008 edition below as R&L) – believe it has a fair claim to compete with if not supplant the Chocolatière for the “fairest of them all” title. I’m not sure whether such a discussion is particularly fruitful; whether many (unless perhaps they shared the artist’s extreme piety) would today regard the Madeleine (Dresden; right) as Rosalba’s chef-d’œuvre; or, even if quoted correctly, whether Rosalba herself had ever seen anything by La Tour or Perronneau – nor is this post the place to compare and contrast what Liotard was doing in Lyon in 1754 with what say Perronneau was doing there just five years later (see here), or for that matter with the pastel which La Tour was working on in Paris the same year, and would exhibit the following year in the Salon de 1755: his monumental pastel of Mme de Pompadour, star of the recent show in the Louvre (below).

La Tour Pompadour Louvre

Nevertheless I’ve been prompted to think a little more about Le Déjeuner, and in particular to tidy up a few of the loose ends surrounding it – some minute points about the history of the pastel, followed by the question of the identification of the sitters. There is no need for me to repeat R&L’s full and informative discussion, which brings together literature going back to the mention in Liotard’s own 1760 autobiographie, “un de ses principaux ouvrages…ses nièces”, as well as Moücke’s biography for the Museo Fiorentino (published 1762, iv, p. 276), “due quadri…de suoi nipoti, uno pagato dugento ghinee…d’un Cannon [Duncannon].”

The work is clearly (and unambiguously) signed and dated (on the sheet of music protruding from the drawer) “Liotard/a lion/1754”: earlier writers have been confused by the existence of a later replica, in oil, made by Liotard in 1773, and the pastel had also been reported as dated 1750 by writers up to the first edition of L&R in 1978. This may have been because everyone thought that Liotard was in London 1753–55, but as the notice in the Public advertiser (13 March 1755) that I first published in 2013 made clear, Liotard made a short visit back to Lion in the summer of 1754:

Liotard Public Advertiser 13iii1755

Undoubtedly one of the conversation pieces he mentions was Le Déjeuner; the other presumably was L’Écriture, the 1752 portrait (Vienna, KHM; J.49.1763) of his nephew Jacques-Antoine Lavergne with a boy sometimes described as Lavergne’s nephew, but identified by the artist as “un laquais” (see comment to cat. no. 76 on this post). Most readers of this blog will have seen it in the Liotard exhibition in London in 2015.

Liotard Homme et enfant Vienna LR138

Possibly the same boy appears in profile, again with a candle, in another piece (J.49.2441) which I identified as by Liotard in my Burlington Magazine review of R&L (May 2009) – later confirmed by Marcel Roethlisberger in his “Liotard mis à jour” article in Zeitschrift für schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, 2014 (fig. 3):

An. G a la bougie Rouen3iii1976 L241

Le Déjeuner, but not the others, was bought by Lord Duncannon (later 2nd Earl of Bessborough) for the then enormous sum of 200 guineas. Modern day comparisons are of limited value, but using official inflation figures (my Twitter followers will know how useless I think such indices are) this equates to roughly £40,000 in today’s money. By comparison the 120 zecchini he received for the Chocolatière in 1745 amounts to some £12,000. We know Bessborough had Le Déjeuner by the time of the 1760 and 1762 biographies I mention above, as both report the sum. I can also add to the history that it was seen by Sir William Musgrave[3] at Roehampton in 1785, when he described it as of “Liotard’s two nieces”:

Musgrave Roehampton

It was however apparently overlooked by the Rev. Daniel Lysons, who noted in 1792 “in the breakfast room [at Roehampton] are several [portraits] in crayons of English gentlemen, principally in Turkish dresses, by Liotard.”

We know that Bessborough was concerned about the stability of pastels, and corresponded with Liotard about fixing methods. Liotard recommended Jurine, although whether Bessborough employed him, or on which pastels, is not so clear.[4] (Some of the other Bessborough pastels have not survived well; my article on Jurine, which discusses his introduction to and work for the Earl, suggests he was markedly less competent than is rival Loriot notwithstanding Liotard’s assurance to the contrary.)

The 2nd Earl of Bessborough died in 1793, and his son inherited financial problems, leading to the disposal of the collection. Le Déjeuner was purchased (7 February 1801, Lot 75*, as “a Lady and child at breakfast, in crayons, an inimitable performance”) at, or immediately after[5], the sale, by Aubrey Beauclerk, 5th Duke of St Albans (1740–1802), who in turn died soon after, so that the pastel was again put up at auction (not recorded in R&L), at Christie’s, 27 March 1802, Lot 78, as “portraits [sic] of a young lady and gouvernante at breakfast”. In 1805 it was bought (apparently directly[6] from Bessborough through Christie’s) by Luke Foreman (1757–1814), from a wealthy family of Portuguese merchants, who formed an art collection with his wife, née Mary Chandler (1763–1834). It was particularly rich in Dutch pictures (Jan Steen, Teniers etc., and including a flower piece by the painter Liotard so much admired, Jan van Huysum). Some of their collection was acquired by Mr and Mrs Foreman on a Continental tour between 1802 and 1804, in France, Italy and Germany, buying up pictures that the Napoleonic wars had made available. After Foreman’s death, his widow (who went on to acquire and furnish Farnborough Hill) prepared a detailed inventory of their picture collection, recording details of each purchase.[7] In relation to the Liotard however all that is recorded against “a large Crayons Drawing/a Lady & Child, Le Dejeuné/by Liotard ye Turk/Lyons 1751” is “Christie’s sale of Earl Besboro’, “April 1805”:

