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Liotard’s Le Déjeuner Lavergne

25 October 2018

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

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

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

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

La Tour Pompadour Louvre

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

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

Liotard Public Advertiser 13iii1755

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

Liotard Homme et enfant Vienna LR138

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

An. G a la bougie Rouen3iii1976 L241

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

Musgrave Roehampton

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

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

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

Foreman inventory

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

ForemanMary will 1835

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

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

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

Chardin Gouvernante NG

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

Liotard Dejeuner Lavergne pnt

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

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

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

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

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

Liotard Mlle Lavergne Rijksmuseum

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

Liotard Mlle Liotard avec poupee

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

Liotard MF van Reede Athlone Getty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⇒⇒Pierre Clarenc ∞ Puylaurens Elisabeth Favar

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

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

⇒Marguerite (Genève– )

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Marie Lavergne Mme clarens m 1745

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

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

Jeanne Lavergne Delessert deces 1749

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[12] She was actually baptised Anne.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript – 28 November 2018

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

Note however that in a Tweet of 6 January 2019, Peter Schade wrote:

The frame of the newly loaned Liotard pastel (now among the Dutch paintings in room 16) looks very promising from a distance, but it is too rough to be English mid 18th century- it has to be late 19th or early 20th century

Postscript – 6 December 2018

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

Postscript – 10 July 2019

Very little is known about Liotard’s cousins beyond the bare genealogical data. But some insight may be gleaned from the testimony of the Genevan Jean-Jacques Juventin (1741–1810), later pasteur at Chêne but who embarked on a tour of France, The Netherlands and England in 1764. Juventin’s cousin Antoinette Deleuze married Liotard’s nephew Jean-Pierre Liotard (1711–1765); he was the Liotard referred to in one of Juventin’s letters home (to his uncle and aunt, who had adopted him after he was orphaned) expressing concern about his health. Juventin had been given an introduction to the Lavergne family for his passage through Lyon, and reported back to his uncle (from Lyon, 22 octobre 1764):

J’ai mangé chez la famille Lavergne qui m’a reçu à bras ouverts sans compliments et sans cérémonies, j’y vais avec familiarité, j’y suis reçu avec empressement, je ne reçois plus de leur part d’invitations parce que la première a fait pour toutes les autres, en vérité les plaisirs que l’on goûte dans la société d’une famille si unie, si gaie, si complaisante, ont en réalité ce qu’ils n’ont pas en bruit et en éclat.

From Paris, 6 novembre 1764, he wrote in more detail to his aunt:

Dans le fracas de Lyon je savourais encore les délices de Genève, j’y vis des après dîner, des sociétés qui me retracèrent celles de ma patrie, j’assistais à quelques-unes toujours conduit par les Demoiselles Lavergne et comment aurais-je pu m’en défendre ! Elles en faisaient le principal ornement ! Et je m’érigeais ensuite en juge, juge dites-vous ! oui, juge je comparais mes compatriotes avec les Dames Françaises et voici ce que j’ai trouvé, pardon sexe enchanteur qui avez des droits sur mon coeur et sur ma reconnaissance, si un faible individu ose porter des regards sur vos faiblesses et apprécier des qualités qui ne purent jamais l’être, les Genevoises sont plus instruites mais les autres sont plus gracieuses, l’esprit combat pour nous et la bonté, la douceur, la complaisance nous disputent la palme, vous plaisez plus à mes compatriotes au chercheur d’esprit et de saillies dans les premiers instants de la conversation mais en France, on plaît davantage par l’affabilité, l’empressement, la sincérité, la bonhomie, les unes attirent par l’esprit et les autres par le coeur, je pourrais continuer encore ce parallèle, montrer comment nos Dames pourraient gagner du côté de la société sans perdre du côté de la conversation, pourquoi celles de France sont moins estimées et plus aimées sans doute, mais j’attends une connaissance plus exacte, une fréquentation plus assidue, je les verrai en homme désintéressé, je prendrai la balance ensuite et j’annoncerai ma décision, pardon encore une fois si j’ose prononcer mais il ne faut pas voyager en étourdi, il faut porter des regards curieux sur tout ce qui peut intéresser et qui a plus de charmes que vous, aimable moitié du genre humain !

Juventin’s letters during his European tour were made available online recently on a family genealogy website.

Postscript – 25 October 2019

One further addition: my attention has been drawn by a kind reader (Kees van Strien) to more information about the little girl’s future husband. He was, as I thought, Louis-Samuel Gleyre (1751–1815). Born in Cossonay, he studied theology at Lausanne and qualified as a pastor in 1775, but he was inactive in the ministry. In 1777 he became a member of the église wallonne in Amsterdam and from about 1778 to 1783 he was a private teacher of Hendrik (1765–1838) and Jacob (1766–1835) Fagel, grandsons of Hendrik Fagel (1706–1790), griffier van de Staten-Generaal in The Hague – and of course well known to Liotard (his portrait of their aunt is J.49.1442).  Gleyre’s correspondence with the boys and their grandfather is in the Nationaal archief, The Hague, familie Fagel. Gleyre returned to Cossonay in 1783, and there, two years later, he married Anne (who was already 36): they had no children. During the Revolution of 1798, Gleyre became an inspecteur des écoles, and completed his career as juge de paix du cercle de Cossonay.

From → Art history

  1. Marcel Roethlisberger permalink

    Dear Neil,

    I am just through reading your study of Liotard’s Déjeuner – absolutely brilliant, congratulations. I am stunned and awed by the amount of new information you find and put together into a most convincing whole.

    It’s not the first time reading a study by you that I instinctively conclude that it is high time for me to stop dabbling like an incompetent amateur in a field for which I don’t have the basic requirements. But this time I am taking it serious, I am no longer writing anything, my last two or three articles are coming out and that will do, aside from perhaps something very occasional or personal (my colleague Christian Klemm helps me to assemble a completely updated French edition of the 60-year old Claude paintings catalogue). I am turning to music and other horizons, strictly as a consumer

    How on earth do you make it timewise to unearth all these remote details? Remote, but they end up with concrete results about major pieces.

    I can’t go to Dresden and haven’t as yet seen the catalogue.

    Probably more on the Déjeuner, which I am forwarding to Renée Loche.

    With my best thanks and great admiration



    • You are of course far too generous! I have only added some minute trouvailles to the great corpus of information you have brought together with Renee Loche: I am standing on the shoulders of giants. I very much hope you will continue to publish on Liotard, Claude and anything else…

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