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La Tour’s abbé Deschamps

La Tour Deschamps Louvre RF29765

Catalogues raisonnés are in effect narratives, telling a story of how a work of art was created, more or less convincingly. They may on occasion offer alternative endings, but for the most part the convention requires the narrative to proceed in a simple historical progression (at least for each work: I have written before about whether the collection of such narratives for each picture may, in the case of a portraitist, not be more conveniently ordered differently, since no one expects readers to read the whole book at once). The result then offers the solution to a puzzle which is often more compellingly told as the historical events were unearthed in the present day rather than as they unfolded at the time. So without more apology let me give you an alternative account of the catalogue entry you will find for the fine portrait by La Tour now in the Louvre (above; J.46.162 in the numbering system used in my catalogue) of the abbé Claude-Charles Deschamps (?1699–1779), bachelier de Sorbonne, prêtre, chanoine et regnaire de l’église cathédrale de Laon.

La Tour Deschamps David Weill BW97 f80You’ll find virtually nothing about him in the La Tour literature published before 1922/23, when suddenly an unknown “pastel par Maurice Quentin de La Tour” (left; J.46.1622) appeared. The only prior mention is in La Tour’s 1768 will (published by Maurice Tourneux in 1904) of “mon cousin Deschamps, chanoine à Laon”. There is no mention of Deschamps, for example, in any contemporary or subsequent biography of La Tour. By 1923, La Tour had become one of the great names in the saleroom, the dramatic prices achieved at the Doucet sale in 1912 having rehabilitated him to the top table. Even immediately after the war his value was huge: Wildenstein sold the président de Rieux in 1919 for 1.2 million francs (perhaps £3 million in today’s money, although the purchaser became bankrupt before payment was made).

The sale itself (Paris, Drouot, Baudoin, 16 March 1923, Lot 86 bis) was a little unusual: it was a single lot with its own catalogue (copies are very scarce, and not available online at the time of writing, but I’ve obtained a photocopy), presented by Baudoin and Martini, at the end of another sale.[1] The vendor (of this lot alone) was disclosed as “Mme veuve R…, de Douai”, and the catalogue contained some interesting details. The work was presented as “Portrait de Monseigneur Claude-Charles DESCHAMPS, Chanoine de Laon, cousin germain de M. Q. de La Tour”: we discuss the wording further below, but it derives from a handwritten label on the back, which read “Mr Deschamps, chanoine de Laon, cousin germain de Mr Delatour, le Peintre” and which has subsequently been lost.[2] The catalogue then offered some biographical details, provided by Lucien Broche, conservateur des Archives du département de l’Aisne:

Messire Claude-Charles Deschamps testa le 20 août 1779 et mourut peu après dans sa maison claustrale de l’ancienne rue des Prêtres, à Laon rue Sainte-Geneviève, … Le mobilier du défunt fut vendu, du 27 au 31 janvier et du 1er au 7 février, par le Greffier en chef du Chapitre de la cathédrale.

The reproduction in the catalogue is unusual in revealing that this loose sheet had been mounted in the manner of a drawing rather than a pastel, in a style that looks as though it had recently been done:

Pages from Mme R Douai Par16.iii.1923

The 1923 catalogue also mentions that the pastel had been shown in the Louvre from August to October the previous year, included in the exhibition of La Tour pastels from Saint-Quentin repatriated from Maubeuge where they had been taken by the Germans and awaiting the reopening of the musée Antoine-Lécuyer.[3] Uncatalogued, the exhibition included only two other La Tour pastels not from Saint-Quentin: two masterpieces belonging to the Galerie Cailleux, then also on the art market.

The pastel, estimated at 12,000 francs, sold for 13,500 to the dealer Jules Féral, and soon after was acquired by the legendary collector and philanthropist David David-Weill. (At his sale in 1959, it was bought for a mere £900 by Harry G. Sperling, president of the New York dealers F. Kleinberger & Co. Five years later it was bought by Dorothy Braude Edinburg, a collector of prints, drawings and ceramics. The daughter of Harry and Bessie Braude and wife of Joseph Edinburg, an executive at the hardware firm in Boston of which her father had been president, she donated more than 1500 works to The Art Institute of Chicago, including this, in 1998.)

By 1926 the palaeographer and archivist Charles Samaran (presumably following a request to research Deschamps, perhaps from David-Weill – that isn’t clear) made some enquiries of Lucien Broche (unpublished correspondence, bibliothèque de l’Institut de France), but Broche, after checking with Charles Sorin, the archivist at Laon, was unable to locate Deschamps’s will or the other Deschamps documents from the bailliage de Vermandois which had been lost during the German occupation. (We shall see below why this doesn’t greatly matter.)

Despite sending a dozen works from his own collection to the famous 1927 exhibition of Pastels français du XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (of the organising committee of which he was chairman), David-Weill did not lend this pastel. Instead a second version (the one now in the Louvre) had mysteriously appeared. It belonged to the artist (and son of a piano maker), Bernard Wolff (1860–1949), whose sister later bequeathed it to the Louvre. According to information provided by Élie Fleury to the authors of the 1927 catalogue, this pastel had been found at a “château du Boulonnais” by “un commissaire-priseur de Douai”; the date on which Wolff had acquired it was not given, but the pastel seems never to have passed through public sale.

Paul Jamot published both versions in a review of the exhibition in the Bulletin de l’art ancien et moderne in 1927:

Pages from Jamot 1927 La_Revue_de_l'art_ancien

By then the David-Weill version had been reframed, more convincingly. Jamot struggled to explain the relationship between the two portraits: it was clear that they were the same image, and that the smaller sheet couldn’t really be regarded as a préparation for the Wolff pastel. Although La Tour often made different versions using varied techniques, these usually followed the trajectory from préparation to finished work. Jamot, comparing the two versions with the other La Tours in the exhibition, saw the Louvre version as the outlier, failing to note how much later it was in the artist’s œuvre. Modern photographs of the detail of the face make the differences even clearer:

La Tour Deschamps comparison

The evident difference in handling Jamot suggested might be explained by wear in the David-Weill version: but this isn’t particularly evident (although of course extensive later restoration might be an explanation). Suzanne Folds McCullough, as recently as 2006, sought instead to resolve the puzzle by dating the Chicago sheet to 1779 – ignoring the fact that if anything, the abbé looks younger in that version, and the 1768 of the Louvre version is practically at the end of La Tour’s activity. The particular difficulty is that there is no coherent narrative in which La Tour would do two such different, finished portraits at the same time: and yet the fall of light, shadows etc. show these to be versions of a single image.

But the real point was that while the Louvre pastel is a work of extraordinary boldness and virtuosity, the David-Weill sheet is relatively lifeless and passive. In my view this is because it may be a copy; it attracted attention in 1923 because the original was unknown (and because La Tour is such a formidable artist that a good copy of his work, made by someone evidently familiar with his earlier technique, can fetch a powerful punch, even if it is knocked out by confrontation with the original), and, once accepted and acquired by an illustrious collector, no one had (or has had until now) the courage to draw the obvious conclusion.

Ultimately this is a question of connoisseurship.[4] Many will not accept my personal opinion, which dissents from the views of other writers (up to and including the 2018 Louvre pastel catalogue, where the Chicago sheet was reproduced as by La Tour without qualification). And I can see that there are arguments in its favour – the strongest being that it is not an accurate copy of the Louvre pastel. But I wonder whether the Chicago version would have had unanimous support had it emerged after the Louvre version was known. Readers of this blog are of course invited to offer their own views which I will receive with interest.

There are two objective facts that may help my view gain wider acceptance.

Firstly, no one seems to have noticed the extraordinary coincidence of the two versions both passing through Douai, when there is no obvious connection between the sitter and his family and that town during the sitter’s lifetime or immediately following period. Had the two versions always been together in the same family, I think we would have been told. But the Louvre sheet came from a chateau in Le Boulonnais, quite far away from Douai where the commissaire priseur who handled it lived, and where the Chicago sheet originated with the untraceable “Mme veuve R…, de Douai”.

The second point is that the inscription on the David-Weill version (which was said to be in a contemporary hand) identifies the sitter as La Tour’s “cousin germain” (first cousin). This has subsequently infiltrated the literature, and is repeated in all sources including Salmon’s 2018 Louvre catalogue. But it isn’t true. As I demonstrated in 2016, Deschamps was in fact La Tour’s second cousin: he was the son of Denis Deschamps, maître écrivain à Laon, and Anne-Françoise Caton. The connection to La Tour was through Caton’s mother, Marguerite Garbe, whose sister Marie married the pastellist’s grandfather Jean de La Tour in 1669 (you can enlarge images on this blog by clicking on them):


La Tour himself described him only as “mon cousin”, in the 1768 will, a term he uses in the broad sense. So the writer of that inscription made a guess that at the very least puts him at some remove from the immediate family. The suspicion arises (which, now it has vanished, may be unverifiable) that the inscription is a much later addition (reinforced by the phrase “Delatour, le Peintre”).

And so even the question of the date of the Chicago sheet seems to me open. It may be that scientific studies of the paper and materials might yield an answer, although (even if my suspicions are well founded) a copy of this quality is likely to have been made with carefully chosen media. (Pigment analysis in pastels is much less advanced than in oil painting, and most materials used in the early twentieth century were also in use in the eighteenth.)

Turning now to the beautiful work in the Louvre (at the top of this post), there is no question about its authenticity (pace Jamot). It has been the subject of conservation in 2004 and 2013 (by Valérie Luquet, Marianne Bervas and Sophie Chavanne) and a detailed technical report was compiled in 2014 by Pascal Labreuche, noting among many other things the relatively modest materials used, and even the small droplets of fixative which are still evident on the surface.

As I have discussed in previous blogs and in my catalogue entry, the discussion in the Louvre 2018 exhibition catalogue where it was most recently shown failed to take note of my 2016 genealogy (or of the other new points in this post). It also offered no provenance for the Louvre pastel before the acquisition by the commissaire priseur de Douai as reported by Fleury beyond the assertion that it had been the “propriété du modèle”. That was presumably inferred from the inscription on the back, to which we return below, but it may well be that the search for provenance (to resolve the claims of the two versions) was what motivated the 1926 enquiries by Charles Samaran mentioned above.

It is also worth noting that La Tour preserved his contacts with members of his extended family throughout his life. When the artist’s much-loved brother Charles died (3 July 1766), La Tour was out of the country (in Holland), and Deschamps signed the burial entry at Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. He was, as noted above, mentioned in the artist’s 1768 will, the same year in which the portrait was executed.

Also mentioned in La Tour’s 1768 will was Deschamps’s sister Marie-Jeanne, Mme Mauclerc, and (like the abbé’s will which Samaran sought without success), her inventaire is actually at the Minutier central in Paris.[5] Mme Mauclerc died in her brother’s house, rue des Prêtres (now Saint-Geneviève), Laon on 22 September 1774 (attended by the abbé, but not by her husband). I have transcribed the inventaire in my chronological table of documents, at 10 January 1775, and it reveals among other family portraits in oil, “un autre petit tableau de forme quarré peint en pastel sous verre le quel représente led. S. abbé deschamps” – surely the Louvre pastel which she had evidently been given during her brother’s lifetime:

Mauclerc inv

Her effects were divided among her siblings. (Here is a link to the Deschamps genealogy.) Deschamps himself died in the same house in Laon, 18 December 1779. In his own will (which I did manage to locate, in the Minutier central in Paris, with certified copies of other documents from Laon), he left everything to his niece Charlotte, Mme Dorison (another La Tour sitter, J.46.1631).

Returning to the rather faded inscription on the back of the Louvre pastel, there are several more puzzles to be solved:

La Tour Deschamps Louvre RF29765 v3

which we transcribe as:

Claudius Carolus Deschamps Presbyter/Sacræ facultatis parisiensis baccalarius theologus/ecclesiæ laudanensis canonicus <mot rayé ou illisible> regnarius/anno ætatis 69/1768/DD Quentin de La Tour, regius pictor academicus, fecit

Whose writing is it? What does it say (in particular what is his age)? What has been erased and why? These difficulties are compounded by the fact that writing with a quill pen on untreated wood with prominent ring patterns is quite tricky: ink runs, and the pen is redirected by the unevennesses. The writing is certainly not La Tour’s own hand. But we do have a number of samples of the abbé’s own writing, as he was curate at Saint-Médard, Agnicourt from 1729 to 1744, and the entries in the parish register are in his hand. I think the fit is good enough to say that the inscription is his with reasonable confidence.

What does it mean? DD is easy enough, Dono Dedit (gave as a present) etc. “Ecclesiae lauanensis canonicus”: chanoine de l’église de Laon. But “regnarius” is a sufficiently unusual term that Jean-François Méjanès transcribed it as “regularis”. In fact “regnarius”, or in French “regnaire” or “renaire” (you won’t find either word in the Dictionnaire de l’Académie francaise), is a specific dignitary at the chapter at Laon, a kind of master of ceremonies (before whom a sort of sceptre was carried in solemn processions), and we know from various documents that Deschamps was Regnarius at Laon by 1774.[6] What I have been unable to establish is precisely when he was elevated to this rank, or whether prior to this he was the “sous regnaire”. There is thus a simple explanation that the erasure is of the word “sous” and occurred on his promotion to the higher position.

Trickier is the question of the dates. 1768 is I think unambiguous, but I’m not so sure that the age preceding this is definitely 69. Nevertheless the entire literature has inferred that the abbé was born in 1699 (simply by subtracting 69 from 1768). The phrase “anno ætatis” is much abused in portraiture, by artists and art historians alike who forget it means “in the [69th] year of his age”, i.e. he was 68 at the time, and so logically (depending on what day in 1768 the portrait was made) could have been born anywhere between 2 January 1699 and 31 December 1700. But is that final digit 9 at all? As you can see from some examples in the abbé’s hand from the Agnicourt parish register, it’s not impossible that he wrote 5, consistent with a birth in 1703/04 (left to right: Louvre inscription; 1735; 29e).

Deschamps digits 69 1735 29

The reason the question has attracted my attention is that his parents, Denis Deschamps and Anne-François Caton, were married in Laon on 19 February 1703:

DeschampsD Marg Caton LaonSRPlace19ii1703

There is no indication that his father had been married before 1703 (although registers are missing for Vailly-sur-Aisne where the Deschamps family originated), and numerous documents explicitly describe Claude-Charles as the “frère germain” of the daughters of Denis and Anne-François Caton (including Noëlle, Mme Augustin Masse and Marie-Jeanne, Mme Pierre-Marie Mauclerc, mother of Mme Dorison); he is also described as a cousin germain in the registre de tutelles for Henry-Pierre Messager, son of Anne-Françoise Caton’s sister. The division of property recited in the inventaire of his sister Mme Mauclerc (1775) makes it quite clear that the abbé was her full brother, while Mme Berthelot (a half-sister by a later mariage of Denis Deschamps) is distinguished as a “sœur consanguine”.

