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Moving pastels – again

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The Enthusiasts probably share this rather reductionist thinking:


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


Again these problems are not new.


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


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

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


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

Take something as basic as glass.


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

We try to devise work-arounds.


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

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

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


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

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

This then is a programme for research:

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

La Tour, Mme Boët de Saint-Léger

La Tour Boete de Saint Leger SQ

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

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

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

La Tour Boet de Saint Leger SQ old

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

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

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

This remark Champfleury justifies in a footnote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buterne Boet de St Leger

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

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

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

Boet de St Leger Avis Buterne AN Y4749B 29xi1754

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the family pedigree:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Liotard’s Le Déjeuner Lavergne

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

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

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

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

La Tour Pompadour Louvre

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

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

Liotard Public Advertiser 13iii1755

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

Liotard Homme et enfant Vienna LR138

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

An. G a la bougie Rouen3iii1976 L241

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

Musgrave Roehampton

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

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

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

Foreman inventory

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

ForemanMary will 1835

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

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

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

Chardin Gouvernante NG

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

Liotard Dejeuner Lavergne pnt

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

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

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

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

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

Liotard Mlle Lavergne Rijksmuseum

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

Liotard Mlle Liotard avec poupee

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

Liotard MF van Reede Athlone Getty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

⇒⇒Pierre Clarenc ∞ Puylaurens Elisabeth Favar

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

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

⇒Marguerite (Genève– )

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Marie Lavergne Mme clarens m 1745

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

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

Jeanne Lavergne Delessert deces 1749

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[12] She was actually baptised Anne.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postscript – 28 November 2018

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

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.

Garrick, Zoffany and … Barber?

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

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

Barber Swift Bryn Mawr

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

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


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

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

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


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

Dassier fils Montesquiou n

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

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

Greuze autoPostscript

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

An elusive abbé

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

La Tour Reglet Orleans

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

La Tour Reglet Orleans d3 ed nj

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

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

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

Saint Aubin ar La Tour Reglet

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

An Abbe Lattaignant

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

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

Par 1860

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SaintAubin ar La Tour Salon

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

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


Freedom of Information Act: more honoured in the breach…


You know there’s a serious cultural problem at the Information Commissioner’s Office when you read on their website: “The Information Commissioner will not respond to your service complaint personally, even if you write directly to her. She has delegated responsibility for reviewing our service in specific cases to managers.” If the CEO doesn’t want to hear about very lengthy delays, inconsistent/contradictory decisions or failures to apply the law to hold authorities to account, don’t expect much from the subordinates to whom she delegates.

We all know Tony Blair’s thoughts on having introduced the Freedom of Information Act:

Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it.

(Blair, A journey, 2010, p. 516: you know there’s a serious literary problem when a writer starts talking about “a journey”.)

Unfortunately that view is shared not only by the legion of “information officers” now employed by countless public sector bodies who fall under FOIA, but even by staff at the ICO itself. If you’ve ever used the Act to try to obtain information, you will be familiar with some of the tactics. This post would reach intolerable length if I recited all those I encountered in my recent attempts to obtain information about damage to pictures, which you may recall from an earlier post (last November) I tried to obtain last year in preparation for a lecture I gave in September 2017. A year on and I still haven’t received the information I should have. This is a short guide to the behaviour of those who control your information and don’t think you should have it (yes I do know the proper meaning of the Hamlet words in the title).

The first tactic is attrition. The Act says authorities should respond promptly, with a backstop of 20 business days (effectively a month). Rule 1: always wait the full 20 days before responding, even when the information is at your finger tips. The ICO will never sanction any delay within the 20 day limit. One ICO officer actually wrote to me to say–

It is not the Commissioner’s practice to consider whether a response has been responded to ‘promptly’ and in relation to section 10, she will only consider whether a request has been answered within the statutory time frame of 20 working days.

This is a clear failure to enforce the law, against ICO guidance as well as Tribunal rulings. The officer corrected the statement when I pointed this out – but of course wouldn’t admit that any breach had occurred on the facts. One of the problems about complaints considered on paper is that you can type “two plus two equals five” just easily as a correct sentence – although your better tactic is to embed such logic in letters of at least a dozen pages (don’t worry: the cut-and-paste function within Word will let you do that painlessly, if pointlessly, using lengthy quotations or just recycling the last decision you wrote whatever the facts).

It’s worth noting too the cultural issue at ICO illustrated by the habit of referring to “the Commissioner” and to “her” view of specific facts in cases which she almost certainly hasn’t read. It’s part of a pretence that the individual officer speaks with the full authority of the ICO. And maintaining this pretence requires bad decisions to be upheld on appeal – so there’s no point in questioning anything these people decide, however poor the logic or however ill-grounded in law. That part of the culture is shared with the Financial Ombudsman Service – a point to which I return below.

