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Cent portraits pour un siècle

12 January 2022

The private collection sometimes referred to rather cryptically as the Conservatoire du portrait du dix-huitième siècle (CPDHS) caused some controversy when it was exhibited in the musée Lambinet in Versailles in 2019, with a catalogue by Xavier Salmon, and again in the Palais Lascaris in Nice. No doubt the title “Cent portraits pour un siècle” deliberately echoes the famous exhibition of Cent pastels in Paris in 1908 (the catalogue for which was vigorously criticised by M. Salmon in the introduction to his 2004 La Tour exhibition catalogue). It is now, no doubt with further controversy, to be sold at auction, by Artcurial, next month (15 February 2022). The online catalogue on their website largely follows Salmon’s catalogue (a few numbers are changed, perhaps to make the display in the sale catalogue more effective visually). I don’t propose to enter into the controversy, particularly since much of it is about oil portraits which are versions of established pictures: whether they are autograph replicas, versions with studio assistance or just plain copies is a matter you must judge for yourselves – although I would urge you to seek out the primary versions and put them side by side before deciding (neither the sale nor the exhibition catalogues have done this in most cases).

A collection which focuses on royal portraiture inevitably runs into this problem. But the collection also includes original works by more obscure artists, and offers an opportunity for exploring their biographies which I think has not been fully pursued. The purpose of this blog post is simply to record some facts I’ve unearthed that may be of interest more widely (but which don’t necessarily fit into my Dictionary of pastellists). A few discoveries which were previously published in the Dictionary are used but not acknowledged (I do not appear in the exhibition catalogue, although the Artcurial sale catalogue adds references and J numbers for the pastels which you can consult in, while many of the points below could have been found from consulting it more closely. I refrained from posting this blog in 2019 on the grounds that this was a private collection, but now it is being offered for sale, a few clarifications may be of use to readers. I should emphasize that these are simply matters that caught my eye; a full critique of the catalogue is beyond both my powers and the limits of my (and your) patience.

I’ll follow the sale catalogue lot numbers, noting where the exhibition catalogue numbers differ.

Lot 2. I agree that there may well be a connection between Adélaïde and Pomponne Hubert, Labille-Guiard’s pupil: see my article on Pomponne. But if the puzzle is to be solved, we must get the facts straight, and Anne-Marie Passez’s confusion over the pension payments to Pomponne and the unrelated Hubert sisters must not be repeated. (The Versailles sisters’ family name was actually Huot, but their father called himself Hubert; Pomponne lived in Paris.)

Lot 9. Anne-Baptiste Nivelon’s dates (1711–1786) were established by me on this blog.

Lot 10/11: J.329.1225/J.329.137. I’m not convinced that these pastels are autograph; to me they look like copies. I have published the exact date of death of François Bernardin Frey, as he called himself; XS continues to include “ou 1808”, an error in Ratouis de Limay. The letter identifying a copy for Mme de Braque (O1 1828/384 p. 36) was found and published by me, as well as (p. 38) the name of the “Comtesse de Bar”, Marguerite de Pionne (it is a different question as to whether this is the right identification).

Lots 16, cat. nos. 16/17: J.612.123 /J.612.188.

Lot 19, cat. no. 20. The bases of the identification and attribution are unclear. The matter is certainly not resolved by the pastel from the Fritz Arndt collection in 1905, as that doesn’t seem to me to be by the same hand. This gets rather complicated, but there is a useful discussion on this post on the Forum de Marie-Antoinette blog.

Lot 20, cat. no. 19. J.4976.111. De Lorge. I have more on his biography in the Dictionary: he was still alive in 1796. This picture is inscribed “chev~ Delorge/pictor Peigint 1781”, not “pictor Regine”, the only basis for the identification as Marie-Therese de Savoie, comtesse d’Artois; the sitter is unknown. I originally catalogued it in 2003 before any other de Lorge pastels were known. Those that I have since discovered have a consistent style (rather like that of Colson père) and the signature has a high form level, in the language of graphology (quite different from this semi-legible inscription); these now cause me to question whether this example is “right”.

Lot 22: A great deal has already been written about Vigée Le Brun’s portraits of the duc d’Orléans (J.76.314) and Mme de Montesson, including in relation to the pastel versions now in the Louvre which I first identified as autograph: see the note on this blog, at 141/142. Lot 22 is described as autograph in the exhibition catalogued, but like a number of other lots is qualified with “et collaborateurs” in the sale catalogue; others will have different views.

Lot 24: For French readers unfamiliar with other versions of Hamilton’s portrait of the prince, I offer this juxtaposition of the face with the one in the National Portrait Gallery in London:

In the exhibition catalogue XS suggests that the well-known drawing supposed to be of Louis XVI (Carnavalet, inv. D7108) by Ducreux must in fact be of Bonnie Prince Charles. I can’t see it myself.

Lot 25: This I think was exhibited in the Visiteurs de Versailles exhibition in 2017.