Thus, if the inscription on the Louvre pastel is correctly “ætatis 69”, the abbé was born illegitimately to Denis and Anne-Françoise before their marriage (when Denis remarried in 1739, another child was born less than two months later; but four years before marriage is improbable, particularly since Denis Deschamps and Anne-Françoise lived in different towns before their marriage). If incorrect, his birth was unrecorded (improbable: the record of Anne-Françoise’s annual births at Saint-Cyr, Laon is continuous to the end of 1705). (Incidentally the problem isn’t solved by assuming the abbé had forgotten his own age.)

But there is an alternative, if surprising, explanation: here is the entry for the first child, baptised Claude-Charlotte on 17 November 1703:

Claude Charlotte Deschamps 1703 Laon St Jean

I have found no entry for the death of this girl or any other record of her existence. Is it perhaps possible that the future abbé Claude-Charles was misidentified as a girl at birth? The child was baptised the day of its birth, somewhat hastily (baptisms were most often the day after birth unless the infant looked as though they might not survive until then). Seven out of eight of his siblings were girls. Mistakes of gender at birth were not such an unusual occurrence; in 1731 one of the twin children of Jean-Antoine Philippe, another La Tour subject, was wrongly registered. That would be consistent with a reading of “ætatis 65”.

Whatever the abbé’s age, we can but agree with Jean-François Méjanès who commented of this, the latest of the Louvre’s La Tours, that the restrained palette of the pastel strokes “accentue néanmoins l’intensité expressive du visage sur lequel s’est concentré l’artiste”; the “grande attention” and “profonde humanité” that emerge justify more than any of the other works shown in the La Tour exhibition of 2004 the title of “voleur d’âmes”. Those who visited the Louvre’s pastel exhibition in 2018 will have been able to form their own view (although not perhaps as closely as they might like, as this small jewel was skyed in the hang I have discussed elsewhere).


[1] That of Paul-Émile Rémy-Martin, the second of four sales of the collections that the cognac merchant’s father, Paul-Émile-Rémy Martin (yes the hyphens are in the correct places), had assembled at the château de Lignières.

[2] I am most grateful to the Art Institute of Chicago for confirming this to me, and the absence of any image of the lost label.

[3] See Fleury 1922b; Cabezas 2009a; Prolegomena, §xii.6.

[4] Those of you familiar with the system in the Dictionary will see (from the absence of the Greek letter σ) that I have not inspected the Chicago sheet in person. While I would prefer to do so, the factors I have taken into account in reaching my view are unlikely to be altered by examination de visu.

[5] AN mc lxv/386, 10.i.1775

[6] This is in the power of attorney he granted on 22 October 1774 attached to his sister’s posthumous inventory. In the Bulletin de la Société académique de Laon, 1913, André L’Éleu published a commentary on Fromage de Longueville’s unpublished Entretiens (1765), which contains encrypted satirical portraits of his contemporaries including one “Erophile, chanoine regnaire”, whom L’Éleu identified as Deschamps, but I suspect anachronistically. I have been unable to find detailed records for the chapitre de Laon before 1768.

La Tour’s copyists (2): Anne Féret, Mme Nivelon (1711–1786)

Anne-Baptiste_Nivelon,_Louis_de_France,_dauphin_(1764)The Dictionary of pastellists has limited room for the biographies of copyists who worked in other media. In an earlier post, I explored one of the miniaturists who copied La Tour, and who had escaped attention through obscurity. The same cannot be said of the oil painter “Anne Baptiste Nivelon”: if you search online you’ll immediately find dozens of references to this artist who made excellent oil copies after portraits by La Tour, Van Loo and others. (As they are not in pastel there’s no entry for her in the Dictionary of pastellists.) You’ll also find that nothing is known of her biography, other than that she worked for the Menus plaisirs and was favoured by the dauphine. Thus there are several references to her copies in the 2004 La Tour exhibition catalogue, notably the portrait en pied of the dauphin (above) with its pendant of the dauphine, executed in 1764 for Christophe de Beaumont, archevêque de Paris, and now in Versailles (MV 3793; MV 3797), both after pastels by La Tour. Laurent Hugues discussed her work at length in De soie et de poudre, 2004. There are also large oils of the duc de Belle-Isle (again after La Tour), and a Louis XV after Louis-Michel Van Loo.

That information is readily available and I need not repeat it: but published sources do not disclose her dates, quoting instead floruit 1754-71. All this is summarised in Xavier Salmon’s catalogue of a portrait exhibition at the musée Lambinet (Cent portraits pour un siècle, 2019). For an exhaustive genealogical analysis of the family, including this apparent impasse, I can refer you to this recent document which concluded (in the version online at the time I am writing) that “sa biographie reste étrangement mystérieuse.” Art history has got no further until now.

The pendants of the dauphin and dauphine are signed “Fait par Anne Baptiste Nivelon [l’an] 1764” though it is difficult to make this out in the reproduction. Some further light on these is shed by a curious and slightly puzzling document which was published in 1930, but seems to have been largely overlooked since (you can find it in my Chronological table of documents relating to La Tour, at 1 July 1761). It’s a note from Louis-Marie-Augustin, duc d’Aumont (1709–1782), premier gentilhomme de la Chambre du roi, directing Jean-Jacques Papillon de Fontpertuis (1715–1774), intendant of the Menus plaisirs to have Mlle Nivelon make copies of the La Tour pastels of the dauphin and dauphine.

Mr le duc d’Aumont prie Monsieur de Fontpertuys de faire faire les portraits de Mgr le Dauphin et de Me la Dauphine par la demoiselle Nivelon; elle demeure à Versailles, rue de Satory. Mr de Fontpertuys aura la bonté de faire demander au nommé Latour, concierge de l’Hôtel de Nesles les portraits originaux de M. le Dauphin et de Madame la Dauphine. Ce sont les plus ressemblants qui aient été faits, ils sont en pastel. Il faut les ménager dans le transport.

Ce 1er juillet                         Le duc d’Aumont

La demoiselle Nivelon annonce les portraits finis le 22 décembre

Among other things it tells us that the versions in Versailles made in 1764 were not the first copies Mme Nivelon made. (It also reminds us that the hazards of moving pastels were well understood even then.) But although we know that dukes at this time were apt to call any bourgeoise “Mademoiselle” whether married or not, it adds little to help identify Mme Nivelon beyond the address, rue de Satory, which was already known from Germain Bapst’s Inventaire de Marie-Josèphe de Saxe, dauphine de France, 1883.

I ought perhaps to write this blog as a detective story, planting clues along the way for you to work out, but some of you just want to know the answer. Suffice it to say that, after working through the parish records at Versailles (Saint-Louis), I concluded that the only likely candidate for Mme Nivelon was an Anne Féret who, on 16 January 1741 at Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois in Paris, married François Nivelon (1692–1770). The marriage contract, signed two days before (AN MC/ET/VII/263), tells us more:

Contrat de mariage entre François Nivelon, valet de chambre de la maréchale d’Estrées, demeurant à l’hôtel de ladite dame, rue de l’Université, fils majeur de défunts Jean-François Nivelon, peintre du roi, et de Marie-Anne Regnault, et Anne Feret, majeure, demeurant rue Saint-Thomas-du-Louvre, fille de feu Jean-Baptiste Feret, peintre ordinaire du roi en son académie, et de Marie-Anne Thibert, dressé en présence du comte de Gramont, de la maréchale d’Estrées, de la comtesse de Mailly et de la comtesse de Vintimille qui ont signé.

The contract was under the communauté des biens regime, and the dowry a modest 500 livres. We can amplify François Nivelon’s parentage: his father was also known just as François Nivelon (1663–1733), peintre du roi, born and died in Fontainbleau, and is the painter mentioned in the genealogy above at 1.19. But his second wife’s name was Regnault, not Arnault, and their eldest son François (born in Fontainebleau on 17 August 1692) did in fact survive, to become valet de chambre to the recently widowed maréchale d’Estrées, née Lucie-Félicité de Noailles (1683–1745) and later to her brother, Adrien-Maurice, maréchal-duc de Noailles (1678–1766).

Pursuing further records, notably the marriage in Versailles on 25 April 1765 of their daughter Félicité-Marie-Anne (baptised at Saint-Sulpice on 15 April 1745, so just 20 years old, no doubt a god-daughter of Mme d’Estrées) to Michel Laseigne, a géographe des Bâtiments du roi (aged 44½), the ceremony presided over by Pierre Astoin, chapelain to the queen and the dauphine:


François Nivelon’s death, again in Versailles (paroisse Saint-Louis ), occurred on 17 June 1770, and he was buried the next day; the witnesses included again abbé Astoin:

Nivelon_Francois deces

Nivelon’s death in 1770 explains why the copyist is referred to as la veuve Nivelon in January 1771 when she delivered a copy of Madame Louise en carmélite (MV 6613).

Anne’s own burial entry, still in Versailles, in 1786, again attended not only by her son-in-law, but by Toussaint-François Remond, chef de bureau des Bâtiments du roi (the most senior officer under Montucla, the commis):

NivelonAnne VersaillesStLouis1786

The age of 74 on 16 February 1786 implies a year of birth of most probably 1711 or (much less likely – a one in eight chance) 1712.

Now Anne Féret’s connections with the Bâtiments du roi and relations with painters are all very suggestive (as is the fact that she was widowed between 1764 and 1771), but two obstacles remain to complete proof that she herself was “Anne Baptiste Nivelon”: why would she add a forename that does not appear in any document? And is there any evidence that she wielded a brush?

The answer to both questions emerged from researching her father, Jean-Baptiste Féret, a competent landscape and history painter at the Académie royale (even if the name is today little known: Pierre Rosenberg called him “ce paysagiste méconnu” in his brief entry in the 2005 exhibition catalogue Poussin, Watteau, Chardin, David…): he was agréé 26 February 1707 and reçu 26 October 1709. According to Jal’s biographical dictionary (p. 573), Féret used the soubriquet “Baptiste” on its own, and it seems highly plausible that she added the name (which would have been known in the circles that employed her) in tribute to her father. Féret was born in Evreux c.1665, and on 23 April 1708, in Paris, Saint-Merry, he married a Marie-Anne Thibert. (The witnesses included Louis Galloche. She also came from a family of painters, including her brother Louis-Jacques Thibert, who married the daughter of a Daniel Thierry, maître peintre.) When he died in Paris, 12 February 1739, leaving the then unmarried Anne Féret and her brother, the seals were applied and an inventory taken (AN Y11669). And among the pictures listed were “huit esquisses ébauchées dans leurs cadres de bois, ouvrages de lad. demoiselle Ferret.” There was also a portrait of her father whose authorship is ambiguous. But I think there is no longer any ambiguity about one of La Tour’s best copyists.

Marcel Roethlisberger (1929–2020)

Liotard Studientag_180116_014I’m not sure how many of you have noticed that it’s some ten months since I last posted on this blog. There were several reasons for this, the main one being that I’ve been very focused on my La Tour catalogue, and the surprising discovery I wrote about in my penultimate post (where I revealed that the famous self-portrait of La Tour in Amiens was, it turns out, a copy by a talented pupil) made me feel I should go through a rigorous period of thinking to get my story straight. I’ll shortly get back to using this blog now that I think I have done so.

But the very last post I made was – not for the first time – about Liotard. An artist who today is far more fashionable than La Tour, and with far greater influence measured in academic research or in saleroom prices. It was not so half a century ago. That it happened is largely due to Marcel Roethlisberger, an art historian whose death, at the beginning of March, may have passed unnoticed amid the present worldwide circumstances.

This isn’t the obituary he deserves, and will in due course receive in the proper places, but just some personal observations about this wonderful man whose enthusiasms were so inspirational. Because of the breadth of his interests an obituary would be a challenge to anyone, who, as so many of us do today, specialises in a single topic. The gulf between Claude and Liotard, the two artists with whom Marcel Roethlisberger’s name is instantly associated, belong to completely different worlds. Indeed when he visited my house some fifteen years ago, perhaps expecting to find some pastel I might want to associate with Liotard, I can remember his delight (and perhaps relief) when instead he found an etching by Claude… from an earlier stage in my own collecting interests.

Roethlisberger was born in Zurich in 1929. As a lexicographer I felt a duty when we first met to quiz him about the umlaut and its transformation – not least because it affected where he appeared in my bibliography – and, much to my surprise (most people are passionate about the “correct” spelling of their name), found him hugely relaxed about the matter. He had an enormously broad education – of a kind that students today never enjoy – at the universities of Bern, Cologne, Paris (where he was a pupil of André Chastel), Florence (Roberto Longhi) and Pisa studying economics, law, archaeology and music before specialising in the history of art. That brought him to the Courtauld under Anthony Blunt, 1954–56 (long after my mother). His thesis, awarded by the university of Bern, was on Jacopo Bellini. But it was Blunt, the Poussin specialist, who encouraged his interest in Claude. His two-volume Claude Lorrain: the paintings appeared in 1961. There followed a distinguished career teaching in a number of the most prestigious American universities – Yale, Princeton, UCLA – where he was a full professor by 1968, when he published his catalogue raisonné of Claude’s drawings. Two years later he took up the chair in Geneva. There were several subsequent visiting appointments in the US (Washington, the Getty etc.). He published a major work on Bloemaert in 1993, demonstrating again the breadth of his interests.

But it was his research on Liotard that I knew best. He worked closely on the artist with Renée Loche, who was conservateur at the Musée d’art et d’histoire in Geneva until 1992. Their collaboration was astonishingly fruitful. Perhaps this was in part due to the hands-on interest in the objects themselves which museum curators have deeply ingrained, but which academic art historians occasionally lack. However it developed, Roethlisberger’s work on Liotard was never lost in theory, and never departed from the works of art themselves. Roethlisberger had written briefly about Liotard in an article on Swiss self-portraits in Florence in 1956, while Loche had become focused on Liotard with several exhibitions in Geneva in the early 1970s. But their joint publication, L’opera completa di Liotard, published by Rizzoli in 1978 in the rather limiting format of the Classici dell’arte series, that transformed interest in the artist. It coincided with the first major acquisition, for a very substantial price, by an American museum (Cleveland) of a Liotard pastel, the hugely important portrait of François Tronchin dans son cabinet (below; J.49.2329 in my Dictionary), the forerunner of a number of subsequent purchases of Liotard pastels for previously unheard of prices. (I know Roethlisberger would have had as little interest in such measures as I do, but I know too that many of you will find this strand of interest.)