The second tactic (which can be used to maximum effect when linked to the first) is: use the exemptions. Any exemption will do. The Act as you know allows authorities not to provide certain information if it falls within one of a number of specific categories. You still (in most cases) have to answer the original question within the 20 days – but here’s the magic: if you reply on day 20 claiming exemption under section X of the act, then you’ve gained another 20 days, plus however long it takes the punter to come back and point out the exemption isn’t valid. Then just claim another. Only if the punter insists on your completing the internal review stage (possibly months later) do you need to nominate a valid exemption. And the ICO won’t criticise you for breach of the 20 day response time – even when you blatantly have breached it. Chances are that the punter will have given up by then anyway. Indeed the brilliance of the combined one–two tactic is that the only punters who will continue to appeal are obviously loonies, so no one will take them seriously.

Let me mention just some of the silly exemptions that have been thrown up against my applications. Last July I asked a curator at one of our national museums to share the transport protocol used for moving pastels. I was told it was confidential. I reminded the curator that their organisation was covered by FOIA. The information officer responded claiming exemptions under Section 31(1)(a) (information is exempt “if its disclosure … would, or would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime”) and Section 41(1) (information is exempt if its disclosure would constitute an “actionable…breach of confidence”). Both these exemptions were evidently absurd, and indeed the museum conceded this on internal review – as it happens I had by that stage received the information from another source.

As you will recall from last November’s blog post, much of my time was spent investigating the Government Indemnity Scheme which I hoped would provide information about how damage arose when objects are lent. I expected to find details about packaging and handling by logistics companies. I knew this was potentially embarrassing, but that’s exactly why Parliament introduced FOIA. I didn’t need (and accepted that they would be redacted) the names of private owners etc. But what emerged quite rapidly is that even the information which the Secretary of State is obliged to lay before parliament (total values at risk etc.) was hard to find. The scheme is administered by Arts Council England on behalf of DCMS, but neither body holds complete sets of the statutory returns. Personally I found that so jaw-droppingly incompetent that I repeated my question to ensure that it hadn’t been misunderstood – whereupon I was accused of having questioned their integrity.

A year later there are nearly 100 emails in my files, and I still don’t have all the information I wanted. I won’t attempt to give a proper summary. Since an essential part of my interest was in finding out which of DCMS and ACE held specific information, when I referred the matter to ICO for failure to respond properly to my request, I was shocked to find myself unable to convince the ICO officer to handle this as a single case. What I didn’t appreciate at that stage was that each ICO officer’s principal objective is to close cases efficiently, not to help the public obtain information to which they are entitled. So the first ICO case officer dealt only with my DCMS question. It wasn’t for many months that the separate file (consisting of ACE’s responses to essentially the same questions) was assigned, to a different officer: of that more later. (I shall pass over the issue of how the ICO can conduct an investigation into the government department which “sponsors” it, i.e. to which it reports, without conflict of interest.)

DCMS naturally responded after the ritual period claiming various exemptions – starting with a denial that they held certain documents, followed by misleading directions as to where I might find them, justifying a failure to provide this immediately by an over-literal interpretation of my request which I regarded as disingenuous. They eventually provided some of the information I sought, but claimed further exemptions under sections 40(2) (personal data, relevant only if individuals are named) and section 41. Once more I pointed out that these simply didn’t apply to the description of transport protocols or how damage had occurred in specific incidents (and that I was content for information such as owners’ names to be redacted), and the ICO wrote to DCMS and reported to me that DCMS had dropped the claimed exemptions and would provide specific information I might request. But when I did so new exemptions were claimed: but when I went back to ICO for support I was told the “case is closed” and they told me I’d have to make a new complaint.

This brings me to the third major hurdle for applicants. It’s easy enough to describe broadly what we are interested in, but almost impossible to provide the exact title or file name of the document in which that information is included. Without the latter the authority can simply claim that your request hasn’t been properly formulated. (Section 16 of the Act is there for precisely that reason. This imposes an obligation on the authority to assist applicants in formulating requests. But ICO never enforce this, as authorities know, so it’s of very little help.)

When finally the ACE case was considered by ACE (for reasons never satisfactorily explained, it took five months for ICO to appoint a case officer against their 30 day target), exemptions under sections 31(a)(1) and 40(2) were initially claimed. As before I appealed, and ACE conceded that s.31 did not apply; but then (and not before) a new exemption under section 41 was claimed.

Given how ICO responded to those claims when made by DCMS, it was rather surprising to find that the ICO decision when it finally appeared decided to uphold exemption under section 41 – ignoring completely (and failing to explain why) its own position on the DCMS case, its own published guidance on the need for probable success in litigation to meet the “actionable” damage point, and my various arguments that the information I sought could be redacted to any required point.

I won’t take you through all the permutations that need to be analysed in each situation, but what remains is the general fog around claims under the GIS which the authorities may not want to uncover (in short, the very “embarrassment” which Parliament set out to overcome), but which do not actually amount to actionable loss (the specific hurdle Parliament set). I have no doubt that a particular museum might not want disclosure, but this a matter which the public, who pay, are entitled to scrutinise.