Lot 26: XS notes the Laurent Cars engraving whose lettering provides the name of the artist, identified only cryptically as “An. Demare, prieure de Saint-Calais”.

The print, catalogued in the Inventaire du fonds français as of Louis de Lorraine, prince de Lambesc (1692–1743), fully in accord with the lettering “Ludouicus a Lotharingia Princeps de Lambesc Andium Prorex” (the last phrase means Gouverneur d’Anjou, a position which he held from 1712). Nevertheless XS identifies the sitter as of his son, Charles-Louis, comte de Brionne (1725–1761) for reasons that are not explained. (The internet is now awash with confusions because the titles and offices were passed on from father to son: but Charles-Louis was known as the comte de Brionne while his father and son both used the title prince de Lambesc; see Levantal and La Chesnaye des Bois.) Perhaps he thought the face looked like that of the child in the Nattier double portrait he cites: but the eyes are a different colour?

The debate may easily be resolved however by identifying the artist. She was evidently the “Anne des Mares, coadjutrice” who supervised an inventory at the prieuré Saint-Denis de Saint-Calais in 1714, standing in for the prioress who was ill. The installation of a third prioress in 1721 puts a terminus ante quem for Mme des Mares’s tenure as prioress (among many resources, see this), and indicates that the portrait was made c.1715–20 (this is also consistent with the fact that the convent was dissolved c.1730 when XS’s sitter was only 5). It therefore depicts the prince de Lambesc listed in the IFF, not his son.

Lot 31: J.662.1181 and J.662.1182.

Lot 34: “John Borgnis, Limner” was married in Hull, Yorkshire, on 10 April 1774, to an Ann Scott. Soon after, he returned to London, where several children were born in the parish of St Giles-in-the-Fields. He was still in that parish when he died and was buried on 8 September 1815 at Whitefield’s Memorial Church, Camden. He was probably the Borgnis, drawing master and miniature painter, at 40 Oxford Street, whose trade card is in the British Museum collection.

Lot 36: While there is no doubt that this is of Marie-Alexandre-Éléonore-Louis-César de Saint-Mauris, prince de Montbarey (that’s how he spelt his name: Mauris, one r in Montbarey, although frequently seen with two), I’m unconvinced that this could be the Vigée Le Brun portrait of 1776. He is shown with the Saint-Esprit awarded in 1778. The catalogue suggests that this was a later addition, but in 1776 he had not the simple croix of a chevalier de Saint-Louis, but the grand-croix (from 1763: Lot 58 shows you what that looks like). The changes involved would be far more elaborate than a simple addition; and it seems improbable that the alterer would have made their task even trickier by incorporating in the unnecessary additional fold in the cordon bleu just visible behind the lace jabot, level with the ribbon of the Saint-Louis. To me this looks like a later portrait, and the documentation link to Vigée Le Brun unreliable.

Lot 37: this oil follows the pastel J.76.146.

Lot 40: I doubt if this is Rotari; probably by a native Russian painter, perhaps Levitsky.

Lot 41, cat. 39. I have this as J.9.2553, anon. Éc. fr., and I wrote about it here at the time of the 2013 sale. An attribution to Kucharski is not unreasonable, although I couldn’t myself get to a firm attribution.

Lot 42, cat. 41: The painter given here only as “Millot” is surely Pierre Millot, as Guiffrey has; reçu 1754 and referred to in Jean-François Brun’s Almanach des peintres. He appears as “Pierre Millot, peintre demeurant à Paris, rue Comtesse d’Artois” in an Avis in the registres de tutelles (10 mai 1783, AN Y5105A) for the children of the sculptor Defernex, along with friends, the painters Anseaume, Doyen, Le Peintre and Lafont.

Lot 44, cat. 43: Lassave, whose biodetails are given as “Toulouse, vers 1750 – ? après 1813” was actually born and died in Paris: 1751-1832. An élève de l’Académie royale, he was reçu at the Académie de Toulouse in 1788. His 1793 carte de sûreté (F7/4805) reveals that he born in Paris, and was living in rue Saint-Medéric 438, age 42, peintre. Among works he copied for the Bâtiments du roi were a pastel of the king (presumably by La Tour), for which his bill for 300 livres was not settled on time. The son of Jean Lassave and Edmee Marguerite Bourgeois (who married in Paris the year before his birth), he married Catherine Meneau at Paris, Bonne Nouvelle, in 1785, and died 19 avril 1832 in Paris 7e. Their son was Alexandre-Jean Lassave (Paris 3 juin 1791 – 1881), chef d’escadron d’artillerie de marine, officier de la Légion d’honneur. His signature appears in the registres de tutelles for his minor cousin Jean Gueral, son of a tailleur d’habits, 1786: “peintre du cabinet du roi…rue St Méderic.”

Lots 49/51, cat. nos. 49/50. Given in the exhibition catalogue to “Joseph (?) Vallière, actif de 1778 à 1797 à Besançon et à Pari”, I am pleased to see that the sale catalogue has now published Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard’s discovery of the artist’s real name to a wider audience. See also my article.