The old Loche & Roethlisberger was astonishingly useful, but its tiny reproductions didn’t tell the whole story. Conscious of that, and aware too of the explosion of Liotard research (Roethlisberger alone had published a dozen articles since 1978), the new catalogue – this time Roethlisberger & Loche – appeared in 2008 in a format that made up in every way possible for the deficiencies of L&R. I reviewed it in the Burlington Magazine in May 2009, so I won’t comment in detail. But one sentence is perhaps worth repeating:

Though we are reminded that ‘l’art de Liotard dépasse toujours les limites de l’analyse verbale’, it is impossible to read these essays without responding to the authors’ evident love and appreciation of their subject.

In some ways my review was rather severe (in a later note I referred to “the wonderful Roethlisberger & Loche catalogue raisonné (of which I can only say that my admiration increases every time I consult it – a comment I couldn’t really include in my Burlington Magazine review which was published immediately after it appeared)”), but it is a measure of his magnanimity that when I later discussed it with him, Roethlisberger was very happy to follow up all the points I had raised. Our correspondence followed freely as we exchanged discoveries and trouvailles on so many points, a flood of information none of which would have been discovered were it not for the huge advances in L&R and R&L. An update, “Liotard mis à jour”, written with typical generosity, appeared in Zeitschrift für schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte in 2014 (it deserves to be more widely consulted). It included a typical example of a work which he had once rejected but was prepared to reconsider after a thorough debate which resulted in a more convincing narrative.

In 2018 we were both invited to a study day in Dresden while the gallery was preparing for the Liotard exhibition that took place later that year. The photo above shows us both looking rather carefully at one of the best-loved works of the Swiss master. I can’t think of a better way to share my appreciation of a man who has inspired so many with his scholarship, breadth of culture, openness and humanity.


L’Écriture deciphered

Liotard EcritureThose of you who saw the Liotard exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2015 will not have forgotten one of the finest exhibits – the stunning pastel of a young man writing with a boy in attendance holding a candle.[1] It was sold to Maria Theresia in 1762, ten years after it was painted, and so its permanent home is now Vienna. Its connection with the famous Déjeuner Lavergne (J.49.1795: see my post) of 1754 is obvious, despite the two-year interval between their execution: the visual evidence is overwhelmingly that the latter was conceived as a pendant, and this is confirmed by the advertisement in the London Public advertiser that I reproduced in the earlier post. There is no doubt either that the Déjeuner was executed during a trip to Lyon in 1754 – indeed another Lavergne family portrait was done there in 1746 – as there is other corroborative evidence of Liotard’s visits to his sister and her family: Sara Liotard had married the négociant François Lavergne in Geneva before they settled in Lyon. All this is rehearsed in my previous post, so I won’t repeat it here.

I might add that the abbé Pernetty, whose portrait by Liotard was also made in 1754, returned the compliment by mentioning the artist as well as “Mrs Lavergne, établis ici, & connus par leurs talens” in his Les Lyonnois digne de mémoire (1757, p. 255). The MM. Lavergne were of course François, who died in 1752; his eldest son Jean (1715–1776), also described as a négociant on his burial certificate (most sources incorrectly thought he had died in 1729); and the son shown in L’Écriture, Jacques-Antoine (1724–1781), described as a banquier on his (but the professions were not much different). Although that document gives nothing away, Marie-Félicie Perez published a note in Genava in 1997 with an entry from the unpublished manuscript diary[2] of the abbé Duret in which he reveals that Jacques-Antoine committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window. No one knows why – Perez checked for a declaration of bankruptcy, but could find nothing.

Nor frankly does any of the Liotard literature tell us anything of the biography of this young man. Indeed earlier authors spotting the book whose title, L’Art d’aimer et de plaire, is so carefully shown in the pastel concluded he must be a poet, and identified the sitter as Pierre-Joseph Bernard who published a book called L’Art d’aimer – but failed to notice that it didn’t appear until 1775, and that in 1752 Gentil-Bernard (as he was known) was already 44. (Indeed of Liotard’s two nephews, it is the apparent age of the sitter that identifies him as Jacques-Antoine (28 in 1752) rather than his brother Jean – not dead, but at 36 too old.) Of course that doesn’t mean that Liotard’s sitter didn’t also have literary aspirations: it’s just that, until now, no one has produced any evidence. Was he then just a boring banker?

And as for the boy, predictably described as the nephew’s nephew in some sources, and therefore named Clarence (as the girl in the Déjeuner as previously thought to be), that is far from certain (but it was not impossible that he could be the Pierre Clarenc [sic] who was married in Puylaurens in 1771, but whose age is uncertain). But I’m inclined in this case to believe Liotard when he calls the boy a “laquais”, and I don’t think he’d so describe a member of his family.[2a]

L’Écriture, as the 1752 pastel is known, is signed and dated with the year – but not the place. And while everyone assumes it was made on a trip to Lyon, that might not necessarily be correct. If Jacques-Antoine went to Paris, which he might well have done, then the boy would almost certainly be unrelated. On the other hand, if you think that he is the same child as in the L’Enfant à la bougie (J.49.2441) that I published a few years ago (also reproduced in my Déjeuner post), he probably did come from Lyon, as that pastel was reported (again by the abbé Duret, as spotted by Perez) in 1781 as having previously being bought by Mme de Flesselles for her husband, the intendant de Lyon from 1767 on. Roethlisberger & Loche inferred from the subject matter that it might belong to the period of L’Écriture, and with the image I found I concur. So it’s possible that it was left with the Lavergne family in Lyon and it was only disposed of between 15 and 30 years later.

So far virtually everything I’ve repeated here is known – and it’s not very much. The diary of Jean-Jacques Juventin which I recently added as a postscript to my Déjeuner post talks only about the Lavergne ladies, and tells us nothing of the men. Nor, despite its usual encyclopaedic coverage, does Lüthy (La Banque protestante…) even mention the firm. There’s a tiny snippet in a letter[3] from Louis-Michel Vanloo’s sister, Marie-Anne Vanloo Berger, from Paris, 20 April 1757, to his partners Antoine Rey and Barthélemy Magneval, merchants in Lyon, describing how she had missed M. Lavergne who had called that morning, and promising if he returned to receive him as well as she could as he was their friend. At least this proves that Lavergne travelled to Paris occasionally – but that is hardly surprising for a négociant.

But I recently noticed a source which as far as I can see has been completely overlooked in the Liotard literature: Voltaire’s correspondence.[4]

There are no Voltaire letters directly to the Lavergnes, but several to his other friends give their name (as “Lavergne père et fils” etc. – no first names ever appear) as an accommodation address. But there are two letters with specific information. In one (8 May 1773) to Joseph Vesselier, a poet and writer whose day-job was with the Lyon post office, Voltaire noted that “un de ces Lavergne … joue parfaitement la comédie”. In a letter to Trudaine de Montigny (12 April 1776), then travelling to Nice, he adds more:

J’avais un ami genevois qui s’appelle Lavergne, excellent auteur, dit on, dans les comédies de société. Il était malade à Lyon et désespérait de sa vie, il est allé à Nice et y a recouvré la santé. Je ne sais s’il y est encore, et s’il a eu le bonheur de vous faire sa cour.

Tantalisingly Voltaire doesn’t identify which of the Lavergne men this amateur actor, writer and invalid might have been. Was it our Jacques-Antoine, or his elder brother Jean?

To answer that I found another report – a 1773 account of the health-giving properties of the thermal waters not at Nice, but at Aix, by the celebrated doctor Joseph Daquin (who was best known for his work in psychiatry). Here it is in full, although the crucial part is the age: Jacques-Antoine would have been 48 or so, near enough 50, while his brother was eight years older:



From the age I infer that this was more likely the younger brother. The condition described was severe enough to merit Voltaire’s description of a man despairing of life, particularly if after the cure the symptoms returned. That rather than financial failure might well have led to his suicide.

But Voltaire’s description has even more pertinent information that goes directly to the pastel: the writer is indeed a writer. The sense of intelligence with which he ponders his material is real. If any of his work was ever published it was certainly not under his own name, but his interests were plainly in plays. What then can we make of the carefully planted copy of L’art d’aimer et de plaire, hitherto assumed to be purely fanciful?

M119_02_R118_163rI had previously identified it as the subtitle of a play called Zélide, but that was only published in 1755 and the dates still don’t quite work. It was written by one Jean-Julien-Constant Rénout, who was secrétaire du duc de Gesvres (the duc had commissioned Pierre Mérelle to copy Liotard’s portraits of the royal princesses in 1751). But although not premiered until 1755,[5] there was apparently an earlier performance of Zélide at the comte de Clermont’s château de Berny, probably by an amateur cast. (Liotard’s pastel of the comte de Clermont was recorded in the artist’s posthumous inventory.) It is of course sheer speculation, but might Jacques-Antoine, who played “parfaitement la comédie”, have had an advance manuscript copy for amateur use?

[1] L’Écriture is J.49.1763 in the online Dictionary of pastellists, where as usual full details can be found (just put the J number into the search box and follow the link to the pdf).

[2] In the municipal library at Lyon.

[2a] [Postscript:] I am grateful to Chris Bryant who has pointed out that the boy’s coat, with its braided edging, is servant’s livery.

[3] Georges Guigue, Vanloo négociant, 1902, p. 24.

[4] The easiest way to consult this is via the Electronic Enlightenment website, so the dates alone will find the passages I mention. One of Voltaire’s correspondents was the pasteur Jacques Vernes (also a friend of Rousseau) who married Jacques-Antoine’s 18-year-old niece Marie-Françoise Clarenc in 1759; she died later that year.

[5] To a mixed reception: in a letter from Claude-Pierre Patu to David Garrick written from Passy, 23 August 1755, he notes that it had “Assez d’esprit, peu de justesse, style haché, mauvais tour de vers.” The extract from the Comédie-Française’s register show the receipts for the double bill on 26 June 1755.


Super omnes docentes se intellexit…

La Tour Auto Amiens ScaledThose are the words inscribed on the old frame of the famous La Tour Autoportrait au jabot now in Amiens (left). They are not directly from Psalm 119 (no. 118 in the Vulgate), but from St Augustine’s commentary, where the authorial voice (“me intellexi”) is turned into the third person. The King James version of verse 99 is: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.”

I’ve been meditating quite a lot about this picture (and some testimonies about it) in the context of preparing my La Tour catalogue. The standard approach is to lock yourself away for many years and release the final product on paper. I’m trying to do this differently, sharing the work as I go, as you can find in the various documents on my website indexed from here. Sometimes I release a fairly final version (corrections are always welcome!) of my thinking, as in my recent entry on the portrait of Mme de Pompadour, which perhaps I should have shared on this blog. But the present portrait (or rather, group of versions of it) raises many issues which I haven’t fully resolved, and so the blog is the best possible way to share the puzzles and open the discussion before I go nap on the definitive cataloguing. You’ll see why if you read to the end. As much of the intermediate workings are rather detailed, skip straight to the end if you want.

Everyone will be aware that there are several versions of the Autoportrait au jabot (and at least ten later copies that make no further appearance in this post are listed in my online Dictionary of pastellists in the La Tour self-portraits article), and that one of them was supposed to be the one La Tour exhibited at the Salon in 1750 when he tricked his younger rival by placing it next to the pastel of La Tour himself that Perronneau had made – probably (or itself perhaps a version of) the pastel now in Saint-Quentin:

Perronneau La Tour SQ

Too much has already been written on the respective merits of the two portraits. But while the mirror compositions suggest that the La Tour self-portrait, of all the known types, was surely that “au jabot” (rather than say the “oeil-de-bœuf” or “chapeau en clabaud” etc. types); that the specific work was that in Amiens (reproduced at the top of this post: no. J.46.1128) has rather been deduced from the fact that it is larger than the other versions assumed to be autograph, those in the musée Cognacq-Jay (J.46.113: left below) and in the Norton Simon Museum (J.46.1132: right below). Horridly I’m going to refer to these pastels as Amiens, CJ and NS.

This isn’t assisted by some erroneous conflations and confusions in the literature, so that, for example, Besnard & Wildenstein 1928 (p. 149) records Amiens as having a note on the back stating that it was made in 1751 – a year after the salon in which it was assumed to have been shown. (That label in fact belongs to a version sold in 1867 which it turns out is not the Amiens pastel at all; I list it as J.46.1131.) Among dozens of other errors in the literature I will mention here just two more: the date inscribed on the back of NS is 1754, not 1764 as usually reported; while CJ, contrary to Mme Burollet (Pastels et dessins, 2008, p. 139), was not the one from the Laperlier collection sold in 1879, lot 52 (that was NS) – CJ has no secure provenance before Pierre Decourcelle who sold it in 1911.

It was while I was trying to resolve the 1750/1751 confusion that I began to look harder at the questions these versions raise. I am most grateful to the curators at Amiens and Pasadena for providing imaging and documents that I discuss below. I should also remind readers about the usual important notice about attributions being subjective etc., and record the fact that the provisional suggestions I make below are not endorsed by other experts.

Before we get into the documents or delve further into the literature (even recent publications remain hopelessly confused), what can be said of the visual appearance of the principal versions? My own belief, before the recent discoveries, was that CJ was the best, showing all La Tour’s brilliance and inventiveness, while remaining an autograph replica of Amiens, which “must” be the one shown in 1750. I was a little surprised on the several occasions I saw it (in the musée de Picardie, Amiens and most recently in Orléans, when it was lent to the 2017 Perronneau exhibition) that Amiens seemed underwhelming for the mythology attached to the 1750 competition: as I wrote in a recent (but before the discovery at the end of this post) private email to a curator, “The Amiens pastel is not entirely happy: the jabot always struck me as a little pedestrian, while the shadows on the underside of the arms I find particularly perplexing.” (The shadows consist in some odd strokes of heavy black pastel.) But not to the point of questioning Amiens being autograph. Nor as far as I am aware has it been questioned by any other art historian, despite extended discussions in numerous sources (see the Dictionary entry for the full literature): thus for Debrie & Salmon 2000, it is “une œuvre essentielle”; while, in his préface to Dominique d’Arnoult’s Perronneau monograph of 2014, Xavier Salmon was even more emphatic, writing that the La Tour pastel exhibited in 1750 was “très certainement celui aujourd’hui conservé au musée de Picardie à Amiens, œuvre magistrale de psychologie et de maîtrise technique.”

CJ is smaller than Amiens in that the lower part of the bust is cut off; there is still space above the head. It is highly finished, with a superb sense of modelling which you can perhaps see most easily in the structure of the eye socket. The handling is relatively free – La Tour recreates effects rather than repeating each stroke exactly – just what I’d hope to find in an autograph replica.