A few words here on information asymmetry between applicant and authority. The Act itself recognises the problem – I’ve mentioned section 16 above, but there’s a broader issue. Because the applicant can’t be shown the information the authority claims is exempt, the discussions between the authority and ICO are necessarily kept secret from the applicant. There’s a real danger that ICO staff during that process hear more from the authority than from the applicant and absorb their point of view – a variant on Stockholm syndrome. The applicant is dependent too on the intellectual calibre of ICO staff to refute the arguments of authorities’ legal teams; you may form your own views on that balance.

This one-sided exchange means that ICO’s role isn’t quasi-judicial, and in that respect is quite different from an ombudsman, as the rules of natural justice require each side to hear the other’s argument (although you’ll have to ask the Financial Ombudsman before you’re accorded your right). It also means that for the Act to work, the ICO needs to stop behaving like an ombudsman and recognise that the law has set it up as a champion of applicants’ rights to information – acting on their behalf to obtain that information up to the limit allowed by the law:

47. It shall be the duty of the Commissioner to promote the following of good practice by public authorities and, in particular, so to perform his functions under this Act as to promote the observance by public authorities of… the requirements of this Act &c.

That is not how the ICO sees it or how they currently behave.

Postscript: When I complained to ICO along the lines set out above (but in rather more tedious detail), I got a response (a) drafted by one of the officers complained about; (b) explaining that two separate investigations would be set up into my complaints. The irony did not escape me. The two independent investigations will doubtless conclude that each reached the correct view of s.41. When will these organisations learn joined-up thinking?

The Louvre pastels catalogue: errata and observations

This rather lengthy post will be of interest only to specialists. [Please note that it has been updated to September 2018 since originally posted.] I have earlier on this blog reviewed the current exhibition at the Louvre, and my short article on some attributions appeared in the Gazette Drouot for 13 July 2018 (a few relevant images will be found below). I also intend to publish a conventional review of the catalogue (referred to below as “XS”) in due course [this has now appeared in Apollo, September 2018, while my article on frames has now appeared on The Frame Blog]. However those outlets do not offer sufficient space for the detailed commentary provided below. Ideally they would have been made before the book went to press; but the Louvre’s own collection database, Inventaire informatisé du département des Arts graphiques (“Inventaire informatisé” below), is greatly in need of updating, so perhaps these errata will be of some use.

As always in this blog the comments below are no more than personal opinions.

p. 31. The Avertissement is far too brief for a work of this nature. There are numerous observations below (concerning especially the selection of works, the terminology of attribution and the content of bibliographies) demonstrating the inadequacy of this note. It states that XS does not cite dictionaries (although the book does cite, for example, Audin & Vial’s Dictionnaire…, and Ratouis de Limay’s Le Pastel en France, 1946 – essentially a dictionary with a few of the longer articles placed in the front of the book – as well as numerous sources which contain no more than passing references in lists). Indeed XS includes very few mentions of Pastels & pastellists ( cited below as “the Dictionary”) although it reproduces many of the pastels XS refers to. The few citations are given without the exact URL of the file or the J numbers which would take readers directly to the information XS mentions. For a fully searchable and sortable concordance of Louvre pastels with J numbers, see here. (Abbreviated references to the numerous other bibliographic items omitted can be found in full in the Dictionary.)

p. 33. The Louvre does have the world’s finest collection of seventeenth and eighteenth century pastels. But Dresden is not the only other collection, nor is it correct that “seul le château de Versailles réunit un peu moins d’une cinquantaine…”: Saint-Quentin has more than 125, the musée Carnavalet 50, Orléans 43. Geneva more than 100, Stockholm 70, the Rijksmuseum 86 plus a good many Dutch anonymes; Warsaw a great many (mostly Polish anonymes); the Yale Center for British Art 50. (In his interview with Alexandre Lafore in Grande Galerie, été 2018, p. 51, XS goes further, stating that the Metropolitan Museum in New York and Getty possess only “quelques dizaines” – the Met actually has 50. The 2017 Petit Palais exhibition of work from the Horvitz Collection included no pastels.)

History of the collection

p. 34. There is little here about the displays in the Académie royale under the ancien régime. Guérin’s 1715 and Dezallier d’Argenville’s 1781 descriptions are not discussed and only cited indirectly (the latter in relation to Cars following d’Arnoult, although there are similar mentions of cat. nos 20, 21, 38, 95, 101, 103, 104, 117 and 126 which merit recording): they are useful sources of information about the works on display at the time (see e.g. cat. no. 126 below).