Foreman inventory

In a very long will she bequeathed many of the pictures individually (not to mention the marble cistern that had belonged to William Beckford), among them landscapes by Canaletto and Hackert, but there is no mention of the Liotard:

ForemanMary will 1835

So it went into her sale at Christie’s, 30 March 1835, where it was bought in at 30 guineas, and passed to her residual legatee and nephew, Edward Greene. It remained within the Foreman/Chandler/Greene family until the death (114 years after Foreman’s purchase) of Greene’s great-niece, Mrs Golding-Palmer, and appeared in her sale, again at Christie’s, 28 July 1916, Lot 5 (as of a lady and her daughter), reaching 1200 guineas (about £115,000 today). It was bought for Asher Wertheimer, and sold shortly after his death, in October 1918, for a modest profit, to Eugene Pinto (R&L describe this as a “vente après décès”, but it appears not to have been an auction). It remained in that family for many more years, and its present superb condition must owe something to the fact that it has been displaced so rarely.[8]

So who are the sitters? Perhaps after all it doesn’t really matter – not because I don’t think that sitters in portraits don’t matter, but because in a sense this is not a portrait, nor even a conversation piece – nor perhaps does it even belong in the “genre” genre: it is rather a still life with coffee set and two humans in attendance. The papers in which the child’s hair is being curled, the impasto reflections on the coffee pot, even the pins holding up the lady’s apron are as prominent as the faces. Visually only the vast depth of empty background is odd. The overall brown hue might bring Mariette’s criticism of Liotard’s work to mind: “la couleur tirait presque toujours sur celle du pain d’épice” – although this is darker than the habitual background in his portraits. The French will not take this quintessential Liotard to their hearts; but everyone else will.[9]

You can see immediately how Liotard differs from the French tradition (and indeed that Liotard was not a French painter) by comparing Le Déjeuner with a picture by Jean-Siméon Chardin, a painter whose influence on Liotard runs deep. A telling example is his much loved Petite Maîtresse d’école from the 1740 salon (London, National Gallery, NG 4077).[10] Chardin, the still-life painter, concentrates on the faces and the bond between the girl and her pupil; Liotard, the portraitist, focuses on the accessories, and puts the aunt’s face in half-shadow.

Chardin Gouvernante NG

As we know, when Liotard returned to England in 1773, he took the opportunity to copy Bessborough’s pastel, in oil.

Liotard Dejeuner Lavergne pnt

What is perhaps astonishing is just how closely he has followed every stroke of the pastel in this repetition – just as a professional copyist would attempt, rather than (as say a La Tour) simply recreating the effect. There are however several interesting differences. One is that Liotard has added a shadow partly to fill the void at the centre of the picture – but at the same time has accentuated the sense of emptiness by enlarging the height; he also seems minutely to have changed the inclination of the older sitter’s head, tilting it away from us. Secondly the reflections of the double window on the milk jug and coffee pot are much crisper on the pastel than the oil; while the blue colour, so central to the pattern on the china in the pastel, appears in the oil to have turned to an anaemic yellowish-brown: he may well have used smalt (the girl’s apron and hair ribbon have not faded, and may perhaps be in Prussian blue). While there is a general darkening of the colour in the oil, it is noticeable that what appears to be fading of the red lake on the older sitter’s dress, exposing the darker red intended to be the shadows, is captured precisely in the oil. Had the lake colours in the pastel already faded in the 19 years it had been exposed to light? Quite possibly. On the other hand the fading in the little girl’s yellow dress in the pastel means we can no longer see the highlights carefully depicted in the oil: either Liotard recreated them, or they have faded since.

Visually the most striking part of the picture is the extraordinary brilliance of the breakfast set, whose complexity takes that of the Chocolatière to a new level. Perhaps the weakest parts of the drawing are the hands, with an absence of anatomy within the distinctive red outlines: the artist’s lack of formal training is often most exposed here, although there are a few examples (such as the Geneva self-portrait, J.49.1014) that show that he could do hands when he chose.[11]

Liotard’s willingness to copy his most important work, often far later, is not unusual. In an earlier blog post I discussed the case of the repetition of Mme Necker, undertaken with a view to persuading her husband to give his nephew a job rather than (as the Empress Maria Theresia thought) because he couldn’t stand the distress of not owning his masterpieces (“il a fait voir de la peine de n’être plus possesseur de ce tableau”). That of course could well have been the motivation for the copy of Le Déjeuner. But Liotard’s correspondence and Graf Zinzendorf’s evidence remind us of just how labour-intensive making these copies was – perhaps taking considerably longer than the original.