NS (which I have not examined de visu, let alone side by side with the others – something which is not likely to be possible) caused me some concerns in the way it followed Amiens. While sticking to more or less the size of CJ, the figure is moved up so more of the bust shows, with less space above the head (see my scaled composite):

La Tour Autoportraits au jabot Amiens CJ NS

NS then imitates the exact composition of Amiens far more closely – for example, the angle of the arm, which in CJ is allowed to drop vertically, follows the angle of Amiens exactly: indeed the top of the hand placed in the waistcoat is still included, although it now makes little sense and might comfortably have been omitted had the artist allowed himself the same freedom as taken in CJ. There are differences too in the eyes: those in CJ engage us directly; those in Amiens and NS both seem slightly to veer off to the left. (You might think this an error in Amiens, corrected in CJ, so it is odd to find them repeated in NS.) More obviously the technique differs, in the face in particular, with a network of hatching in place of the finished appearance of CJ and much more prominent than in Amiens (although this isn’t immediately evident from the photography which makes the hatching on Amiens more prominent than I recall from direct examination). But elsewhere there is a very precise replication of each chalk stroke in Amiens: it is perhaps too close (in a way that is found in some otherwise excellent copies of other La Tour pastels).

La Tour Autoportraits au jabot Visages Amiens CJ NS

I’m not worried about the appearance of these visible strokes on the flesh, per se; La Tour adopted this technique frequently, particularly in portraits intended for connoisseurs who he thought would be more receptive to the brilliance of these strokes which require to be viewed from a specific distance, while the general public found them too sophisticated. Perhaps the most extreme example of this heavy hatching is the pastel of Chardin in the Louvre (J.46.1436) from the 1761 salon. There are other examples from the mid-1750s – and, to make this problem even more tricky, there is very little sense of a chronological progression in La Tour’s technique that allows one to say that he used a specific technique at a particular time.

So it doesn’t follow that he came back to the Amiens pastel and made a replica say 14 years later in a different technique than the one he would have used say in 1750. You can’t even say that he wouldn’t make two versions in different techniques at the same time. But I can see why one would like to propose different dates for NS and Amiens and CJ, to help explain away the differences. Because of course the question is whether these are autograph versions. Normally the effect of these vigorous hatchings in the master’s hand is to make the portrait come to life. Judging from the photograph of NS I don’t have that immediate response. There seems to be a flatness to the modelling compared with the other versions that is surprising. Further the best of La Tour’s heavily hatched faces have an irregularity and energy I don’t see in NS. One shouldn’t attach too much importance to a single example, but putting the face in NS against a similar detail from his Chardin shows how differently he used this hatched technique:

La Tour auto NS v Chardin Louvre visages

Time now to broach the various inscriptions on the works. The reason we know it is NS rather than CJ that was in the Laperlier sale is because his 1879 sale catalogue mentions verses on the back by the abbé Violette, a priest in Saint-Quentin – just the sort of thing which makes you believe there is a continuous provenance back to the artist. So we have to look at that.

Although it wasn’t easy to find Violette’s biography, I can tell you (after a lengthy search of parish records) that he was abbé Charles-Théodore Violette (1737–1815), curé de Notre-Dame de Saint-Quentin, and a member of the Assemblée provinciale in 1787. So clearly it would be significant if NS turns out to have belonged to Violette.

As it happens there is rather a lot of writing on several different sheets pasted to the backing card of NS. There is a central panel in a mid-nineteenth century formal hand, with La Tour’s qualities and honours transcribed precisely from the title page of the abbé Duplaquet’s 1789 Éloge historique de La Tour:

de M. Maurice-Quentin Delatour, Peintre
du Roi, Conseiller de l’Académie Royale de Peinture & de Sculpture
de Paris, et Honoraire de l’Académie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres,
et Arts d’Amiens, Fondateur de l’Ecole Royale gratuite de Dessin,
de la Ville de Saint-Quentin.
Peint par lui-même, en 1754

The “Peint par lui-même, en 1754” comes from this label alone. The writing is quite clear: 1754, not 1764.

The rest of the writing appears to come from a different, probably single, hand, but appears on two sheets. The lower sheet contains, on the left, an epitaph in Latin which I find extremely difficult to decipher. I suspect the Latin isn’t very good, but the text seems to echo the sentiments of the French verses below. Very broadly translated, it seems to mean:

This dust is mixed with the dust of Apelles, citizen of the Seine [“Sequana”] and citizen of the Somme [“Summa”]; they were astonished to find La Tour [“turreum”] under the soil; but his excellence and his mighty deeds will resound.

To the right are the abbé Violette’s verses which have been partially transcribed in several publications (but not the three lines at the bottom, which are critical):

Vers pour mettre au bas du portrait.

citoyen de la Somme, Apelle de la Seine,
de La Tour, dans ces traits, c’est bien toi ressemblant:
c’est ta bouche, tes yeux, ce rire caressant
qui vers toi tous les cœurs entraîne.
pour bien peindre le tien, ton âme, tes vertus,
bienfaisance, candeur, esprit, talens, droiture,
dons rares que te fit largement la Nature,
il faudrait toi, mais tu n’es plus!

L’inscription manuscrite, l’épitaphe et
et les vers français sont de M. Violette cure
de Notre-Dame de St quentin

As I read these, I don’t think the writing can be that of Violette himself. While sometimes people refer to themselves in the third person, that really doesn’t fit here, and he would probably have signed if it was his own writing. The verses themselves must have been composed after the artist’s death, but the inscription could have been transcribed by anyone who had found it at any time in the nineteenth century or later. It isn’t even sure that they were intended for this version – they could equally have been intended for the Amiens version, or indeed any other La Tour self-portrait (or any portrait of La Tour at all).

After La Tour’s death there were memorials (such as Duplaquet’s éloge, cited directly on the label), epitaphs and statues etc., so there were many occasions for the local curate to produce some verses of this kind. (For the very complicated events concerning La Tour’s death and burial at Saint-Quentin, see my La Tour documentation. The two witnesses were La Tour’s half-brother Jean-François de La Tour and the latter’s cousin, Adrien-Joseph-Constant Duliège, who as it happens was vicaire at Violette’s church of Notre-Dame. We met him in my last post, on La Tour’s brother and the letters that had descended to Mme Sarrazin.) But I don’t think that Violette was ever the owner of the pastel: the words could have been added later by anyone coming across his verses – perhaps even taken from another version.

But it turns out that there is more to learn from the upper panel, apparently in the same hand, which appears to contain some innocuous biographical information:

Maurice Quentin de la Tour,
Né à St Quentin, le 4 7bre 1704,
revenu audit lieu le 26 Juin 1784,
ou il est mort et enterré au cimetière
de la Paroisse de St André, le 18
février 1788 –

Again these appear to be facts which would have been well known to anyone in Saint-Quentin throughout the nineteenth century or later. (The 26 Juin 1784 date is difficult to read; the month is correct, but the day should be 20 June according to other documents you can find in my chronological table of documents The inscription gives La Tour’s date of birth as 4 September rather than 5: such confusions are common in a Catholic country where children were usually baptised the day after their birth, although in La Tour’s case he was born and baptised on the 5th.

The significance is that the same mistake, and in fact exactly the same inscription, word for word (perhaps with misreadings: “revenue audit lieu le 21 juin 1784” and mort… “le 18 fev. 1783”), followed by “peint par lui-meme”, appear on the back of a miniature version of the autoportrait purporting to be by La Tour. At the time when it was described by Auguste Jal in his biographical dictionary, 1872 (sub verbo La Tour) it belonged to the princesse Mathilde (whom the Goncourt brothers derided for her susceptibility to fakes), and came from Aimable-Pierre-Joseph Opigez (1802–1881), a literary figure whose father and brother were alarmingly makers and retailers of objets d’art. It’s now lost (unless it corresponds with one in the musée Antoine-Lécuyer at Saint-Quentin: their two miniatures have no earlier provenance but I am investigating if we can tie them in). But as we know La Tour didn’t do miniatures.

The question however is whether this precise inscription taints the NS pastel or merely identifies it as the source of a later fake. It’s rather long to fit onto a miniature of normal dimensions. The possibilities include: (i) a common source for both NS and the miniature; (ii) the miniature copied from NS, or vice versa; (iii) Jal mistakenly referring to the princesse’s picture as a miniature when perhaps it was NS: but if so how did it get from her collection to Laperlier? (I couldn’t find either a pastel or miniature of La Tour in her posthumous sale in 1904.)

Having discarded the Violette provenance, the first certain sighting of NS is in the Laperlier sale of 1879 where the Violette verses are first mentioned. It is very probable that either NS or CJ is the pastel which belonged to Symphorien Boittelle (1813–1897), sous-préfet for Saint-Quentin before becoming préfet for the Aisne département, and later sénateur; in his sale at Paris, 24–25.iv.1866, Lot 70, not reproduced, is described as in a “light” blue coat, dimensions 44×35 cm. Boittelle’s collection was of mixed quality, and this was in one of a number of lifetime sales. The pastel reappeared with Jacques Reiset: his posthumous sale describes it as coming from the Boittelle collection, so it is no doubt the same. Both these sale prices were very modest, but that was a question of fashion rather than an indication of quality.

There was another sale in between, Paris, Drouot, Delbergue-Cormont, 8.xi.1867, where a pastel Lot 146 was sold, said to be dated on the back 1751 (although 1750 is mentioned in the preface), which all sources to date have identified as the Amiens version: the pastel is described but no size was given. It was said to be in a nice frame “en bois sculpté” (as CJ still is, while NS has been reframed). Although Amiens’s then frame was a fairly standard moulding which probably wouldn’t have been so described, and while its owners were attempting to sell it at that stage, a detailed analysis of the provenance shows that it cannot have been sold in the 1867 sale. (It is most probable that the vendor in 1867 was Sosthène-Louis-Félix Cambray (1819–1905), homme de lettres and a prolific collector and seller of drawings and prints. He might well have purchased Boittelle’s pastel. Although the commissaire-priseur’s copy of the 1867 catalogue shows Fr650 annotated against lot 146, it is not included in the list of bordereaux also bound into the same copy. However on the sheet opposite the lot is recorded “c.600 Lap.400 Gautier 300”, suggesting that Laperlier may well have bid, and perhaps bought it post sale, so this may well be NS – except for the 1751 date reported in the catalogue.)

In brief the 1867 pastel cannot be the pastel I’m calling Amiens because the musée de Picardie purchased that work (to which we now need to turn) in 1878 from the Lorne family who had owned it since 1796. It is true that the art critic Léon Lagrange had seen it around 1866 when the heirs of a previous generation were keen to sell, but it was not in fact sold then. I will spare you all the detailed steps from the 1770 gift of the pastel (recorded on another label pasted to the back of the work) by one Mlle Mangenot to the abbé Savary (he was Charles Savary (1731–1810), curé de Sainte-Colombe-lès-Sens) and its purchase in 1796 by François-Théodore-Clément Lorne (1768–1854), commerçant en gros de sel à Sens, who, the previous year, had married Savary’s niece but subsequently left it to his widow, his second wife: hours of harmless fun were required to establish these details, when of course, as Mme du Deffand would have told us, it is only the first step that counts: how it came into the hands of Marie-Louise Mangenot (1702–1782).

That takes us to her brother: the abbé Louis Mangenot (1694–1768), chanoine du Temple à Paris, poet, journalist, and great friend of the salon critic Philippe Bridard de La Garde who wrote so gushingly of La Tour’s later submissions. Mangenot was also the intimate friend of another La Tour subject, the playwright Crébillon (who made Mangenot his heir). Marie-Louise was probably the sister who was described in Palissot’s Nécrologe as“fort dévote”, but who “tyrannisait” her brother.

Most of the printed sources record Mlle Mangenot’s label, but only a few – notably Bitton 1936, which has been almost entirely overlooked – make the connection with her brother. Yet the abbé Mangenot does appear in the standard La Tour literature – as the author of yet more verses to be attached to a La Tour self-portrait:

Admirez jusqu’où l’art atteint
La Tour est gravé comme il peint…

Cited by Louis Hordret (Histoire des droits anciens… de la ville de Saint-Quentin, 1781), they were attached erroneously by B&W to the Autoportrait au chapeau en clabaud (J.46.1087). As that was only engraved by Schmidt in 1772 (after Mangenot’s death), it is however far more likely they were intended for the earlier Autoportrait à l’oeil de boeuf (J.46.1001), exhibited in 1737 and engraved by Schmidt in 1742. It of course, unlike the other self-portraits, does show the artist in his working clothes.

What this shows however is that Mangenot was indeed close to La Tour, followed his self-portraits etc. So there is nothing surprising in his owning one (except perhaps that there is no evidence that he had the means to pay for a major work by the artist). And one that he owned must be “right” in the sense that ones only traceable back to the mid-nineteenth century might not be – so that investigations such as opening the back and looking for anachronistic irregularities in the mounting of the pastel and canvas on the strainer etc. (often the easiest way to detect later fakes, of which there are sadly many in the La Tour catalogues) would be unnecessary (indeed pointless).

This is where things stood until a few days ago. While writing up my entries I investigated Mangenot more thoroughly, and came across this article in the Mercure de France, published in the edition for May 1755 (pp. 26-27). As far as I am aware it is completely unknown to art historians: indeed the only secondary reference I have been able to find (although not linked to Amiens, nor naming the copyist) is in the very useful Dictionnaire des journalistes in the entry on Mangenot (who would later edit the Mercure himself: it was then in hands of Louis de Boissy):

Mangenot La Tour Montjoie Mercure 1755

The footnote is, to say the least, astonishing. Unambiguously it identifies the La Tour portrait given to Mangenot as a copy by his pupil Jean-Gabriel Montjoie. Although he was mentioned in La Tour’s will and believed to be a pupil, recorded as an exhibitor in some minor events, virtually nothing was known about Montjoie’s biography until I unearthed some documents three years ago which are summarised in my Dictionary entry. Despite appearing in the Salon de la jeunesse in 1767 and later, he had in fact been born in 1725. But the surviving work, with one exception, all belonged to the 1780s or 90s, thirty years after Amiens. The one in the Louvre exhibited last year probably gives a fair account of his work: it was, I think we can agree, one of the weakest works in the show. The only earlier work I have found (J.543.11) is signed and dated 1768 – still some 15 years after the copy he made for Mangenot:

Montjoie H 1768 Turin23iv2015 L208

One isn’t likely to confuse this with the work of his master.