Fig. 1: The Constant Bourgeois drawing (which is reproduced in my Prolegomena) has been given various dates from 1797 (an V) on in different sources, mostly 1802–1811 (i.e. a slightly retrospective view of a late 18th century hang): what now is the justification for an exact 1802? See cat. no. 38 below for the significance of this date.

pp. 36–40. This would have been a good place to refer to Théophile Gautier’s beautiful essay “Les soirées du Louvre” (published in L’Artiste in 1858), describing a concert held in the “magnifique Salle des Pastels” which he describes in meticulous detail. Separated from the director’s apartment by one door, “chef-d’oeuvre d’ébénisterie”, the salle had been recently decorated by M. Desnuelles whose care and discretion in the choice of colours were particularly admired. The La Tour Pompadour is of course described at length. Among the other pastellists mentioned are Rosalba, Chardin and Nanteuil. This Grande salle des pastels (no. 14 in the plan in XS’s fig. 2, p. 36, but which readers may not immediately realise was on the northern side of the Cour carrée, where the Napoléon III apartments are now) seems essentially unchanged from then until when this photograph was published in La Renaissance de l’art français… in 1919 (p. 239):

Louvre pastels 1919

Elizabeth Champney’s 1891 article described the contents of the Grande salle as “infinite riches in little space”. For those interested in such things, the discussion of the location of pastels on p. 36, right hand column, merely retypes the description in Reiset (p. II): the names of artists, but not the specific works, are given. No mention is made of the English-language guide issued by Galignani (O’Shea 1874; reprinted at least until 1888 but omitted entirely from XS) in which each pastel in each room is listed, with the numbers from Reiset’s catalogue. Thus for example we know that the Perronneau in Room 13 was Cars (“fine”), the Labille-Guiard pastels in the Grande salle were those of Mesdames Victoire and Adélaïde, Frémin was “very fine”, while the late Chardins were “full of force, truth, firmness and delicacy, and equal to any by La Tour.”

The wonderful passage from the Goncourts’ essay on La Tour (“La Tour a au Louvre une grande et magnifique place. …”) is printed but the reference is only given to the 1967 reprint of the 1882 edition: it is worth explaining that it originally appeared in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts (1867, pp. 350ff: freely available on Gallica), some 15 years earlier. As not all users of the book will read from cover to cover, the Goncourts’ specific comments on La Tour pastels should be indicated in the individual bibliographies: XS cites them only in the entries for Mme de Pompadour (to which indeed the Goncourts devoted a full discussion, and later a book); Orry; and a passing reference to Lemoyne in the list of 1763 salon exhibits. (I have indicated below some of the others.)

It is a pity too to have omitted Champfleury’s text (published initially in L’Athenaeum français in 1853, expanded into the 1855 monograph on La Tour) in which he devotes a chapter to “Son oeuvre au musée du Louvre” – it starts rather differently to the Goncourts: “Il ne faut pas juger La Tour au Musée du Louvre: on risquerait d’en garder une fâcheuse opinion.” While he praised the pastels of Mme de Pompadour, Chardin, Orry, the queen and the late self-portrait, those of the king, dauphin and dauphine “ne sont pas des oeuvres d’une grande valeur”. Later authors, such as Thiébault-Sisson in an overlooked piece in Le Temps, 1905 (which nevertheless contains an essential detail in the provenance of another La Tour pastel), expressed the wider view of the La Tours: “Le Louvre en a de superbes et d’exquis.”

Such passages offer invaluable evidence about the evolution of taste. While it may seem pointless to catalogue such ephemera, they can  occasionally contain tiny facts that would otherwise be lost. Perhaps the most interesting omission from these early accounts is the lengthy chapter devoted to an “Examen critique des pastels du Louvre” by the artist Julien de La Rochenoire (better known to us today as the subject of a striking pastel by Manet now in the Getty) in his 1853 book on pastel. His discussions of almost all the 18th century pastels then in the Louvre are often surprising: his elevation of Rosalba above even La Tour’s Mme de Pompadour is of its time (few today would rate cat. no. 41 as the finest pastel in the Louvre, or even consider it to “réunir toutes les perfections échues à cette divine Rosalba”), while he explains his preference for the Chardin autoportrait à l’abat-jour over that aux besicles because the eyes in the latter aren’t placed correctly – something which at least makes us look again. I have not marked up each reference below. Nor have I listed the numerous testimonies from other artists, French or foreign, confirming the importance of the salle des pastels in their development (they included the Texas painter Frank Reaugh who published a pamphlet praising the work of Russell, La Tour and Chardin “which may be seen in the pastel room of the Louvre, as fresh and bright apparently as on the day when it was done”: Michael Grauer, Rounded up in glory…, 2016, p. 72).