I digress: the sitters must be discussed. In his 1760 autobiographie Liotard only lists “deux tableaux, faisant le sujet de ses neveux & nieces”, hardly specific enough to decide the question. The conclusion R&L come to is that the older figure is of Catherine Lavergne, Liotard’s niece, and the little girl is her orphan niece, Mlle Clarens. Their argument synthesises the information given by Tilanus, who had married the artist’s great-granddaughter and vouchsafed the name Clarence, with the repeated mentions (four) by Liotard that the subjects were a mother and daughter. The argument was that Catherine may have adopted her recently orphaned niece. Catherine incidentally I can confirm (R&L ask the question) never married.

Before reading any further ask yourself what age they are. An impossible question, as always, particularly with Liotard. Bear in mind that the lady’s elder sister Marie-Anne[12] (1717–1790), depicted much earlier (1746) as La Liseuse (J.49.1765, Rijksmuseum), was 29 when this was done:

Liotard Mlle Lavergne Rijksmuseum

My guess for the older figure in Le Déjeuner is that she could be anywhere between 18 and 35. But I think the younger girl can be aged with more precision. Remember that that was how I solved the mystery of the cover girl in the Liotard 2015 exhibition:

Liotard Mlle Liotard avec poupee

Not Marianne Liotard at all, but her sister Marie-Thérèse, the Empress Maria Theresia’s goddaughter (which is why Liotard sent her portrait to Vienna) – aged 6. Looking at the proportions of the body, hands and head, isn’t the girl in Le Déjeuner the same age? And certainly not the 10 or so R&L suggest? For another parallel, here’s the exquisite pastel in the Getty (J.49.163; it may well be another contender for the most beautiful Liotard): Frederica Maria van Reede-Athlone is shown at the age of seven, and is surely more advanced physically than the little girl in Le Déjeuner:

Liotard MF van Reede Athlone Getty

For we have to tie this in with the genealogy of the family, which you can find here (somewhat expanded from R&L). The genealogical discussions to date, pursued with some depth by Marie-Félicie Perez in Genava in 1997 (but not without error), and summarised by R&L (but still incompletely), rely on the fairly thorough genealogical records of the state of Geneva, and the desperately inadequate records for Protestants in Lyon, which for the period in question record only deaths. The branch of the family which concerns us here is that of Liotard’s elder sister Sara (1690–1757) who, in 1713, married François Lavergne (1678–1752), a négociant in Geneva, who settled in Lyon at some stage between 1732 (when the youngest of their children was baptised in Geneva: since Sara was then 42, it is unlikely any further children were born) and 1735 (when the death of their four-and-a-half-year-old daughter Élisabeth was recorded in Lyon).

This is as full an account as I have been able to glean from the available records of the branch that interests us:

Sara (Genève 12.iii.1692 – Lyon 31.v.1757) ∞ Genève, Temple de La Madeleine 26.ii.1713 François Lavergne (1678–Lyon 25.x.1752), fils de Daniel Mialhe La Vergne, de Vabre près Castres, négociant de Genève, établi à Lyon

⇒Jean Lavergne (Genève 27.iii.1715 – Lyon 19.vii.1776)

⇒Anne, dite Marie-Anne Lavergne (Genève 24.ii.1717 –1790)

⇒Jeanne Lavergne (Genève 30.i.1720– Lyon 27.i.1749) ∞ François Delessert (1721– Lyon 15.iii.1752), natif de Cossonay en Suisse, négociant à Lyon, fils de Gabriel de Lessert (1682–1738), conseiller de Cossonay

⇒⇒Anne  (Lyon .i.1749 – Cossonay 15.v.1802) ∞ Louis Gleyre, pasteur

⇒Marie-Louise Lavergne (Genève 26.vii.1721– Lyon 27.ix.1745) ∞ Genève 26.iv.1740 Daniel Clarenc (Puylaurens, ND du Lac 6.ii.1709 –Puylaurens, prot. 15.iv.1781), de Puylaurens, négociant à Lyon

⇒⇒Marie-Françoise Clarenc (1741–14.xii.1759) ∞ 8.i.1759 Jacob Vernes (Genève 31.v.1728–22.x.1791)

⇒⇒⇒Anne Vernes (5.xii.1759–15.vii.1770)

⇒⇒Pierre Clarenc ∞ Puylaurens Elisabeth Favar

⇒Catherine Lavergne (Genève 3.v.1723 – Lyon 27.i.1757sa)

⇒Jacques-Antoine Lavergne (Genève 24.xii.1724–8.x.1781sa), citoyen de Genève, banquier à Lyon

⇒Marguerite (Genève– )

⇒Anne-Andrienne Lavergne (Genève 11.viii.1728– Lyon 27.iv.1768sa)

⇒Jeanne-Elisabeth Lavergne (Genève 22.xii.1730– Lyon 17.ix.1735)

⇒Hugues Lavergne (Genève 20.iii.1732–1767), négociant

From the pedigree I think you can see that the identification even of the older figure is far from certain, pace R&L: although Marie-Anne can be eliminated as her face and hair colour are wrong, and while Jeanne, Louise and Élisabeth were all dead, I think either Marguerite or Andrienne (respectively 27 and 26 at the date of the pastel) might be shown just as easily as Catherine. We cannot even be sure that the girls aren’t children of the négociant Jean Lavergne, who died in 1776, not 1729 as R&L have, and was old enough to have a 20-year-old daughter (although we do not know if he married at all).