How do we make sense of all this? There are I think only two realistic logical possibilities, given that Amiens clearly belonged to Mangenot: either he subsequently acquired the original; or the Amiens pastel is indeed the copy Montjoie made for Mangenot as celebrated in the poem.

I’m not sure that either of these hypotheses will meet with universal approval. The first seems at best contrived, and raises all sorts of difficulties: why, having been given a version with which he was satisfied, would he seek to acquire the original – hardly likely that the artist would have made him a second present, so how could he afford it, and what did he do with the Montjoie copy? (The Lorne family papers make it quite clear that the abbé Savary had only this pastel, and 17 framed prints.)

The second requires us all to admit we were wrong in accepting Amiens as autograph. (The La Tour original, exhibited in 1750, must be lost – perhaps another work La Tour destroyed himself, or just still hidden away?) It requires us to reassess Montjoie’s competence. But is that such a step? Not only was Amiens made far earlier, when Montjoie was 30 years old and presumably at the peak of his skills; but it was also made under La Tour’s direction, and possibly with a good deal of assistance from the master. And the crucial fact we so easily forget is that it is far easier for artists to make brilliant copies of masterpieces than to create independent works of the same quality: we see this all the time in the pastiches and copies that flood the salerooms.

Do however look at the strange black shadows around the waistcoat buttonholes in the 1768 Montjoie. Isn’t that what troubled me about the arm in Amiens?

LaTour v Montjoie

To sum up, provisionally at least. I’m quite happy that CJ is a fully autograph replica by La Tour. I have some doubts about NS which may nevertheless be fine: if at some stage it is opened for conservation I shall be interested in what can be seen, but I certainly wouldn’t reject it outright. Amiens in contrast, and to my surprise, seems to raise real difficulties: despite its quality, the conclusion from the Mercure footnote is hard to evade. Whatever assistance La Tour may have given, this appears to be the work of his pupil – you can only escape this by believing in a rather convoluted alternative narrative. The absence of the version shown in 1750, of which Amiens is no doubt a very precise copy, makes the classification of NS rather trickier as we cannot be sure how closely either followed the original.

Jean-François, chevalier de La Tour…

An. Jean Franc ois de La Tour SQ LT81 FlBr107…is the answer to Monday’s puzzle. Half-brother of the pastellist, he owned the collection of Maurice-Quentin’s works that are now to be found in the musée Antoine-Lécuyer at Saint-Quentin (where you can also find his portrait, left – anonymous French school – which may also inform your reaction to his letters). Had he married the lady in question, whose identity remains unknown (apart from the initials Ad. D. with which one of her letters is signed), who knows what might have happened to the collection which he bequeathed to his native city in his will? That story has been told repeatedly, and of course can be followed in my annotated table of La Tour documents which I have now updated to include the correspondence which was published by Charles Desmaze in Travaux de la Société académique de Saint-Quentin (xii, 1875, pp. 310–38), but subsequently overlooked by everyone. Desmaze left these letters to the museum, but they are thought to have been destroyed in the war. We have only therefore his printed text (unfortunately he arranged the documents in no order, and attached some sheets to the wrong letters, which is why I had to update my first blog when I found another description of the young widow before the chevalier wrote to her).

There (or I hope better arranged in my table) you can find the few names I have suppressed: the initial letter came from a person Desmaze identifies only as Mme Durosoy de Lépidor: she was in fact Marie-Thérèse Du Rozoi, third wife of Michel-Julien Mathieu dit Lépidor (1740–p.1799); they had married in 1784. A juge de paix, and former secrétaire du chevalier de Luxembourg, Lépidor was the younger son of the composer and musicien du roi Michel Mathieu, and himself composed several operas and some chamber music: very much the world the pastellist loved.

But perhaps the trickiest puzzle (apart from Ad. D.) concerns how Desmaze obtained the letters. They included a number, such as these, that B&W did print. But all Desmaze reveals was that he was given the letters by “Madame Sarrazin-Varluzel-de-Cessières” [sic]; in another reference Desmaze refers to her as “Mme Sarazin V. Varluzel, 10, rue de Chabrol, à Paris” (does the V. mean veuve?), while in a third Desmaze tells us that “Mme Sarazin Varluzel, légataire de l’abbé Duliège, a recueilli, dans cette succession, des tableaux venant de La Tour”; finally, in his 1874 Reliquaire, Desmaze states that Mme Sarazin was the heir of the abbé Duliège, “exécuteur testamentaire du chevalier de La Tour”. Later sources have gone no further, although embellishments occur: the Goncourts called Mme Sarazin Varluzel “une descendante de La Tour”.

Those of you addicted to puzzles may want to try your hand at unravelling this now. But as I have put the details into my documentation file, the answer is already, or will very shortly be, googleable. So I shall explain, after first disposing of the red herring that the link relates to a Pierre-Antoine Du Liège, sgr de Warluzel (1714–1789), who was président-trésorier de France et général des finances en la généralité d’Amiens.

The answer is quite different. The chevalier de La Tour’s executor, the abbé Duliège, has been known for some time, as Adrien-Joseph-Constant Duliège, chapelain de l’église de Saint-Quentin et vicaire de la paroisse de Notre-Dame, although I have only recently tracked his baptismal and burial records which require patient trawling through parish records. He was born in 1749 to a tailor whose sister was the pastellist’s step-mother and the chevalier’s mother. It is the abbé’s death which would seem most relevant in tracking Desmaze’s source: he died in 1817.

As it turns out Desmaze is wrong. Flore-Joséphine Warluzèle, as her name appeared at her baptism in 1820, was not related to La Tour, and, born three years after the abbé Duliège’s death, cannot have been his heir (didn’t Desmaze realize this when he met the 52-year-old lady?). She married, apparently for the second time, Henry-Léopold Sarrazin (from a Bordeaux family), at Cessières (Aisne) in 1872: he was very much alive, and lived at 11 [not 10] rue de Chabrol at the time. Her origins were humble, her father being a carpenter, and the name was variously spelt (names beginning with W were hardly popular in France in the 1870s). Consulting her previous marriage entry in 1866, however, we find that she was then described as the widow of an Emilien Duliège, a claim not documented anywhere else. Indeed Duliège’s death certificate, which describes him as a marchand de bois in Paris, rue de Charenton-Saint-Antoine, has him as a bachelor. The plot thickens however when we discover the name of one of the witnesses on Duliège’s death certificate: Joseph-Florimond Warluzel, ébéniste. To jump to the answer, Warluzel was Flore’s half-brother; he had obviously gone to Paris to practise his trade; the Duliège family included numerous members active in the carpentry and wood business in Paris, and the ébéniste presumably introduced his sister to Emilien, leading to a relationship of some level of irregularity. Emilien was born in Paris 10e on 26 janvier 1819, but the Paris archives where the Etat civil reconstitué is held do not provide copies of documents for remote scholarship, so the final link between Emilien and the abbé will have to remain open until I next have time…unless some kind reader of this blog would be kind enough to consult the microfiche. (My guess is that Emilien was the grandson of Pierre-Alexis-René Duliège, tailleur d’habits, brother of the abbé who married him to an Eusèbe-Adélaïde Lescot at Notre-Dame de Saint-Quentin in 1787: the chevalier de La Tour was a witness.)

[Post script, 9 October 2019: The Etat civil reconsitué has now revealed that Emilien was indeed Pierre-Alexis-René’s grandson.]

Matchmaking in Ancien Régime France

This exchange of letters has been published – but in an obscure journal which has hitherto been completely overlooked. I won’t at this stage name the participants as it spoils the story, but I haven’t changed anything else. Suffice it to say that the fate of a major picture collection depends on the outcome.

An undated (evidently some time in 1788) letter from a lady, Mme R, to Monsieur X, an unmarried 62-year-old retired soldier living in a town in Northern France, concerning Mme D.:

C’est uniquement, Monsieur, par reconnaissance de la conversation que nous avons eue ensemble quand j’ai eu l’honneur de vous voir, que je me suis permis de parler à M. le chevalier de B*** d’une demoiselle qui me paraît réunir tout ce que vous m’avez paru désirer dans une compagne, et que je connais assez pour être persuadé qu’elle ferait votre bonheur. M. le chevalier de B*** ne vous a sûrement pas laissé ignorer qu’il s’agissait d’une personne de 40 à 48 ans, parfaitement bien élevée, laborieuse, accoutumée aux soins du ménage et aussi recommendable par les qualités du cœur que par les agréments de l’esprit. Je ne vous parle point de sa figure: vous êtes sûrement, Monsieur, au-dessus de cette considération: tout ce que je vous en dirai c’est qu’elle est grande, bien faite, qu’elle a de belles dents, de beaux yeux et de superbes cheveux noirs; c’est à tort, Monsieur, que vous vous effrayés de ce qu’elle est née Demoiselle. Sa sœur n’en a pas moins épousé un simple particulier, revêtu d’une charge honnête, qui n’a pas comme vous, Monsieur, l’avantage d’avoir servi et d’être décoré de la Croix de Saint Louis; et cette union n’en a pas moins été constamment heureuse et paisible depuis plus de douze ans, malgré les revers qui ont diminués la fortune du mari, épreuve délicate, comme vous savez, Monsieur, et à laquelle ne tiennent pas beaucoup d’hommes mêmes, quoique très recommandables d’ailleurs. Mon amie qui a toujours vécu avec son beau-frère et sa sœur depuis leur mariage, a peut être encore plus de cette bonhomie si désirable dans le commerce de l’intime amitié; et bien loin de se prévaloir du hazard de sa naissance, je lui ai toujours trouvé plus de franchise dans l’expression de ses sentiments, plus de simplicité dans les manières que n’en ont certaines femmes, de ce qu’on appelle l’honnête bourgeoisie.

Quelle que soit cependant, Monsieur, ma prédilection et mon attachement sincère pour cette demoiselle, je suis fort éloignée de vouloir employer vis-à-vis de vous aucun genre de séduction. Je vois en elle du côté du personnel tout ce qui peut vous convenir; du côté de la fortune, un peu plus même que vous ne m’aviez paru exiger, car vous m’avez paru souhaiter seulement qu’une femme eut assés de quoi pourvoir à son entretien, et je crois que mon amie auroit encore quelque chose de reste, cette clause remplie. L’occasion me paraît donc telle que vous la désiriés; et si vous n’êtes arrêté que par la considération de sa naissance, j’ose vous répondre que, gentilhomme ou non, vous lui serés toujours très cher si vous savés d’ailleurs la rendre heureuse, et que son caractère vous y fera trouver autant de facilité que de plaisir.

Je ne consulte pas moins, Monsieur, dans cette explication l’intérêt de votre bonheur que celui d’assurer un sort tranquille à une amie véritablement estimable et méritante à tous égards. Je me serais reprochée de vous laisser des craintes que sa façon de penser ne justiffiera jamais. Je n’irai pas plus loin, Monsieur, et contente d’avoir fait ce que je croyais devoir à la vérité autant qu’à l’amitié, je me bornerai maintenant à vous prier de croire à la sincérité des sentiments avec lesquels j’ai l’honneur d’être, Monsieur, votre très humble et très obéissante servante.


J’ai oublié de vous observer que tout séjour, à Paris, rue ***, en province et même à la campagne, serait parfaitement égal à la personne en question.

What follows appears to be an enclosure to a lost letter from X to an unnamed friend (in my 19th century source it is printed in a completely incorrect location, attached to a much later letter), while the second and third paragraphs are presumably transcribed from a letter X has received from a very close friend:

Je n’ai pas cru devoir insérer dans ma lettre la réponse que l’on a faite à mon amy. La voicy mot pour mot:

Au reçu de ta lettre, mon cher ami, je n’ai eu rien de plus pressé que d’aller à R*** pour y prendre les informations concernant Madame *** quoique je la connoisse depuis longtems, je n’ai pas voulu m’en rapporter à moy seul, et j’ai consulté quelqu’un dont je suis sur, pour avoir les renseignemens que tu désire, et tu peux compter sur ce que tu va dire.

Madame D*** a 33 ou 34 ans au plus, et non 40 comme tu me le mandes, elle est grande, assez bien de figure, mais elle est rien moins que saine, elle est d’une laiderie dont rien n’approche. La crainte de brûler quelques bouts de chandelles l’a concentrée chez elle, et elle est femme à proposer à des amies, qui viennent la voir le soir, de les éteindre, parce que l’on peut bien s’entretenir sans se voir. On dit qu’elle pleure continuellement son premier mary; note bien cecy, paraport aux risques que l’on court. Tu dois m’entendre. Quant à sa fortune, on ne sçait pas au juste ce qu’elle a; cependant on lui croit mille écus de rente; et après la mort de Mme sa mère, qui est infirme, elle pourra jouïr de 4,500 fr.

Mon amy vient d’écrire au sien pour sçavoir au juste ce qu’il entend: par-elle est rien moins que saine. Je vous avoüe, Monsieur, que cette phrase m’a fort inquiété. Je jouïs de la meilleure santé, je n’ai jamais fait aucune maladie, exceptée la petite vérole; il seroit bien facheuex pour moi d’être uni à une personne, dont la mauvaise santé me feroit passer le reste de mes jours dans des inquiétudes continuelles. Je compte assés sur vôtre honnêteté, et sur votre véracité pour espérer que vous voudrés bien me dire ce qui en est; ainsi que de la ladrerie dont on l’accuse. Le défaut de santé est un malheur, mais l’avarice est un vice qui fait le malheur, non de l’avare, mais de ceux qui sont obligés de vivre avec lui. La franchise avec laquelle j’ai l’honneur de vous écrire doit vous prouver combine je suis incapable de tromper personne, mais aussi combien je serois faché de l’être.

23 novembre 1788 — A letter from X, to an unnamed friend:

Je te remercie bien sincèrement, mon cher et ancien camarade, des informations que tu as fait prendre; mais je trouve qu’il y a bien à rabattre de ce que tu m’as dit de l’âge et de la fortune de la personne en question. Monsieur ton parent te mande qu’elle n’a que 36 ans, au lieu de 40 ou 45 ans que j’aurois désiré, et 2,400 fr. de rentes, au lieu de 4 à 5,000 fr. que tu lui croyois. Ce dernier article, le plus important et le plus essentiel pour bien des personnes, ne l’est pas pour moi. La trop grande disproportion d’âge est tout ce que je redoute de plus. Quoiqu’ordinairement une femme à 36 ans ne soit plus dans l’âge d’inspirer une grande passion, elle n’en a pas moins les prétentions; et, comme elle est dans la force du tempérament, elle n’en est que plus exigeante; et à 63 ans, un homme est peu propre à inspirer du goût et à satisfaire et remplir ses désirs: alors, la jalousie et la mauvaise humeur se mettent dans le ménage, et l’on fait réciproquement son malheur. D’ailleurs, dans le compte que te rend M. ton parent, il n’est pas question du caractère, et de la manière qu’elle a vécu avec son premier mary, non plus que de la conduitte actuelle. Quoique d’après tout ce que tu m’en a dis, je doive la croire très honnête, on ne saurait trop prendre d’informations sur ces trois objets, puisqu’ils sont et doivent être la base de l’estime, ou du mépris que l’on a l’un pour l’autre, lorsque l’on est obligé de vivre ensemble.