One further episode in the history of this preeminent group of pastels is what happened during the second world war. The episode is discussed in Gerri Chanel’s Saving Mona Lisa, and I am most grateful to the author for sharing with me the documents she has found in the Archives des musées nationaux (sér. R6) and elsewhere. As far as I can see, XS mentions this only in relation to cat. no. 90 (La Tour’s Mme de Pompadour sent to Chambord), but makes no reference to the unsatisfactory use of underground vaults at the Banque de France until 1940. It was recognised that most pastels were too fragile to travel to Chambord, and this nearer shelter was chosen for a small number of what were then considered to be the most important works. Some 23 of the pastels in XS’s catalogue (as well as some 19th century pastels) were consigned in August 1939: they included the three Chardins (cat. nos 42-44), eight La Tours (82, 86, 88, 89, 92, 94-96) plus the so-called Madame Louise (cat. no 81); four Perronneaus (113, 114, 117, 119); two by Boze (31, 35); and single works by Loir (101); Lundberg (104, but not 103); Nattier (110); and Russell (127). Surprisingly “Boucher’s  Mme de Pompadour” (cat. 28; a copy) was preferred over cat. 27; while nothing by Rosalba, Mme Roslin, Labille-Guiard or Vivien was listed. Conservation reports describe the damage suffered when the air-conditioning system broke down; the pastels were removed shortly after this was discovered. (See also cat. no. 79 below.)

Catalogue numbers

1. Le Brun Louis XIV étude

J.468.114. Is this a pastel (see comment to cat. no. 4 below)? If not why is it in the book? If yes why was it lent last year to Salzburg, when the Louvre’s official policy is not to lend pastels? I could find little in this catalogue discussing that policy, the risks of lending or the history of works lent. The only exceptions (outside Paris, since 1972) appear to be cat. nos. 22 and 35 (no. 99 did not actually travel to Geneva in 1992, although that is not evident in XS).

“Expositions” for this sheet includes “Paris, 1845, n° 1099 ou 1100”, but not Paris, 1838 or Paris, 1841 which are quoted elsewhere. In fact the Notice issued first in 1838 was essentially a catalogue of works on the walls rather than of an exhibition, and the numbers are the same in the 1838, 1841 and 1845 editions: but throughout XS the references to these various editions are given inconsistently (not detailed further below, although it should be noted that the group of royal portraits by La Tour are in the Paris 1838-45 catalogue as anonymes but omitted from XS). It is hard to see why these volumes are treated as exhibitions when Reiset 1869, essentially a new edition of the Louvre catalogue, is listed under Bibliographie (when it is listed at all – inconsistently – cats. 1–3, which are Reiset nos. 847–849, are omitted for example, while the Reiset numbers for cats 4, 5 are given). (Note however that “Paris 1869” is listed on p. 336 among expositions, but appears just to be a subsequent edition of Reiset 1869, since the museum is now national instead of impérial.) Reiset numbers are also omitted for many other works in the book. Since many of the attributions, identifications and descriptions have been changed, the absence of a clear treatment of these earlier Louvre catalogues is regrettable (for example, it takes some patience to deduce that a “Nanteuil pastel” in Reiset, no. 1201, is in fact J.552.341, which doesn’t appear in XS at all, while two pastels – a second female head in the “Verdier” group and a second probable La Tour of a royal prince, either no. 1053 or 1056 from the 1838 catalogue, disappear without mention: were they miscatalogued or subsequently lost?). Reiset numbers continued to be the ones used prior to Monnier (for example in the wartime evacuation papers mentioned above), and these discussions cannot easily be followed without a concordance.

It would also have been helpful in the lengthy bibliographies and exhibition lists had dissenting attributions and identifications been summarily indicated (e.g. “Smith 1920, as by Jones”).

There is a further problem with Expositions throughout the book: although apparently exhaustive there are numerous omissions. For example a major exhibition of pastels and miniatures took place in the Cabinet des dessins, 26 novembre – 31 décembre 1963. No catalogue was printed (although the Louvre has a list of exhibits), making it all the more helpful for XS to tell us which pastels were included (and with what attributions: selection and description are important records of the development of knowledge and taste). But although this exhibition is listed on p. 337, I failed to find any mention of their appearance in the individual entries of any of the 30 or so pastels included (even when recorded in standard catalogues raisonnés).

2. Le Brun Louis XIV étude

J.468.112. This sheet is placed after cat. 1, although in the text cat. 1 is stated to be later (as Reiset argued: indeed the sequence reverses that in Reiset and Monnier). Elsewhere however XS orders pastels by each artist in chronological order.

3. Le Brun Louis XIV étude

J.468.11. Bibliographie omits Meyer 2017, p. 189, fig. 72; she challenges the suggestion that this related to the Poilly engraving.

The physical description makes no reference to the rather prominent rope mark running horizontally across the middle of the sheet.

4. Le Brun inconnu

J.468.137. Why is this in the book when Monnier did not include it, and it is clearly outside the scope defined on p. 31? The Louvre has many other Le Brun sheets with touches of pastel that are not included (and of course by many other artists, including Simon Vouet, a number of whose pastels have recently been acquired). The question recurs above (cat. 1) and below. If exceptions are to be made, I would have included the La Tour préparations (e.g. RF 4098, reproduced as fig. 53 but uncatalogued).

5. Le Brun atelier homme en armure

J.468.141. Monnier has as attributed; I have ?cop. A method statement for degrees of attribution would clarify the distinctions XS intends.