I think the key thing that has been overlooked is that when Tilanus was proposing to identify the little girl as Mlle Clarens or Clarence, he believed the pastel was dated 1750 when a six-year-old daughter could well have been born to the Lavergne sister who had died in 1745. Here is how the oil was described in the Amsterdam exhibition of 1872 (overlooked until I published it in 2015):


In 1844 Marie-Anne Liotard-Crommelin (the artist’s granddaughter, Mme Tilanus’s aunt, and the lender in 1872) merely mentions[13] “Lavergne & nicht”; Tilanus (in 1897 – and his familiarity with the family genealogy may be gauged by his thinking that Sara Liotard married a Pierre Lavergne) may well have supplied the name based solely on the only reference to Clarens in Liotard’s own writing – in a letter to François Tronchin, from Lyon, 6 April 1781, where he reported “j’ay commencé 2 portraits mon petit Neveu et niepce Claring mes trois niepces Nanette Gotton et Marianne ont une son extraordinaire de satisfaire a tous mes gouts…” The absence of punctuation is unhelpful, but R&L are probably correct to read this as portraits of his great-nephew and great-niece Clarens, while the three nieces merely looked after his needs (R&L suggest respectively Anne, Marguerite and Andrienne, but Andrienne was already dead). Since only two nieces, strictly speaking, had survived, one suspects that Liotard was using these terms loosely. It could even be that Liotard uses “petit” as a physical description of the first, and the list mixes nieces and great-nieces. We don’t know if the two portraits were completed.

The archives are resoundingly silent on the Clarens family, although that is the spelling on Louise’s burial entry:

Marie Lavergne Mme clarens m 1745

I suspected (encouraged by Liotard’s phonetic spelling) that this might be a confusion with the Clarenc family of Protestant bankers in Lyon, originating in Puylaurens – and on checking the Geneva state archives I found that indeed Marie-Louise Lavergne did not marry “Louis Clarens” but, on 26 April 1740, a Daniel Clarenc from Puylaurens.[14] There are several homonyms, but the most likely was Daniel Clarenc (1710–1781), bourgeois de Puylaurens.[15] Although Puylaurens is a long way from either Lyon or Geneva, it should be remembered that François Lavergne actually came from Vabre, which is just the other side of Castres from Puylaurens. There was a daughter: Marie-Françoise Clarenc, who married Jacob Vernes in 1759, dying later that year in her eighteenth year, a few days after giving birth to a daughter, Anne, who herself would die young. Marie-Françoise Clarenc would have been an improbable 12 or 13 at the time of the Liotard pastel. There was also a son: a Pierre Clarenc old enough to marry an Elisabeth Favar in Puylaurens, 10 June 1770. He was surely the négociant à Lyon mentioned in Lüthy[16] as a partner with Jean-Louis Grenus, citoyen de Genève in the firm of Gaillard, Grenus & Cie de Lyon from 1779 on (the Vernes were also connected with the firm). Pierre and Marie-Françoise might of course have had an unrecorded younger sister: but she would have been at least 8¾ at the time of the pastel, and she was not then an orphan as her father was still alive.[17] And while the 1781 letter indicates that a Mlle Clarenc survived, there is nothing other than Tilanus’s statement to identify the little girl as her (and that might be his false deduction from his mistaken belief that the pastel was dated 1750).

Isn’t it more probable that the great-niece in Le Déjeuner was the child of Mme Delessert, who lived to 1749? None of the investigations to date has looked beyond Jeanne’s burial entry:

Jeanne Lavergne Delessert deces 1749

nor will the answer be found in online genealogy searches. But from an old volume of the Annuaire de noblesse (1907), I was able to find more about this side of the family (see here for my genealogy; all the online genealogies follow d’Hozier in reporting this branch of the family as extinct, and list no children to François’s father). François Delessert was a cousin of the much better known Gabriel-Étienne Delessert (1735–1816), the Paris banker with an extended family of financiers and a pair de France. (Purely coincidentally – or rather as an indication of how small the Protestant world then was – I can’t help but note that another of François Delessert’s Lyon cousins, Paul-Benjamin Delessert, was married to Marie-Anne-Suzanne Massé, great-niece of Liotard’s master[18] in Paris.) We know that François and Jeanne had a daughter Anne – Jeanne died giving birth to her. Anne married a pastor, Louis Gleyre, of whom little is known, although he almost certainly belonged to a family of notaries in Cossonay, where Anne died on 15 May 1802.[19] So we know that Anne was an orphan by 1754, was five years old then, and might well have been adopted by one of her aunts.