Je te prie, au reçû de ma lettre, d’engager M. ton parent de te mander ce qui en est, et d’après sa réponse, j’aurai l’honneur de l’aller voir et de le remercier des peines que je lui occasionne. Pour éviter les longueurs qui sont toujours désagréables en pareil cas, je crois qu’il pouroit m’adresser directement sa réponse. Surtout prie-le bien instamment de ne point me nommer que je n’ai sçu à quoi m’en tenir, et que je n’ai vu la personne. Si après cela, elle me convient, et que de son côté elle se décide à former un second engagement, alors je me ferai connoître et lui donnerai tous les moyens, pour prendre des renseignements les plus certains sur ma conduit, mon âge, mes mœurs et ma fortune, dont tu auras sans doute parlé à M. ton parent, à qui je te prie de faire agréer les assurances de ma sincère reconnaissance. Sois persuadé de celle que j’aurois toujours pour l’intérêt que tu prends à ce qui me regard, ainsi que du parfait attachement, avec lequel je suis ton sincere et véritable ami,


Je compte sur ce que tu m’as dit que la dame est veuve sans enfants, car autrement il ne faudrait pas faire de démarches. Je ne veux pas avoir les embarrass ny les inquiétudes, qui en sont les suites.

23 janvier 1789 — Letter from X to Mme D:


Je me suis fait une loy d’être franc et sincère. Si j’ai le bonheur de vous être uni, j’ose me flatter que vous reconnoîtrez de plus en plus que je m’en écarterai jamais. Je dois donc vous avoûer que l’impression que m’a laissé notre entrevue, m’a fait douter quelques instants si j’avais eu raison de vous montrer la fermeté qui vous a étonnée. Plus je me livrois à ma sensibilité, plus mon doute augmentoit; mais aussi vous confesserai-je avec la même franchise que, plus j’ai senti l’obstacle, plus j’ai vu la nécessité de me vaincre, de réfléchir et de me juger. Rendu à moi-même, j’ai dû peser scrupuleusement ce que je vous devois et la suite d’un engagement aussi important pour votre bonheur et le mien. J’ai reconnu, Madame, que ce bonheur mutuel ne peut vrayment exister, sans se dépouiller respectivement, des affections qui lui sont étrangères. Vous conviendrez, j’ose l’espérer, que ce bonheur dépend absolument d’une union sans partage. Il exige entièrement le sacrifice de tout ce qui pouroit y porter le moindre mélange. Je vais plus loin, et dès que ce sacrifice doit même cesser de l’être, dès lors que la raison le prescrit. Je n’en voudrois d’autre témoignage que celui de Mme la marquis de L, qui paroit avoir pour vous la plus tendre amitié. Aussi suis-je toujours persuadé que ce sacrifice, si c’en est un pour le moment, doit non-seulement s’étendre sur le gage que vous aviez pris d’un souvenir qui vous est cher, mais encore sur le portrait qui ne paroit que trop l’entretenir. Je me trouve donc confirmé plus que jamais dans cette nécessité absolue.

Ecartons, je vous prie, Madame, ces ombres, ces nuages, dont on couvre trop souvent le flambeau de l’hymen. Là où est la raison, ces idées d’illusion, si fatales à l’union conjugale, ne peuvent se rencontrer. Cette tendre union ne présente qu’un tout de deux parties: et cet heureux assemblage, si propre à ses douceurs et à ces charmes, ne peut certainement former une unité parfaitte, qu’autant que chacun se livre tout entier à l’autre. Telle est l’image que je me fais, et me suis fait du mariage, et à laquelle je sens que je dois absolument m’attacher. Puissent ces réflexions être assez persuasives pour vous y fixer de même. Si vous m’en donnez l’assurance, la noblesse de vos sentiments m’en sera votre garant: mon âme s’y confiera pleinement, et j’en prévois déjà d’avance la plus heureuse augure. Permettez-moi de compter assez sur moi-même pour la réaliser. Puissé-je jurer une foy inviolable en recevant la vôtre: et vous convaincre du respectueux dévouement avec lequel je suis et ne cesse d’être, Mme, V. S.


30 janvier 1789 — Response to X from Mme D:

J’ai lu avec beaucoup d’attention, Monsieur, la lettre que vous m’avez fait l’honneur de mécrire. Je vois clair comme le jour que vous craingnés que le petit être qui fait l’objet de votre discussion ne soit un obstacle à l’attachement que je dois avoir pour vous. Vous ne connoissés pas mon cœur, ni l’honnêteté de mes sentimens. Soyez-bien persuadé que si je n’avois pas l’espoir que vos procédés feroient naitre dans mon cœur un attachement sincère, je n’aurois jamais pensé à former un second engagement, parce que je sens qu’il est impossible de pouvoir être heureux, qu’autant que l’on a l’un pour l’autre la plus tendre et la plus sincère amitié. J’ai connu ce bonheur, et c’est dans l’espérance que j’ai eu de le voir renaître, que j’ai consenti aux propositions qui m’ont été faites de vôtre part. Ce n’est cependant qu’après avoir eu la certitude que je trouverois aussi dans l’honnêteté de vos sentimens tout ce qui pouvoit faire le bonheur d’une femme honnête et raisonnable. Mais comme il faut prononcer sur l’article qui tient au cœur, et moi aussy, et qu’il faut se décider d’une manière ou d’autre; je vais vous dire tout naturellement mes intentions à cet égard, et vous dirés à M. de F si cela vous convient ou non. Je désire ne jamais abandonner l’enfant dont je me suis chargé. Son père ne l’a accordé qu’à mes sollicitations réitérées, et parce que sa mère n’avait pas pour cette enfant la tendresse qu’elle avoit pour les autres, quoique cette petite créature soit d’un caractère tout à fait aimable. D’après cela, en me chargeant de cette petite, je lui ai jurée, dans mon cœur, amitié et protection; et je sens que je ne puis me détacher de l’une et lui refuser l’autre. Je vous avois proposé un accommodement sur cela: c’était de la mettre dans une petite pension de cette ville ou des environs; vous avès eu l’air d’abord d’y acquiescer, et, par une réflexion qui a été défavorable à l’honnêteté de mes sentimens, vous avés mis, dans votre refus, une fermeté qui, je vous l’avoue, m’a étonnée, et je vous dirai même plus, qui m’a effrayée. Vous avez fait sur cet objet beaucoup de réflexions; j’en a fait aussi beaucoup de mon côté;  j’en sondé mon cœur, et j’ai trouvé que cet espèce d’attachement ne pouvoit avoir aucun rapport, ni être mis en comparaison à celui qu’un mary et une femme doivent avoir l’un pour l’autre. Voilà, Monsieur, mes sentimens; vous voudrès bien dire à M. de F qui doit aller à [***] dans la semaine prochaine, si vous les adoptés ou si vous les refusés, il m’en fera part à son retour. Soyés, je vous prie, persuadé, Monsieur, de toute la sincérité de mes sentimens, et de ceux avec lesquels j’ai l’honneur d’être


5 février 1789 — Response from X to Mme D:


Aussi flatté qu’ému de la réponse dont vous m’avez honnoré, que de réflexions ne m’a-t-il pas fallu faire pour ramener au vrai principe les raisons que vous avés eu le talent de si bien faire valoir? Je l’ai lue et relue plusieurs fois, et ne peux vous rendre et le plaisir et la peine qu’elle m’a faite. Icy une âme honnêtte et sensible se développe avec toute l’énergie qui lui est propre; là les obligations qu’elle croit avoir contractées semble devoir prépondérer sur toute autre; ou du moins, elle en est si remplie qu’elle ne voit pas qu’il est impossible de les allier, que ne puis-je avoir l’art de vous persuader! Je ne dois au moins rien négliger pour y parvenir. A ne considérer, Madame, l’attachement qui nous divise, abstraction de toute circonstances, sans doute ce pur effet de l’humanité n’auroit rien de contraire à un attachement, dont les causes et les vues sont si différentes; mais m’est-il possible de juger du vôtre sous ce seul rapport? C’est ce que je vous prie de bien peser. Cette innocente créature qui vous fixe, n’a pu tant vous fixer par ce seul sentiment. Il est noble, il est louable sans doute, mais il faut y voir nécessairement d’autres causes; et ces causes peuvent-elles m’être indifférentes. Plus elles peuvent servir à augmenter ou entretenir le degré de sensibilité qui vous y attache, plus je dois envisager les dangers qui peuvent en naître. Je ne m’arrêterai pas à la nécessité où est une veuve de se détacher absolument et pleinement de toutes les impressions, que son premier mary a pu lui laisser: une seconde union, pour être pure et parfaitte ne souffre pas de partage. Vôtre silence fera cette vérité me convaincre de toute sa force. Je parlerai encore moins de l’effet de l’amour propre qu’il ne m’est pas permis de faire valoir. Il est plus naturel de tenir à cet instant à l’amitié, qui vous occupe qu’à celle que j’ai fait naître. J’ai donc à vous démontrer la juste crainte que j’ai à concevoir.

Vous désirés, Madame, de jouir du bonheur que vous avés eu dans vôtre premier engagement; c’est ce que je cherche, et qui fait mon unique veu. Mais vous faut-il plus que vôtre expérience pour convenir que ce bonheur ne peut être pur et durable, si l’on névite pas tout ce qui peut en troubler et en altérer la source. Il ne peut exister, très certainement qu’autant que les deux cœurs ont les mêmes affections, et les mêmes sentimens. Pour entretenir cette unité si essentielle, il faut nécessairement que les impressions de l’un deviennent celles de l’autre. Appliquons ces principes: il faut donc que vôtre attachement devienne le mien; car nous ne devons pas seulement aimer pour nous-mêmes, nous devons encore mieux aimer tout ce qui flatte la personne que nous aimons.

Or, permettez-moy, Madame, de vous demander s’il serait raisonnable d’exiger de moi le même attachement qui vous tient tant à cœur, en ce moment. En supposant que l’habitude de voir ce qui vous seroit cher pût me faire naître le même sentiment, ne dois-je pas craindre le contraire! L’intérêt que j’aurais à vous faire perdre entièrement le souvenir que vous m’avés tant montré pour la mémoire de M. votre mary, ne seroit-il pas un obstacle? et même ne doit-il pas l’être? si je ne puis prendre ce sentiment; si même je ne le dois pas, je serais donc au moins indifférent à un objet qui loin de vous l’être, vous affectera plus vivement. Hé quoy! je vous verrois affectée, et loin de trouver des raisons pour vous complaire, j’en aurois au contraire pour n’y pas condescendre. C’est là positivement le trouble et la diversité de sentimens que j’ai si grand intérêt de prévenir. C’est la pomme de discorde, que je dois éloigner de chez moy. Plus nous paroissons sensible l’un et l’autre, moins nous devons admettre ce qui peut devenir un sujet et une source de chagrins et de peines.

Telles sont, Madame, les nouvelles réfléxions que j’ai cru propres à détruire les vôtres. Puissent-elles être assés convaincantes pour vous déterminer à ce qui m’est si important d’obtenir; c’est-à-dire de renvoyer la petite dans sa famille, à qui je consens que vous fassiés du bien, et à laisser dans le sein de la vôtre le portrait de M. votre mary, que je ne peux recevoir, chez moy, sans risque. Si vous me refusés ces deux sacrifices, auxquels sont attachés le bonheur ou le malheur de ma vie; je suis forcé de voir cet évênement et cette fatalité dans les décrets de la providence. Je n’en conserverais pas moins pour vous, Madame, l’estime que vous m’avés inspirée; et ne m’étant plus permis d’y joindre des sentimens plus tendres, je me borne à vous assurer dans toutes les occasions et dans tous les instants de ma vie, du profond respect avec lequel je suis


10 février 1789 — Response to X from Mme D:

J’ai bien tardé, Monsieur de répondre à la dernière lettre que vous m’avés fait l’honneur de m’écrire; je vais le faire avec toute la franchise qui fait le fond de mon caractère. Je conviens que, d’après vôtre manière d’envisager les objets qui nous divisent, il est tout naturel que vous cherchiés à éloigner tous les obstacles que vous croyés devoir troubler vôtre bonheur; et tous les argumens que vous employés pour me convaincre seroient bien faits pour me persuader. J’avois aussi cédé en partie à vos désirs, puisque je vous avois proposé de mettre cet enfant en pension, c’étoit l’éloigner de chez vous, permettés moy de vous rappeler encore que vous étiés au moment d’y consentir; mais une réfléxion désavantageuse à mes sentimens vous a fait revenir sur cet article: je dis désavantageux : parce que, persuadée comme je le suis de la pureté de mes intentions, je n’avais pas voulu apporter chés vous aucun sujet de discorde. Seroit-il possible d’imaginer que j’ai pu consentir à former un second engagement, si je n’avois été dans la ferme résolution de contribuer de tout mon pouvoir au bonheur de celui à qui je me serois unie! et ce seroit être ennemie du mien si j’avois crüe y apporter volontairement des obstacles: car il est dans ma manière de penser de ne pouvoir être heureux, si je n’ai pas un véritable attachement pour la personne avec laquelle je serois destinée à passer ma vie.

D’après cela je n’ai pas imaginé qu’un enfant que j’avois pris auprès de moy pour me distraire et m’occuper, et qui m’a inspiré de l’intérêt et de l’amitié, put jamais être un obstacle à un attachement qui doit être de beaucoup au-dessus de celui que j’ai pour elle. Je suis si persuadé de la sincérité de mes sentimens sur cet article que cela me fait persister dans la résolution que j’ai prise de ne point renvoyer cette enfant à ses parents, et de m’intéresser toujours à son sort. Je lui dois ce tendre intérêt, et je dois aussi beaucoup à ses parents pour la marque de confiance et d’amitié qu’ils m’ont donnée. Voilà, Monsieur, mes intentions sur cet article, et je ne me permettrés jamais de prononcer et d’agir différemment. Quant à celui du portrait de l’homme estimable que j’ai perdu, il m’est encore dur d’avoir à discuter cet objet; mais puisque vous désirés que je vous parle avec franchise, je vous dirai que je ne veux point laisser à ma famille cette image: ils n’ont pas assés accordé à sa mémoire pour croire qu’ils en fassent grand cas, et d’ailleurs le public seroit instruit de cela, et ce seroit un ridicule que je me donnerois, et qu’à coup sûr je ne mériterois pas: mais il auroit été une manierre d’arranger cet article à vôtre gré et au mien.