Lot 52: my J.9.2548, among the unattributed Éc. fr. I don’t believe this is by or after Carriera.

Lot 53. The Yale drawing of Mme Nettine is surely after Pierre Bernard, not Joseph, who didn’t work in this manner and was too young. The error is in Greuze 2002 but correct in the Dictionary. XS omits the suggestion (made by the current owner of the pastel: not proven but worth discussing) that the subject is the first Mme La Live de Jully.

Lot 54, cat. 55. The discovery that the pastellist formerly known as “Pierre Allais” was in fact Jacques-Charles Allais, and the biographical details of that artist, who worked in both media, were first published in the online Dictionary of pastellists.

Lot 57, cat. 58. A good deal more is known about Jean-Baptiste Garand, including his dates: see the article in pastellists. It is curious that XS does not mention the very similar drawing, in imitation of a print, of Feydeau de Brou in the Louvre (inv. RF 29447). A third chalk drawing of a police inspector, Sartine, was named in the livret of the salon de l’Académie de Saint-Luc in 1762 (no. 89), the same year as this drawing; perhaps it was among the “plusieurs portraits dessinés de même [à la pierre noire], de differentes grandeurs, sous le même numéro.” I don’t however have an explanation for the coat of arms shown, nor for the appearance of the Saint-Louis which is only recorded from 1776.

Lot 58, cat. 59. Remi-Fursy Descarsin was born and baptised on 4 juillet 1747. The René that appears on his death certificate is no doubt just a misspelling.

Lot 59, cat. 60. As far as I can see the only basis for identifying this lady as Mme Necker is a claimed resemblance to Liotard’s sitter (unfortunately the two Liotard portraits of her are so different as to make any such identification hazardous – they don’t even have the same eye colour; neither much resembles the Duplessis portrait). The miniature in the Louvre (RF 212) was previously an anonyme inconnue. There is a real danger in extrapolating from a bold hypothesis into presenting the inferences as supporting evidence – petitio principii. It is hard to know why the Pichon sale is mentioned (1897, not 1896), as the lot there (not reproduced) described a “robe grise”, while this is a pale yellow (the colour may of course have been misdescribed – but the description is broad enough to cover hundreds of candidates). Whether it is by Aubry I will leave to others to discuss.

Lots 69/70, cats. 72/71. Louis Petit is mentioned at several addresses; Guiffrey cites rue Saint-Honoré, près SaintRoch, making it likely that he is the peintre-doreur of this name and address married to a Marie-Nicolle Raflet (AN Y5130B, 1785).

Lot 73, cat. 69 p. 143: Davesne’s dates used here were first discovered and published by me (by 2017).

Lot 77, cat. 9. Anne-Charlotte-Julie Beausire, veuve Destouches died 9 juillet 1814. Her husband’s inventaire après décès was closed 27 novembre 1772 (AN Y5304).

Lot 80, p. 165 A photograph of the “lost” Mlle Silvia by La Tour (“n’est connu que par l’estampe”) is included in my La Tour catalogue, J.46.2972. (I’m also responsible for most of the recovered œuvre of Drouais père in pastel.)

Lot 82, my J.6.1013; a version of the original pastel. p. 167: Pougin’s birth “vers 1721” was my deduction, first published in the Dictionary in 2015.

Lots 88/92, cats. 90–92. Simon Pinson was born in Paris in 1739 and still alive in 1800; his first wife was the aunt of Francois-Guillaume Ménageot, and his second was the sister-in-law of the artist Jean-Baptiste Garand (v. Lot 57).

Lot 97: J.284.101. p. 194: I identified the names etc of Mmes Rathelot and La Loge. pp. 194, 206: The distinguished miniatures specialist Bernd Pappe is spelt with 3 ps.

Lot 98, cat. 99. The photograph of the Bordeaux 1913 exhibition referred to was reproduced in 2014 from my copy of the rare album. It also shows another version of cat. 1. The sitter’s identity is easily deduced from the name of the lender to that exhibition, although one degree of consanguinity has been omitted: the lender was Mme David-Louis-Adrien Léon, née Thérèse-Elisabeth-Judith Levylier (1857-1939), whose great-great-grandmother was Mme Abraham Mendes, née Esther Lopez-Diaz (c.1754-1827).


From → Art history

  1. Felipe permalink

    Dear Mr. Jeffares, I am PhD student researching the iconography of Mesdames, daughters of Louis XV, who follows your blog and to whose studies your dictionary has been extremely useful. Reading your article about this sale and the 2019 exhibition was really interesting to me, as a few portraits of the princesses are in this sale. The numerous copies of their portraits, such as the ones in the exhibition, are one of the main interests of my research. I would like to know if you would mind if I contacted you by email to talk about my research and ask for your advice. Thank you!

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  1. Artcurial: ‘Cent portraits pour un siècle’: a sale of 18th century portraits in Paris, February 2022 | The Frame Blog

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