The fixer fixed: Loriot in Orléans
I’ve written at some length about the famous inventor Antoine-Joseph Loriot and his secret method of fixing pastel, which attracted almost as much mystery as Stradivarius’s varnish. Here’s an amusing incident that befell Loriot when he was lured out of Paris by his great patron, the marquis de Marigny (Mme de Pompadour’s brother), to undertake a major engineering project (the installation of a hydraulic machine) at his château de Menars on the Loire.
We can follow what happened when he stopped off on the way, in Orléans, from a series of pieces that appeared in the Annonces, affiches, nouvelles et avis divers de l’Orléanois.
On 12 June 1772 we read–
Presumably one of those “curieux” was the connoisseur Charles Le Normant du Coudray (1712–1789): it was evidently on this visit that Loriot fixed Perronneau’s portrait of him now in the musée Cognacq-Jay. According to a lengthy inscription on the back, “J’ai fait fixer ce portrait par le sieur Loriot qui avoit ce secret, le 23 juin 1772.”
Loriot followed up with another notice on 10 July 1772–
Just two months later, the pastellist Marguerite-Thérèse Leprince, Mme Laperche (1743–p.1798) and her relative (probably her brother), the marchand bonnetier “Sr Leprince”, whose address Loriot had offered and who presumably had witnessed him at work, stole the secret and offered it at half the price:
It is likely that Leprince’s customers will have discovered that there was rather more to this process than just a left-over supply of dilute fishglue. Loriot’s real discovery was not the fluid, but the great skill that he personally had in spattering just the right quantity onto the pastel.
Leprince is not heard of again. His sister and her husband left Orléans a few years later, with a closing down sale of all the ribbons and silk stockings at the rue Royale. (Had any of the ribbons been made by the machine Loriot invented?) They moved to Paris, where Mme Laperche would make a pastel of Danton’s wife.
On 20 April 1780, the Secret de fixer le pastel, inventé par M. Loriot was finally published by the Académie royale in Paris.