Je regrette beaucoup de n’avoir pas prévu toutes ces difficultés: je vous aurois épargné, Monsieur, et à moy aussi, la peine de les discuter; mais j’en suis dédomagée par l’avantage que j’ai de vous connoître, et de vous assurer des sentimens avec lesquels j’ai l’honneur d’être


17 février 1789 — Letter from X to M. de F:

Sensible à tous vos bons offices, et vos honnêtetés, c’est moy qui doit vous témoigner la plus vive reconnaissance. Je verrai toujours naître, avec intérêt, les occasions qui pourront me venger.

Mme D m’a bien honoré de sa réponse. J’en suis affecté. La naïveté de ses impressions, le charme qu’elle sçait y répandre, tout, en elle, me pénétre délicieusement, et m’auroit entraîné, si mes raisons ne m’avoient pas paru devoir prépondérer.

Chacun a droit à son opinion: la nôtre, quoique différente, est peut être admissible de part et d’autre, il n’en résulte pas moins une discordance de vües, dont l’idée seule doit m’effrayer et m’arrêter.

Que nous étions bien éloignés de cette unité de sentimens que je recherchois, et dont je me faisois, d’après notre existence, une si gracieuse image! si nous n’avons pu nous accorder dès le premier pas, quelle crainte cette circonstance ne doit-elle pas m’inspirer!

Je suis trop jaloux de son bonheur, et de ma tranquillité pour rien hazarder qui puisse y porter le moindre trouble. Je vois donc l’impossibilité de nôtre union. Par quelle fatalité faut-il que celle, dont les qualités extérieures avoient fait sur moy une si douce impression, ne puisse faire son bonheur avec moy par la diversité de nos manierres de penser. J’en ai tous les regrêts possibles.

Je vous prie, Monsieur, de les lui rendre avec cette énergie dont vous êtes capable; vous ne pouvés jamais excéder la vérité.

J’aurois eu l’honneur de vous écrire plustôt, si je n’avois compté avoir un entretien avec M. M., ainsi que vous me l’avés annoncé. Je ne l’ai pas vu. Sans doute que ses affaires ne lui auront pas permis de venir icy. Permettés que Mme votre épouse trouve icy les assurances de mon profond respect, et soyés persuadé des sentimens sincères et distingués avec lesquels j’ai l’honneur d’être, Monsieur, votre très humble et très obéissante serviteur,


Minutiae at the Met


My review of Katharine Baetjer’s new catalogue of French Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art is in the April Apollo. (As that article mentions the recent National Gallery catalogue, here’s a link to my comments on that.) This note simply lists the marginalia I jotted down while reading the book: points too trivial to include in the review, but which might be helpful for the Met’s great collections website. [Postscript: The Met have now generously made the catalogue freely available online already, here.]

page 19. The abbé Dubos was a member of the Académie française, not the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture.

page 21. The mention of Watteau here hints at the fact that a good number of the Met’s pictures were not products of the Académie royale system.

page 22. “The 1740s saw the birth…”: Salon criticism goes back at least to Florent Le Comte’s discussion of the 1699 salon.

page 29. It seems curious to give such prominence to the exact days each salon was open, since so many are unknown, and so little hinges on them. But at a first glance a number of the dates proposed here don’t agree with those in Udo van de Sandt’s new study, Histoire des expositions de l’Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture (1663–1791): solennités, fêtes, cérémonies et salons (not cited). E.g.

  • 1669: it isn’t even clear that the display this year was open to the public.
  • 1671: UvdS has a start date of 28 March, not 20 April
  • 1673: UvdS (p. 22) has 24 August – 3 September, i.e. 11 days, while Baetjer has August 14 – September 4.
  • 1681: UvdS notes that nothing confirms that an exhibition took place.
  • 1699: again the circumstances were complicated: as UvdS explains, the opening took place on 2 September, and it was intended to last until 16, but was extended to 22, September (Baetjer: August 20 – September 16).
  • 1704: Baetjer prints September 12 – November 8 following Duvivier and Guiffrey. But as UvdS explains, while these dates are credible, the source is unknown.

Catalogue by number

Number 1 Largillierre ?Mme Lambert

In assessing the suggested identity (was it any more than the dealer’s imagination fuelled by a collection of Drevet prints?) it might have been useful to consider the accuracy of other suggestions made at the time of its acquisition. A report in the New York Tribune (10 May 1903, pp. 36–37, not cited in Baetjer nor in the relevant object web pages, although it is apparently the first publication of these works) discusses and reproduces the first three purchases with the Rogers fund: this (already said to be of Marie-Marguerite, not Hélène); the Nattier, cat. no. 19 below, presented with no foundation as of the princesse de Condé, and a portrait said to be of Kaiser Joseph II by François-Hubert Drouais but which is of an unidentified sitter by Batoni.

In passing I note the portrait in Honolulu said to be by Largillierre and Blin de Fontenay, and of Hélène Lambert, the basis of which also seems questionable. I note too another  confusion: the 1699 salon lists Largillierre’s three portraits, of Lambert de Torigny [sic], his wife, and “M. Lambert leur Fils President des Enquêtes” [my emphasis]: Baetjer  assumes this is Claude-Jean-Baptiste Lambert de Thorigny (who in fact died in 1703, one year after the date Jal gives); but he was actually at the Chambre des comptes. (See my genealogy.) Assuming that the livret was typeset from manuscript, it seems more likely that the third portrait was of Claude’s brother, Nicolas III Lambert de Vermont (1666–1729), who was reçu président de la deuxième Chambre des requêtes du Parlement in 1697. (He was later prévôt des marchands de Paris.) This identification is reinforced by the appearance among the debtors listed in Largillierre’s marriage contract of 19 August 1699 of an outstanding payment of 70 livres from “le président Lambert de Vermont” for a copy of his portrait. If so, this portrait (or the copy) is not missing – it is in the Norton Simon Museum. Baetjer does not mention Saint-Simon’s description of Marie-Marguerite, “belle comme le jour” – sufficiently so to have had an affair with the duc d’Elbeuf (Additions à Dangeau, Pléïade ed., 1983, i, p. 1145; curiously he too confuses her husband and brother-in-law).

But all this is probably irrelevant.

Baetjer reports no enquiry into the supposed early provenance, the “marquis d’Ussel, chateau d’Oscamp, Belgium”, which might perhaps provide a clue if decrypted. The suggestion that “Oscamp” is Oostkamp is indeed plausible, particularly if developed further. The chateau there belonged to the family not of Ussel, but of Ursel, a distinguished ducal family in the Belgian nobility who might well have commissioned a portrait from Largillierre. Unfortunately so far it has not been possible to locate a record of the picture sold in the family archives.

As for the iconography of the black servant, it seems tenuous to link this to the acquisition of Saint-Domingue in 1664; the tradition goes back at least to Van Dyck.

Number 2 Largillierre Alloys d’Herculais

page 37: “Amaury Aloys d’Herculais was not Jules Künckel’s son”: actually he was (he was also the sitter’s great-great-grandson), as can be demonstrated by consulting the Conflans census in 1909 or by comparing his 1928 address with his mother’s, Künckel’s second wife. He was in fact born in Algiers on 9 August 1893; as his parents had not yet married, his birth was registered under his mother’s name, Mouilleron, with forenames Amaury-Jules-Aloys.

When the sitter’s grandson died in 1869, he named Künckel as universal legatee because he was the son of his cousin. See

Number 3 Rigaud Man

James-Sarazin seems to retain the possible identification as Nicolas Collin de Vermont, first suggested by Gallenkamp, which is not mentioned here.

Number 4 Rigaud Officer

Discussions about the identification and dating will continue: a later date, and perhaps a degree of studio involvement, might help explain the differences in quality from the version in fig. 4.4.

Number 6 Gobert duchesse de Bourgogne

“We know relatively little about her”: readers of Saint-Simon will disagree (the entry for her in the index of the Pléïade edition alone runs to three pages).

The sitter’s face bears little resemblance to Gobert’s portraits of the duchesse de Bourgogne in Versailles (MV 2102, 6825), beyond the general similarity of all his women; but the portrait is virtually identical (apart from the colour of the eyes and a cap) to the Dresden portrait of Élisabeth-Charlotte d’Orléans (inv. 761):

It is extremely close too to that of the marquise de Nesle (Agen, mBA); no doubt other versions exist. Is the painting correctly identified, or are these merely indications of Gobert’s limitations? (No provenance before 1945 is given.)

Number 9 De Troy Triumph of Mordecai

page 59. As Troy is a monosyllable, the particle should be retained.

page 60. Racine’s forename was Jean, not Jean-Baptiste.

page 61. Technically Rome did not become the capital of Italy until 1871.

Number 10 Watteau Mezzetin

page 65. It is odd to conclude that Watteau “would not have been drawn to Luigi Riccoboni’s newly arrived troop”. As my edition of her diaries demonstrates, Rosalba was connected with the Riccoboni family.

Number 15 Nattier Dame en Source

The title can’t comfortably be translated as “The Source”.

page 81. “for a duchess, inappropriately, revealed”: but other Nattier portraits of high ranking ladies did so (Salmon 1999, nos 28, 39, 43 etc., and probably others whose later interventions have not yet been reversed).

Number 16 Nattier marquise d’Argence

An examination of the parish registers at Surin (Vienne) shows that she was born 16, baptized 29, January 1714 (so she married unusually late, which is why her dates may have been difficult to find).

D’Argence visited Ferney in September 1760. But this published poem was probably never actually posted to his wife (and is not included in modern editions of Voltaire’s correspondence).

Number 17 Nattier Mme Marsollier

Mme Marsollier died on 9 (and was buried 10) January 1756 at Paris, Saint-Eustache, aged 40, and so was almost certainly born in 1715. In 1749 she was hardly a “very young woman”, but that is Nattier’s art.

“He bought her a title and she became the comtesse de Neubourg”: this seems to confuse statements found in earlier sources, and which was only partially, but incorrectly, explained in Salmon 1999, who relied on unverified family confusion. The Neubourg territory only came into the family far later. The daughter and granddaughter of Nattier’s sitters, Adélaïde-Marie-Octavie Lorimier de Chamilly (1762–1849) married Louis-Aymon de Pernon whose half-brother’s son Edmond-Ferdinand Quentin de Richebourg married (in 1784) Louise-Joséphine Le Prestre de Neubourg; she died in 1820 with no posterity, when the Neubourg land (and title) fell to Adélaïde: her daughter Agathe had married (in 1808) the vicomte Marc de Saint-Pierre etc.

The duc de Luynes’s story needs to be considered in the context of this portrait which gives such prominence to the fabrics her husband had sold.

Neither in the book nor the website is there a full account of the copies – that belonging to Reginald Vaile for example was publicly exhibited in several locations before being sold to Agnew’s for £4725 in his 1903 sale. (This contrasts with the 320 guineas, or £336 – not £320 – recorded for Lot 28 in the same sale, referred to without lot number in Baetjer, p. 254 n.4, a version of the Fragonard. Such numbers are more significant for the history of taste than in the determination of authenticity.) It was presumably this version of the “comtesse de Neubourg and daughter” which Agnew’s bought from W. Lockett Agnew on 23 April 1909 and sold three days later to the collector William Knox D’Arcy for £9000. Its earlier history is also with Agnew’s: stock no. 158, they originally bought it from the French dealer Régis Chanas on 28 November 1901 before selling it to Vaile a few days later for £6600.

Number 18 Nattier Dame 1753

The rejection of the identity as “Mme de Cypierre” is correct: she cannot plausibly be 13 years old.

“genealogical information is lacking…”: The marriage contract was signed in Paris 18 August 1752 (AN MC/ET/XII/525). The marquis Cypierre died on 18 July 1790, not 1789 (parish register, Mont-Dore, Puy-de-Dôme).

Page 89 & n.4. The arrangement with Agnew’s can be expanded a little by consulting their stock books, where it appears as no. 1581. It was purchased from Fairfax-Murray on 17 May 1905, with a 1/2 share of any profit to him; as correctly noted, it was returned on 4 September 1907. (Taken at the same time on the same basis was Carle Van Loo’s Mme de Pompadour as La Belle Jardinière, which did sell – to Pierpont Morgan, for £4400.)

Number 19 Nattier Mme Bergeret

By 1760 Nattier’s success was waning rapidly.

It is surely no coincidence that Albert Pioerron de Mondésir’s grandson Jean married Thérèse Bergeret de Frouville (the sitter’s great-great-great-granddaughter), in 1929; the connection between the families may go back to her great-grandmother Edmée-Charlotte-Pierrette Bergeret de Frouville whose children were illegitimate by an unnamed father.

Number 24 Coypel Jullienne couple

Literature on artist: Lefrançois is considerably supplemented by the Dictionary of pastellists online, where this work is J.2472.171.

“unrecorded…no trace until 1974”: I have published the detailed history from its first appearance before 1906, when it acquired by Duveen, and sold (in May) to 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 frequently returned works, including this one (by August 1906); Duveen records also note other pastels sold to her, as well as a disturbingly high invoice of $1042.10 for “restoring three pastels”. The label, reproduced in fig. 24.1, is in English, consistent with this provenance and apparently in the same handwriting as the relevant page in the Duveen ledgers.

page 106. “Julienne was not particularly interested in pastels”. See for his collection: there were 37 pastels in his sale alone, making him one of the most important pastel collectors of his era. (Mariette thought he had paid far too much – 4000 livres – for a set of Rosalba’s Four Seasons towards the end of his life.) Here is how he displayed six of them, from a single page in the album in the Morgan Library:

Jullienne Pastels

For Coypel’s meetings with Rosalba, see my annotated edition of her diaries:

Keyed stretcher: La Tour’s pastel of Frémin at the Louvre (J.46.1819) is probably contemporary: see my Prolegomena, §iv.1.

Number 27 Pater Jeux d’enfans

La Live de Jully “an associate member”: the term honoraire associé libre is liable to misunderstanding if translated thus; he was not agréé.

Number 30 Tocqué Nattier

page 122. Mme Brochier, née Charlotte-Claudine Nattier died 12 May 1779.

Number 31 Dumesnil

Fig. 31.1. For this and other portraits of Beaujon, see my

Number 37 Trémolières

It might be worth noting that he married the miniaturist (and sister-in-law of Subleyras) Isabella Tibaldi.