So I think the best view is that the sitters in Le Déjeuner are one of Catherine, Marguerite or Andrienne Lavergne, together with their orphaned niece, Anne Delessert (1749–1802), future Mme Louis Gleyre.


[1] Pastels in the Dictionary are arranged alphabetically by the sitter’s name where known, including under names by which they were previously known unless a more accurate name has emerged (when a cross reference sends the reader to the better name). It usually works quite well as a compromise.

[2] Most readers of this blog will already know that the Dictionary is online at Articles on individual artists can be accessed from the Artists tab on the home page; the Liotard article is split into several pdfs. Each of the more than 35,000 pastels in the work is given a unique digital object identifier, such as J.49.1795, which are arranged in double decimal sequence throughout. You can search for these using the search box on the home page on the website which takes you to the pdf, then search again within. You can also usually get there quickly by searching “J.49.1795”, in quotes, in Google. In this blog post I use abbreviated bibliographic references; these can all be found in the Dictionary. I’ve written previously about Liotard on this blog, but a summary of those miscellaneous posts can be found in my essay Liotardiana.

[3] Although the existence of Musgrave’s lists was publicised by Arlene Meyer in The Walpole Society in 1988, you still have to consult the original manuscripts in the British Library. The entries are all perfunctory, often tantalising, in this case with limited information – but in others (such as the Dr Thompson entry several lines below, J.49.2324) offer conclusive proof of my identification where previous researchers have erred.

[4] Jurine’s advertisement claiming Bessborough as a client should be treated with due caution. I have not so far been able to inspect the back of the pastel for evidence of when it was last opened, but if Jurine worked on it, the dates would surely be between 1763 and 1765. Scientific tests (known as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) might attempt to detect the presence of fish-glue.

[5] An annotation in a copy (at the Koninklijk Oudheidkundig Genootschap, Amsterdam) of the St Albans’s sale catalogue states that the picture was bought in at the Bessborough sale, at £89/5/-.

[6] Neither R&L nor other accounts mention the appearance in the St Albans sale; it may be that Christie’s slipped it into another vendor’s auction. The 1801 price of 85 gns is roughly £6600 today; the 1802 37 gns a mere £2900, both credibly below any reserve.

[7] Charles Sebag-Montefiore, “A Regency collection: Luke Foreman (1757–1814) and his wife Mary (1764?–1834)” (Furniture History, lii, 2016, pp. 143–79), provides a detailed account of the collection, and acquired the inventory which passed through Bonhams in a manuscript sale in 2009. I am most grateful to him for permitting me to reproduce the relevant page in the inventory.

[8] And not I suggest to Jurine’s ministrations: see note above.

[9] The oil repetition was offered to d’Angiviller in 1785, but rejected – at least it escaped the annotation on the Liseuse: “detestable”.

[10] Generally thought to have been painted c.1736, Liotard had left Paris in 1735; but he may well have been aware of the Lépicié engraving (exhibited at the same salon, and known throughout Europe), and he returned to Paris in 1748. In any case the influences of Chardin on Liotard’s work were profound.

[11] Lady Fawkener (J.49.1469), for example, is not one of those: at first sight one of the most beautiful pastels ever made, the modelling of her hands is below the level of a student.

[12] She was actually baptised Anne.

[13] In relation to the oil repetition which she owned until her death; it was subsequently acquired by the Rothschild family. “Nota der schilderijen overgenomen door Mejuffrouw M.A. Liotard van deszelfds broeder den Heere J.T. Liotard 12 July 1844.” The Hague, Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie, Familie-archief Liotard, FA/205/7/U7.

[14] A David Clarenc from Puylaurens, son of Daniel and Antoinette Malabiou and uncle of this most likely Daniel Clarenc, was a theology student at the University of Geneva from 1709 to 1712 (where he may have known François Lavergne); he was a pastor in Jutschen and then Bernau, Prussia, where he died in 1749: see Camille Rabaud, Histoire du protestantisme dans l’Albigeois et le Lauraguais, 1898, p. 80; Patric Ferté & Caroline Barrera, Étudiants de l’exil…, Toulouse, 2009, p. 68; Suzanne Stelling-Michaud, Le Livre du recteur de l’Académie de Genève, 1966, i, p. 515.

[15] The identification of this homonym (the only one of a credible age) is supported also by the entry in the Puylaurens burial register in 1781, where his forename is entered as Pierre before being corrected to Daniel. He may well have been known by this name to distinguish him from his father and grandfather, both Daniel.

[16] In the invaluable La Banque protestante en France, 1961, ii, p. 514, n.64.

[17] He was alive at the time of Pierre’s marriage in 1770, and as argued in a previous note was almost certainly the Daniel Clarenc who died in 1781.

[18] As I’ve pointed out before, the contractual arrangement was not one of apprentissage but of allouage. Liotard never had a conventional French training.