XS repeats the traditional but misleading description of this sitter as wearing a cuirasse, when in fact he wears full armour.

6/7/8. Le Brun/?Verdier têtes

J.753.103 J.753.105 J.753.107. (The Washington sheet is J.468.149; I agree that it is by a different hand, as my classification already implies.)

See note above re Paris 1838–45 Notice and missing fourth pastel in this group.

9. Nanteuil Dorieu

J.552.173. Perhaps it should be mentioned more prominently that this pastel has not been in the Louvre since 1994; that would help readers and might even increase the probability of recovery.

The copy in Reims (J.552.177) which XS cites from Adamczak 2011 is in fact her R.14 and is discussed on her p. 76.

10. Nanteuil Ligny

J.552.238. The bibliographie omits Burns 2007, fig. 5; and Burns & Saunier 2014, p. 33 repr.

11. D’après Nanteuil Turenne

J.552.349. I relegated this to copy in 2006, well before Adamczak 2011.

14. Simon Durfort

J.6786.104. In the last four lines of the entry, XS refers to the pastel of Menestrier (J.6786.108) as the only other surviving pastel by Simon. I’m not sure that it has been published except as J.6786.109, where I tentatively reproduce “=?m/u” (a warning that the information is not sound) an image found without details on the web purporting to be in pastel and corresponding to the engraving. The resolution is inadequate to determine if it is in fact the pastel or a trimmed version of the engraving. If XS has inferred its existence only from my entry he should have cited his source so that others can assess its reliability. If XS has independently discovered the pastel he should say where and reproduce it.

15. Vivien artiste

J.77.338. The bibliographie omits Sani 1991, fig. 6.

16–18. Vivien trois princes

J.77.182 J.77.196 J.77.158.

The exhibition list includes “Paris, 1838 et 1841, n° 1050”: in fact all three pastels were catalogued, as 1048, 1049, 1050, and as anonymes (which should be noted).

The Schleißheim versions are signed and may arguably be the primary works rather than the repetitions. The dimensions e.g. for the duc de Bourgogne are 101.5×82.5 cm given as 3 pieds x 2 pi. 5 po. imperial (97.5×78.5 cm, presumably sight). Durameau’s 4 pi. 3 po. x 5 pi. 3 po. (138×170.5 cm) is simply wrong, and cannot (not “probablement”) be explained by his having included the frame (that would be 128×109 cm).

19. Vivien Max Emanuel

J.77.278. I published a long article about Vivien and Max Emanuel in The Court Historian in 2012; there’s an expanded online version Neither is in the bibliographie. There is no attempt to catalogue frames or glass systematically (see my article on The Frame Blog for further comments). A conservation report of 12 February 1943 noted the presence of glass disease on this, as well as mould on several of the Vivien pastels.

In XS’s Louvre lecture (YouTube, at 46 minutes 10 sec) it is stated that the frame was made by Vivien’s brother: as far as I am aware the only relevant document is the payment to Jacques Vivien of 174 livres on 7 November 1700 by the Bâtiments du roi for the frames on the three portraits of the royal princes (cat. nos 16–18).

Cat. nos 18, 19. These pastels were both among the royal pictures lent by the king for public exhibition in the former apartments of Louise-Élisabeth, Queen of Spain in the palais de Luxembourg from 14 October 1750, an arrangement apparently intended initially to be temporary. The two pastels by Vivien hung in the Salle du Trône, along with highlights of painting from the French school. XS refers only to the Bailly catalogue for which he gives the dates of 1751 and 1766, as nos 48/49 and 55/56 respectively, on pp. 15 (Berry) and 15/16 (Max Emanuel) respectively. The numbers 48/49 correspond to the first, 1750 edition (published by Prault), where they appear on p. 26; this edition was completely reset for subsequent ones published by Le Prieur, up to 1779 when the galleries were reclaimed for the use of the comte de Provence (by 1751 at least three editions had appeared, indicating the popularity of the show). The original initiative seems to have come from Tournehem, while later editions credit his successor, Marigny. XS omits the contemporary critiques I have found (see under Paris 1750 for full details of the pieces), two anonymous and another by abbé Gougenot, both praising the Viviens: “Sans entrer dans un éloge détaillé, il suffit de dire qu’ils sont d’une grande beauté”, according to the abbé. A fourth letter, by Jean-Claude-Gaspard Sireul, appeared in the Mercure in December 1750, but discussed only history painting.

20/21. Vivien de Cotte/Girardon

J.77.188 J.77.206. The joint presentation of these notices makes them inconvenient to read. Generally too the Louvre inventory numbers are often hard to spot, the sections called Historique covering a curious mixture of information that could be better separated out. The 1838 exhibition numbers are 1841 and 1845, not 624 and 625.

The glass on Girardon appears to have bevelled edges, and is presumably later.