Number 41 Boucher Toilette de Venus

The INHA annotation suggests that Marin can be identified as Jean-François Marin, peintre de l’Académie Saint-Luc, whose death and application of seals was announced in the Journal de Paris 23 February 1790, a month before the sale.

Number 42 Boucher Jupiter

Alastair Laing’s correct inference that the lender to the Salon in 1765 was the uncle of the better-known Pierre-Jacques-Onézime Bergeret (this seems to be his preferred spelling, rather than Onésyme, although every variant is found) because the work was not in the nephew’s posthumous inventory or sale prompts us to note an even simpler reason: during his life, only Nicolas-Joseph used the title “de Grancourt”. The land may have passed to P.-J.-O. Bergeret at his death, but, despite very frequent appearances in modern sources, I can find no example in a document during his life of P.-J.-O. Bergeret using it (I should be delighted to be proved wrong, as a good many modern books appear to be incorrect). The confusion goes back at least to Portalis’s monograph on Fragonard (1889); the Goncourt article (1865) listed the 1765 lender with no warning that he was not the nephew.

Bergeret Pierre Jacques Onezime placard de deces

page 163. I don’t think “tripière” is usefully rendered as “tripe seller”, nor even by “strumpet” (the Goodman translation): the Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, 4e éd, notes “une femme qui est grosse & courte”. The ill-temper is from a different passage.

Number 50 La Tour Garnier d’Isle

page 175. It seems odd not to mention the enormous quantity of information on La Tour available in the online Dictionary and other parts of the Pastels & pastellists website: for a guide to the various La Tour documents, see

Number 50 is J.46.1827 in the online Dictionary.

Contrary to the introduction here, La Tour’s technique often made a virtue of visible strokes. I discuss precisely this point in relation to the present work in my Burlington Magazine article (Jeffares 2011, p. 500, reviewing the Met’s 2011 exhibition), which is disregarded in Baetjer, and not even cited on the object web page in the Met’s online database which, according to Baetjer, includes “every former owner, previous exhibition, and publication known to us.”

Number 51 Van Loo Hunt

Among the more recent literature, Autour des Van Loo, edited by Christine Rolland, stands out.

Number 52 Voiriot Aublet

The traditional date of Voiriot’s birth was corrected in Voiriot’s 2004 article (although it is cited): it is 1712.

No curiosity is expressed about M. Aublet’s identity. A possible candidate might be Jean-Zorobabel Aublet de Manubuy, the lawyer and writer imprisoned in the Bastille for his outspokenness; further research is required.

Number 55 Perronneau Olivier Journu

This is J.582.1429 in the online Dictionary, which also contains material not in d’Arnoult. The traditional c.1715 year of birth for the artist should be replaced by c.1716 since his age was given as “in his 68th year” (i.e. 67 years of age) at his death near the end of November 1783.

For what is known of Olivier’s life, see my essay where the work is reproduced (not referenced by Baetjer or the Met website); it is also reproduced in my 2011 Burlington Magazine article (not referenced). Literature omits the famous texts of Robert de Montesquiou and the Goncourts.

page 191. “the names are not recorded in full”: actually Olivier was baptized simply “Bernard”, despite the fact that he already had a brother with this name. Both he and another brother called themselves Olivier, which did not resolve the confusions.

Olivier’s death is widely reported as 1764, but this seems to be based only on Meaudre de Lapouyade’s inference that he died “before 1764” (since he was omitted from his mother’s will).

The entry ends with this slightly vacuous statement: “While his expression is opaque, he seems to be acutely self-aware.”

Number 58 Duplessis Mme de Saint-Maurice [Saint-Morys]

page 196 n.1. The information given for the Barbeyrac family is rather confused. Antoine de Barbeyrac (1693–1749) was not marquis de Saint-Maurice as the title was only erected in 1753; he was in any case a président, not a conseiller. Of the four sons, three were soldiers, while the eldest, also Antoine, who did become marquis de Saint-Maurice, does not seem to have been a lawyer (Louis de La Roque is scrupulous about noting all such appointments); I can find no member of this family of a plausible age to fit Saint-Aubin’s description.

SaintAubin Livret

In fact “Mme de St Maurice, femme d’un conseiller au parlement” can only be Éléonore-Élisabeth-Angélique de Beauterne (1742–1824), who, in 1776, married the conseiller au parlement Charles-Paul-Jean-Baptiste de Bourgevin de Vialart, comte de Saint-Morys (1743–1795), an art collector famous for his patronage of Greuze and other artists. Saint-Morys was appointed conseiller at the 1ère des enquêtes from 1769, and (apart from a brief interlude during the Maupeou reforms), he remained in office at the time of the portrait; it is in the robes of a conseiller au parlement that Greuze painted him c.1780 (Nantes, mBA). No other conseiller had a similar or homophonous name.

The Saint-Morys had only one child, a son (also known from a well-known Greuze portrait) killed in a duel in 1817 fought over the threatened demolition of the family château where his mother was still living; his only daughter (and Éléonore’s universal heir), Charlotte-Marie-Joséphine (1792–1857), who lost her own husband a few months later, acquired the Paris property at 8 rue Vivienne. According to Éléonore’s posthumous inventory (11 March 1824; AN MC/C/1118), in the salon were three family portraits, listed without further description “pour mémoire”, as were a further five in the principal bedroom:

SaintMorysMme inv pm

Charlotte-Marie-Joséphine died in 1857, the year in which we know Carleton Gates was travelling in Europe and forming the collection of which this portrait became part. (Gates was in Paris between September 1857 and March 1858, but does not mention the purchase in the two pages covering that period in his correspondence in the William & Mary Libraries: my thanks to the staff there for checking.) The portraits may well have been disposed of before then: comte Alphonse de Feltre had acquired the two Greuze portraits from the family in time to give them to Nantes in 1830. Not definitive confirmation, perhaps; but a plausible narrative consistent with my suggestion.

Number 59 Duplessis Franklin

There is no discussion (either here or in Baetjer & al. 2017) of the problematic salon critic which describes the work shown in 1779: “Ce portrait en veste de satin blanc”. Unless this is explained there must be some doubt that the MMA picture is the one shown.

Number 60 Duplessis copy

Pierre de Buissy was born and baptized 30 June 1737 at Abbeville, paroisse Saint-Gilles as can be verified in the parish registers.

Number 61 Greuze Eggs

page 205. Georges Gougenot de Croissy died in 1792 (3 January), not 1784.

Number 62 Greuze Boy

Page 207f. For Harenc de Presle and Damery, see the entries in .

Number 63 Greuze d’Angiviller

For the provenance, we are given merely “?comte de Bernis-Calvière, Vézénobres, Gard; vicomte Paul Le Compasseur Créqui Montfort de Courtivron, Paris”. The Bernis were descendants of the family of cardinal de Bernis, an associate of d’Angiviller; it would be worth investigating if the picture was given to him.

In the Met object web page is cited « Exposition au profit des laboratoires, 1922 or 1923 »: this is my Paris 1923b, L’Art français au service de la science, exposition d’œuvres d’art des xviiie, xixe, xxe siècles, au profit d’aide à la recherche scientifique, Paris, Hôtel des négociants en objets d’art, rue de Ville-l’Évêque, 1923.

Page 212 n.8. Probably the primary version of the Duplessis portrait is in the Danish royal collection, KMS7065. There are numerous related pictures, including Lagrenée’s 1783 Allégorie relative à l’établissement du Muséum dans la Grande Galerie du Louvre (Louvre, inv. RF 1998-6).

Number 67 Greuze, Princess Varvara Nikolaevna

The iconography  includes a 1792 portrait by Füger (Berlin, Nationalgalerie, inv. A I 947): .

This may help recognize that the Reynolds print is of the same sitter as Greuze, who had a particular tendency to make his noses look aquiline.

Princess Gagarina

Number 70 Drouais “Mme Favart”

Fig. 70.1 shows the Daullé print, not the Vanloo drawing (this may be seen as J.745.1205 in

“Me Boulland” is an abbreviation of Maître, not Madame.

Number 72 Drouais Madame Sophie

For a discussion of the iconography of the princess, see my where the present work is reproduced.

Number 74 Drouais Boy with a spaniel

The original painting from Rothschild collection is visible in the 1962 watercolour by Alexandre Serebriakoff of the salon vert in a Paris house (a photograph is available through Getty Images).

Number 76 Pillement Naufrage

Literature: the Dictionary of pastellists has much more of Pillement’s oeuvre than any of the sources suggested. This example is J.592.306. Pillement was baptized “Jean-Baptiste”. The “Society of Arts” is not the Society of Artists, where he exhibited.

Number 77 Pécheux María Luisa

The Sternkreuzorden cannot usefully be translated as “order of the Star Cross”; “Starry Cross” is standard.

Number 80 Fragonard Woman with dog

As far as I know the only evidence of the year of Émilie Coignet de Courson’s birth is a document in the AN S.1022, 3 February 1742 in which there is reference to the tutelage of Emilie and her siblings arranged in a deed of 10 March 1733 (at Auxerre), when her mother died: she was then aged 16, not 6, years, so that she was probably born in 1716, not 1727. So in 1769 she would have been 53, not 42. Dupuy-Vachey does not consider the picture to be of Emilie.

Number 84 Fragonard The love letter

Perhaps worth noting that the standard convention of the day was for an envelope to be addressed “A Monsieur/Monsieur…”. While such inscriptions often serve in portraiture to establish social positions, it would be singular for a wife to hold a letter to her own husband.

Number 106 David Socrates

“Difficult to judge the extent of his education in classical languages”: his inscription ΑΘEΝAIΩΝ should be ΑΘΗΝΑΊΩΝ; this would suggest his Greek was rudimentary.

page 314. Daniel-Charles Trudaine was an intendant des finances, not a fermier général.

Number 107 David Lavoisier

Among the enormous literature on this picture there is even a thesis (by Lucile Roche) not cited here, nor in the object web page. Nor is there mention here (although there is online, without explanation) of the frame with royal arms: this is so singularly inappropriate, one wonders if it was a private joke.

But perhaps it is David who is having his own joke, since he seems to have borrowed the composition (again another secret that has escaped scholarship), not from Paris and Helen (p. 321f here) nor Vigée Le Brun’s Calonne nor from the Garrick double portrait (object web page), but from an erotic print (Delignon, after Lavreince) published in 1782, Les Offres séduisantes? That is possibly why he avoided putting Lavoisier in the robe de chambre normally shown in scientists’ portraits, as it would have open to misinterpretation.

Delignon v David

page 319. The price of 7000 livres, described here as “immense”, is less than the 10,000 reportedly offered for the Labille-Guiard triple portrait (Number 110, pp. 331, 333).

Number 110 Labille-Guiard triple portrait

The literature here and on the object web page omits Mantz 1854, p. 178: “Les portraitistes du XVIIIe siècle. IV”, L’Artiste, xii, 1854, pp. 177-79 “exempte surtout de cette sentimentalité plate et menteuse dont madame Lebrun se montrait si fière, cette toile vaut mieux que tous les pastels de madame Guyard”. The passage is particularly significant since it predates the Louvre rejection (see below) by 24 years.

In my recent research in both the online Dictionary and the post on this blog I provided considerably more information on Labille-Guiard’s family and pupils – notably about Mlle Carraux [sic], who was an illegitimate daughter of Swiss farmers.

Similarly I have more information on each of the nine pupils than can be found in Passez (p. 330, n.2).

Page 332. “offered to the Louvre, and declined” is a rather deficient summary of a judgement that the picture was “sans valeur artistique” – a mere family portrait (letter of 30 November 1878 from Eugène Guillaume, conveying the views of Frédéric Reiset, then directeur des musées nationaux, to the minister).

Number 111 Labille-Guiard Madame Elisabeth

“Le Grand Dauphin” was Louis le dauphin’s great-grandfather.

This is J.44.175 in the Dictionary. My provenance includes the possibility that this was lot 99 in the baron de Beurnonville’s sale.

Number 116 Victoire Lemoine Interior

The literature omits Charlotte Guichard, La Griffe de l’artiste, 2018.

Baetjer’s scepticism about the traditional identifications is surely unnecessary: the standing figure does resemble Vigée Le Brun, while a newly discovered self-portrait by Victoire Lemoine (Paris, Drouot, De Baecque, 27 March 2019, Lot 131; Lot 132 is the painting box from the same provenance) not only has blue eyes (ruling her out as the standing figure) but a face which, allowing for the change in viewpoint, closely resembles the pupil.

Number 117 Rose-Adélaïde Ducreux Autoportrait

Ducreux claimed to have been the only pupil of La Tour, but the cliché should be dropped.

She holds a tuning key, not a tuning fork.

Number 124 Villers Charlotte du Val

Denise was 13 years younger, not older, than Mme Gabiou.

page 375. “if born about 1786”: she was indeed born, on Christmas day, 1786, baptized at Sézanne (Marne), paroisse Saint-Denis.

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 178. It is suggested that the painting was originally on a slightly smaller stretcher. There is no discussion of the frame, whose fronton suggests that it was original for the work; it now has uneven spacers at top and bottom, indicating perhaps that the original stretcher was larger, not smaller.

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. Provenance, and n.10 p. 327, “the transaction does not appear in Agnew’s stock books”. It does in fact appear in the (separate) Drawing stock book (also in the National Gallery archives, but not online), as no. 7947, acquired at the Dawkins sale, and sold directly to Charles Clarke on 20 September 1917 for £2700. The firm was acting on its own account, and William Lockett Agnew must have borrowed the pastel from stock in 1913 (according to the books).

The absence of any record of Dawkins’s trip to Paris c.1750 (when this work is likely to have been made) is discussed at length. Wine notes the evidence of his brother James’s trip to Rome via Paris 1749–51, and suggests therefore (with Hoisington 2006) that the reference in Clément 1754 (iv, p. 46, lettre du 15.iv.1752: “J’ai trouvé un très grand agrément de vétusté à vos Ruines de Palmyre, dont Mr. Dawkins, qui a passé l’hiver avec nous, m’a fait l’honneur de me communiquer les desseins”) must be to his brother rather than the author of the Ruines. That seems a surprising inference: James might easily have returned to Paris in the winter of 1751/52, while Henry was back in Jamaica early enough to be elected to the assembly that year. There is no reason to prefer Henry as the subscriber listed in Clément’s publication: on the contrary the reference in Clément (i, p. 193, not mentioned by Wine) makes it quite clear that Clément refers to James.


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). It was also reproduced in The Sphere, 4.iv.1925, p. 15.

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 instead of NG 1653 when the primary version of the painting was not available for the French edition of the 2015-16 catalogue (that version was subsequently reproduced in the later English language version). 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.



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