[19] Further to the undated reference in the 1907 Annuaire, and after this note was first posted, I was able to obtain a copy of the entry in Gaston de Lessert, Famille de Lessert: souvenirs et portraits, 1904 (my thanks to Étienne Burgy, conservateur at the Bibliothèque de Genève: no copy is known outside Switzerland), which provides us with Anne’s dates (I have made some consequential amendments to the text above). It  has not been possible to find any further information about Anne or her husband, although he may have been the Louis Gleyre, marchand à Cossonay, who died in 1799 (Bulletin helvétique). (I am grateful to Ramona Fritschi at BCU Lausanne for consulting an unpublished list of pasteurs at Cossonay by Henri Vuilleumier in which Gleyre’s name does not appear, suggesting that he did pursue a different career.) It is also possible that he was the Louis Gleyre who published French miscellanies, a language tutor, in Dublin in 1785. The painter Charles Gleyre (1806–1874) may well have been connected, but was not a direct descendant.

Postscript – 28 November 2018

I am pleased to report that the pastel has now been lent to the National Gallery, where from today it can be seen in Room 33. The magnificent frame is also visible for the first time.DtGZk9kXQAAtWnj

Postscript – 6 December 2018

A note on the National Gallery website today again revives the identification of the sitters as mother and daughter. Perhaps I glossed over this too readily above, referring merely to Liotard’s four descriptions with this phrase. One is in a letter to Lord Bessborough, 28 June 1763. Another is in the list of his works sent to d’Angiviller in 1785; and there are two references in his 1781 Traité. It is clear in all of these that Liotard has no interest in identifying the sitters or in describing them in any other context than as elements in a still life (nor would d’Angiviller or readers of the Traité have been interested in their names, and perhaps not Bessborough either). In contrast the reference in the 1760 autobiographie makes it clear that they are his nieces – even if he uses that term loosely. As explained above, Tilanus solved the problem of the absence of any Lavergne mother/daughter combination by identifying the girl as an orphan niece: but because he had the wrong date for the picture, he got the wrong niece.

Garrick, Zoffany and … Barber?

Zoffany, Johann, 1733-1810; David GarrickLast night’s episode of Bendor Grosvenor’s Britain’s Lost Masterpieces had us all on the edge of our seats as he investigated a painting once thought to be by Zoffany but since relegated to a series of implausible alternative attributions and identifications. Whether it had anything to do with the musician Charles Burney or indeed with Zoffany’s great patron David Garrick remains sadly undecided, but it prompted me to have a quick look at one of the (many) established portraits of Garrick by Zoffany. This is the 1762/63 portrait now in the Ashmolean Museum (above; photo: The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology) of which there are numerous versions,  one c.1763, the others much later. There’s no need for me to discuss it at length, as Mary Webster has done that for us, fascinatingly, at pp. 85ff of her monumental work on the artist. The mask on the left is of course Melpomene (but I think Webster is mistaken in identifying the bearded mask on the right as Thalia – perhaps it is Pan?), and the link to classical drama need not be explained.

But what I think has not been noticed is a possible inspiration of this curious composition – the pastel of Jonathan Swift by the Irish artist Rupert Barber (see my article). This too exists in numerous versions – indeed the NPG have versions both of the Zoffany and of the Barber, as well as two prints after the latter, but the one that probably matters most is that (J.1246.105 in the Dictionary, now in Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania) belonging to Dr Richard Mead when it was engraved in 1751, as that sets a terminus ante quem for the pastel which may or may not have been made in Swift’s lifetime:

Barber Swift Bryn Mawr

Is this purely coincidental? Perhaps, although for me the visual parallel is too close for pure coincidence. Further Garrick had been in Dublin in 1742 – while the Commission on Lunacy was being conducted into Dr Swift’s sanity. Garrick was sufficiently interested in his work to write his own Lilliput: A Dramatic Entertainment in 1756 – more homage than adaptation: but it is inconceivable that he would not have been aware of the engraving of Barber’s striking image, the frontispiece of Lord Orrery’s collection of Swift’s writings. Did Garrick suggest the composition to Zoffany? We shall probably never know.

But there is another equally tantalising idea. Here, in the British Museum,  is the cameo ring that belonged to Dean Swift:


and which may well have prompted Barber’s image (although the addition of the books and leaves derives from Miller’s much more conventional engraving of Bindon’s portrait of Swift). I’m not going to attempt to rehearse the highly complicated Swift iconogoraphy – there are books devoted to that, but I raise the point because I think the jump from cameo to pastel profile (with all the attendant questions of paragone etc.) arises too with another artist at this time – one whom Garrick knew well from the time of his own portrait by him, made in Paris in 1751 (now in Chatsworth), and to the later portraits of his wife (a pendant also in Chatsworth, and a lost pastel), made during Jean-Étienne Liotard’s first London trip. (Garrick had a large number of pastels in his own collection.)