22. Anonyme italien femme

J.1032.101. I have this as attr. Cristofano Allori, following Monbeig Goguel (whose name does not have a hyphen) and in accordance with the Inventaire informatisé. XS’s classification as anonyme inconnue may be safer, but a general reconciliation with the official online source is needed (I have not systematically listed the very large number of differences here). XS lists publications including Bucarest 2008 without indicating what attribution is given (this is a problem throughout the book where attributions are at issue): as that catalogue was also by Monbeig Goguel but was published after Forlani Tempesti it would be helpful to know whether Monbeig Goguel revised her view.

23. Anonyme italien moine

J.94.1143. I have added “[cf. Callani]” indicating that an attribution to Callani is “worth considering”. (This is explained in the system note at the Abbreviations tab on my site. This system implies that I attach a probability of between 10 and 50% to what remains only a suggestion. I might add now another possibility, Galantini.)

24. Bernard Gosselin

J.147.13 [revised]. There is extra support for the attribution to Pierre Bernard of this pastel from three small ovals I recently added to the œuvre. It is odd that XS has not consulted my biography of Bernard from which he will find that the artist settled in Marseille c.1774, not c.1764, when he was recorded elsewhere and continued to travel. It is hard to see how XS draws any conclusions about the dating of “aucune œuvre sûre de l’artiste” without referring to the Dictionary. While the chronological Bernard file does indeed end in 1769 (it includes only dated pastels), the main artist article does suggest that Mme de Saint-Jacques belongs to the 1770s. It is unclear how XS reached the conclusion that all the certain works are dated to 1769 or before unless he assumed the Dictionary was complete: in fact there is an oil painting by Bernard signed and dated 1772 which I don’t list as it is not a pastel. It is of a Marseillais.

On Gosselin’s year of birth, XS refers in broad terms to genealogists on the geneanet website (a compilation of information from sources of mixed reliability). He does not however cite the carte de sécurité issued to Alexandre Gosselin on 19 novembre 1793 when he was aged 47, making it impossible that he was born in “mars 1745”; 1746 is thus 90% certain.

25/26. Bornet Gosseaume & mère

J.171.105 & J.171.107. Mme Gosseaume’s year of death 1788 is mine, as is the Mercure reference etc. Although there is a reference to me in the entry, it is oddly placed. XS quotes one J number in the bibliographie, but wrongly (“J.171.165” will not find the pastels on searching).

The bibliographie omits A. P. de Mirimonde, L’Iconographie musicale sous les rois Bourbons, 1977, p. 55.

27. Boucher Tête

Neither the identification of the sitter nor the status of this version are beyond dispute. It would have been particularly interesting to see an image of the signature which cannot be detected in the image of the pastel, and was not easy to see under exhibition lighting.

28. D’après Boucher

J.173.109. p. 79: “Jean-Claude Gaspard de Sireul” had no particle: see my article where the works mentioned are discussed. The bibliographie also omits Seymour de Ricci, “La collection du baron de Schlichting”, Revue archéologique, xxiv, 1914, p. 339, where the work is described as formerly Sireul’s.

As noted above, this was the “Madame de Pompadour” by Boucher selected in preference to no. 27 for wartime shelter in the vaults of the Banque de France. To follow these changing tastes it would have been helpful to note that Bouchot-Saupique 1930 has cat. no. 27 as “école de Boucher”, while 28 was “attributed” to him.

29/30. Attr. Boucher Dénicheur/Oiselière

J.173.873/J.173.874. These do not seem to bear the new attribution XS proposes. It would be interesting to know which Boucher specialists agree with the promotion: are they even related to Boucher at all? While XS recognises that it is uncertain that these are the pastels from the Blondel sale, he states that those were catalogued by Rémy as autograph works by Boucher (“comment imaginer qu’il se soit alors trompé?” he asks): but that isn’t the case. The catalogue mentions Boucher explicitly for the four preceding lots “par M. Boucher” and “par le même”, but gives no artist’s name for lot 33, while the next lot is by a different artist:

Blondel vente

So far from endorsing the attribution, one can read the catalogue as implying that Rémy didn’t know either.

Among the oeuvres en rapport should be cited the pastels were those that appeared in the Jules Lecocq sale, Amiens, Ducatelle, 16–17.iv.1883, Lot 304 (unillustrated), where they were described as after Huet, not Boucher. This is particularly interesting in view of the rather good oil given to Huet in the New York sale (Sotheby’s, 28 January 2005, Lot 553) which XS cites without discussion, although the complexities of the repositioning of the two wooden fences in the backgrounds into the opposite pastel suggests that a longer discussion is in order.