As is well known during that trip (in 1754) Liotard made similar cameo profiles of his patrons Viscount Duncannon (later 2nd Earl of Bessborough – as I shall call him) and Sir Everard Fawkener. These are respectively in the Rijksmuseum and the V&A:

It is assumed that the inspiration for these was the cameo portrait of Duncannon made by Lorenz Natter and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as published by Jonny Yarker in his catalogue note on the version of Bessborough formerly at Welbeck:


But convincing though this connection is, art history is rarely a matter of single-chain causality. An idea resonates when it comes from different directions. Liotard would also have known the Roman cameo of Montesquieu just issued by his friend Dassier (1753):

Dassier fils Montesquiou n

And Garrick, Liotard and Bessborough would probably have been exposed to all these images. As Yarker explains, Bessborough’s interest in gemstones was probably stimulated by his relationship with the Cavendish family (the Liotard Garrick portraits are at Chatsworth): his brother-in-law, the 4th Duke of Devonshire, married the sister of Lord Orrery, Swift’s editor, while at the time of Liotard’s portrait, Bessborough was negotiating the purchase of cameos from Dr Mead’s collection.

There’s far too much material here for a full account in a blog. Perhaps a TV programme at some stage?

Greuze autoPostscript

Without attempting to undertake a comprehensive account, I can’t help showing Greuze’s self-portrait in the Ashmolean (sadly not illustrated on their website) which would take us down a different avenue, but again confirming the breadth of interest in this topic. It was engraved in 1763, and must have been done around the same time as the Zoffany.

An elusive abbé

Orleans Cab des pastels Twitter14vii2018In the last few years, the musée des Beaux-Arts in Orléans has been transformed with a complete renovation, a pioneering exhibition devoted to Perronneau in 2017 and most recently the reopening of the cabinet des pastels – vying with Saint-Quentin for the second place after the Louvre’s unequalled holdings. But more than that, the museum under Olivia Voisin’s guidance has taken a far higher profile in promoting its work, including intelligent use of social media and other ways of engaging the community of art historians to develop an understanding of the collection. In particular the works on paper, in the capable hands of Valérie Luquet, have been more open to discussion than ever. This blog – which doesn’t however provide a complete answer to the question, but perhaps illustrates the uncertainties I grapple with daily – is prompted by one of Valérie’s recent tweets, including photographs taken while caring for the beautiful La Tour known as the abbé Reglet (it’s second from the right above, but you can find it in the online Dictionary of pastellists at J.46.2679; B&W 416):

La Tour Reglet Orleans

Several confusions surround the work which the shorthand in the Dictionary compact too far for most readers. They stem from unfortunate conflations made in particular by Georges Wildenstein in 1928 (“B&W”) and probably before. The clue is in the graphite inscription of which Valérie posted this image (detail):

La Tour Reglet Orleans d3 ed nj

From which you can see that whenever the inscription was added, there was something different underneath. This is not La Tour’s writing, nor is it likely that the earlier, now illegible, words were his. We can almost certainly conclude that they were placed by a dealer who wanted to relate the portrait of an inconnu to one of the named sitters La Tour is known to have exhibited. Why not choose the pastel shown in 1769, of an “abbé Reglet” (Dictionary, J.46.2675) whose name comes from an annotation of the salon livret by Gabriel de Saint-Aubin? It’s an abbé, from about the right period (on technical grounds), and it has the advantage of being lost. Further Diderot commented favourably (you can find all the salon critiques of La Tour’s work here):

Mais venons aux morceaux de cet artiste. Savez-vous que c’était? Quatre chefs-d’œuvre renfermés dans un châssis de sapin, quatre Portraits. Ah! Mon ami, quels portraits, mais surtout celui d’un abbé! C’était une vérité et une simplicité dont je ne crois pas avoir encore vu d’exemples: pas l’ombre de manière, la nature toute pure et sans art, nulle prétention dans la touche, nulle affectation de contraste dans la couleur, nulle gêne dans la position. C’est devant ce morceau de toile grand comme la main que l’homme instruit qui réfléchissait s’écriait: Que la peinture est un art difficile!…et que l’homme instruit qui n’y pensait pas s’écriait: O que cela est beau!

So the pastel with this inscription, which was sold in 1910, 1917 and 1992 (when Orléans acquired it), was considered to be of the abbé Reglet and conflated with the work exhibited in 1769 – even though Gabriel de Saint-Aubin had added a sketch in his copy of the livret which was plainly of a completely different portrait:

Saint Aubin ar La Tour Reglet

Bafflingly B&W reproduced both images, but didn’t seem to see the problem – although it has not escaped later authors, among them the useful discussion in Debrie & Salmon 2000, p. 88. There it is suggested that the sitter might be another abbé – the abbé de Lattaignant, exhibited two years previously, and also described by Diderot (in less flattering terms: “la figure crapuleuse et basse de ce vilain abbé de Lattaignant” – but then it was the sitter rather than the pastel that he didn’t like). Although the suggestion is seductive, no attempt is made to support it by investigating this poet’s iconography – which in any case is always hazardous. You could perhaps almost persuade yourself that this profile (from Lattaignant’s poems, 1757) is of the same man:

An Abbe Lattaignant

But what isn’t plausible is that in 1767, Lattaignant was 70 years old. The Orléans man is far younger. (The profile incidentally is by Garand, of whose portraiture Diderot also had something double-edged to say: “Je n’ai jamais été bien fait que par un pauvre diable appelé Garand, qui m’attrapa, comme il arrive à un sot qui dit un bon mot.“)

Two further points have not I think been noticed, although Ólafur Þorvaldsson has tweeted the reference to an earlier sale (28.iii.1860, not reproduced) which I have as J.46.2682 (B&W 417):

Par 1860

Isn’t this the Orléans pastel? It’s certainly quite possible, even probable; but not I think certain. The pastel is described as of “L’abbé Réglet, curé et fondateur de Saint-Sulpice”, a description that finds its way into the headline for B&W 416 too. Of course if B&W were simply transcribing what was on the back of the pastel sold in 1910, the conflation would be complete. But if so that label (which has not survived) would probably have been picked up in 1910 or 1917. Rather I think B&W have simply obtained the biographical information from the 1860 sale and simply assumed it was correct, and applied it also to the 1769 pastel.

In fact as far as I can see it is simply wrong. The curé de Saint-Sulpice at the time was Jean du Lau d’Allemans, whose face (known from an engraving after a portrait by Chevallier) was completely different (nor could I find any other Saint-Sulpice clergy with names similar to Reglet in this period). And the “fondateur” of the church would have come from a different century altogether. Yet I don’t think the name Reglet for a La Tour pastel from the 1769 salon would have been widely known until Saint-Aubin’s sketches were systematically studied, unlikely before 1860. So my marginal preference is to think that the 1860 sale might have been of the 1769 pastel (perhaps with a corrupted inscription), since lost totally.

The other thing that no one else seems to have noticed was that the “abbé Reglet” shown in the 1769 salon was almost certainly named in La Tour’s 1768 will (you can find transcriptions of all these documents in my annotated expansion of B&W ‘s table):

A Mrs Laideguive, notaire, Geulette, conseiller de Pondichery, hotel de Conti, rue des Poulies, à Mrs les abbez Raynal et Reigley, de Bar sur Seine, chez M. l’abbé de Crillon, place Royalle, à chacun des quatre, un diamant ou en argent cent pistoles.

This allows us to identify him as abbé Charles Régley (1719–p.1791), aumônier du prince de Marsan, prieur d’Estréchy et de Baigne, translator of Spalanzani, and the author of (among many other things) an Éloge historique du brave Crillon, discours qui a remporté le prix d’éloquence de l’Académie d’Amiens, 1779. He retired to Bar-sur-Seine (not far from Les Riceys, where he was born) c.1791 but no further trace is known. La Tour of course was later a member of the académie d’Amiens. Incidentally Régley’s address was given as that of the abbé de Crillon, Louis-Athanase de Berton-des-Balbes, abbé de Crillon (1726–1789), agent general du clergé de France; younger son of the duc de Crillon (and a descendant of the brave Crillon the subject of Régley’s éloge); he was well known as a shell collector, with a cabinet de curiosités.

None of this answers the question of the identity of the Orléans sitter. Perhaps La Tour made a second pastel of Régley (the age would fit). Probably it’s a different abbé – La Tour seems to have known a good many. There may be a clue in the illegible inscription, but I can’t decipher it (the last word perhaps looks like Censeur).

I should perhaps add a word about Diderot’s text and the four La Tours in the 1769 salon. Several of the other critics praise them too, some naming Gravelot, and adding general praise for these four pastels. The other names come from Saint-Aubin: Patiot (secrétaire du duc de Belle-Isle, a natural history collector, mentioned in La Tour’s 1784 will) and a name B&W read as Cars but looks to me more like Cangy; both are lost.

SaintAubin ar La Tour Salon

La Tour Gravelot bThe pastel of Gravelot is (said to be) in the musée des Beaux-Arts at Bordeaux (left) – but although the orientation is correct, the mise-en-page (so often accurately captured by Saint-Aubin even in his tiny sketches) looks rather different. The Bordeaux pastel measures 45×35 cm, considerably smaller than most La Tour finished pastels (even the Orléans Reglet is larger, at 48×43 cm). Is it a guide to the size of the other three “heads” in the 1769 salon, which Diderot tells us were all shown in a single pine frame? That presentation is rather strange for pastels, and one is tempted to dismiss the words as some kind of metaphor: but he goes on to describe Reglet as “grand comme la main”. None of the other critics say anything about this. But if the Gravelot shown were only a study for the final work, then perhaps the 1769 Reglet gave rise to further versions, perhaps completely reworked. Too much speculation.

It is of course even more tangential to point out that Régley’s name (insofar as it has survived at all – one book is aptly named The Quest for the Invisible), rests in his translation of Spallanzani’s work on spontaneous generation, with notes from Needham, an enemy of Voltaire. Régley appears in Voltaire’s correspondence, just before the 1769 salon, in a letter to the comte de La Touraille, who by a curious coincidence was married to Louis Patiot’s niece (she was the subject of a Carmontelle portrait). La Tour was more interested in telescopes than microscopes, but one can’t help noticing the scientific (or natural history) interests shared by Régley, Crillon and Patiot.


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