31. Boze auto

J.177.101. The pastel is discussed in my article on the very similar portrait of Pierre-Paul Nairac

The conservation report of 12 February 1943 commented in detail: “Les taches grisâtres sur le visage paraissent provenir surtout de l’emploi de blanc dit d’argent pour des restaurations. L’étendue de ces taches est telle que l’aspect du pastel est devenu très désagréable et j’estime que l’on ne pourra l’exposer après la guerre dans cet état. Il faudrait donc voir s’il n’est pas possible de faire exécuter une restauration consistant dans l’enlèvement de ces “repeints sur pastel”, ce qui permettra de récupérer une certaine quantité de matière ancienne et ensuite d’ajouter le minimum de restaurations indispensables, exécutées cette fois à la craie.”

32. Boze Mme Boze

J.177.177. The “copie avec variants” listed in the œuvres en rapport has been deleted from the Dictionary as it is in my opinion a later pastiche (it shares the characteristics of a fairly large group of such pastiches apparently produced by a single hand, and mostly signed with fictitious initials).

The description of the support in the left-hand column indicates that it has been primed with a ground substance (usually pumice stone), while in the adjacent text XS refers to the surface being rubbed with pumice stone, a quite different process.

35. Boze comtesse de Provence

J.177.313. It seems likely that this, rather than cat. no. 32, was the “Mme Boze” pastel sent to the Banque de France in 1939, as the Reiset number, 673, is cited with it in the memorandum.

36. Carriera fille

J.21.2378. Bibliographie: Toutain-Quittelier 2017b, fig. 120 is omitted here and from the other Carrieras.

An explanation of the curious bright patch along the sitter’s left cheek (stumping, intensified by subsequent light changes or later intervention?) would be interesting.

37. Carriera gouvernante

J.21.0442. The inscription should be read “apud D. Crozat” not “apad”, nor is there any reason to question the D, no doubt for dominus. I think it simply means “chez le sieur Crozat”.

38. Carriera Nymphe

J.21.1727. p. 93: XS omits several items from my bibliography, most notably the important discussion in Anon. 1750, the “Lettre d’un amateur de Province sur le secret de fixer le pastel”, Journal œconomique, février 1758, pp. 63-65: see Treatises. This pastel and the Anon. 1750 text are discussed at length in my article on Loriot (online at ), which appears in the bibliographie on p. 342 as Jeffares 2015, but has apparently been deleted from the bibliographie on p. 93 for cat. 38.

In the œuvres en rapport, is cited, followed by “On peut également ajouter…” followed by a work which is in fact in my list, J.21.1778 (and was from before the sale date).

The frame on this work was evidently added after the date of the Constantin Bourgeois drawing (v. p. 34 above).

40/41. Carriera Mme & Mlle Languet de Gergy

J.21.054/J.21.0575. See my exhibition review and post for the girl’s date of birth, the mention in Carriera’s diaries and the apparent age which I have solved with the Regensburg birth in 1717.

The headline to no. 40, “Anne Henry, épouse de Jacques Vincent Languet de Gergy (1667–1734)” might appear to suggest that those are her dates; they are in fact his. Hers were c.1695–1775.

These were surely the pair exhibited in Paris 1802, no. 249.

42/43/44/45. Chardin


On Chardin’s name (Jean-Siméon, not Baptiste), see my exhibition review.

Chardin notoriete 4iii1780

The inv. no. for 45, the autoportrait au chevalet, is given as Inv. 31478 (pp. 106 & 334) but the accession date shows this must be wrong. The Dictionary has RF 31748 (as given in the Inventaire informatisé), while RF 31770 is given erroneously in Chardin 1979. Incidentally the Inventaire informatisé reports “Cette œuvre n’est pas visible actuellement dans les salles du Musée” which is not helpful; I haven’t checked the 118 other works.

Bruzard, who owned three of these pastels (as well as the Prud’hon, cat. no. 124), deserves to be fully identified: he was Louis-Maurice Bruzard (1777-1838), économe du collége Louis le Grand, and a copyist (see here). His posthumous sale ran from 23 to 26, not 24, April 1839 (Reiset unaccountably has June);  cat. no. 42 was Lot 57, not 37.

Among the œuvres en rapport for no. 42 is listed the Orléans version (J.219.107), with Livois in 1790 and inscribed verso “offerte à Mlle de la Marsaulaye, élève de Chardin, par son maître”. Although Chardin died in 1779, Salmon suggests that Mlle de La Marsaulaye acquired it after Livois and that she may have been a pupil of Chardin. But Félicité Poulain de La Marsaulaye (née 1780), who married the vicomte de Rochebouët in 1805, was too young to have been a pupil, and the inscription cannot be strictly correct. The Dictionary has more steps in the provenance.

As XS notes on p. 104, some of the records of Chardin pastel autoportraits (e.g. that in the Pigalle inventaire or that offered to Marcille and described in a letter of 1890) do not permit us to decide which (if any) of the Louvre autoportraits they relate to: but both appear in two catalogue notices, 42 and 43, on pp. 100 and 104.

Among the œuvres en rapport for no. 44 is the Chicago version, which it is suggested may be the signed pastel of a “vieille femme” in the Jean-Louis David sale, while noting (as Pierre Rosenberg has) that that could equally well described the Besançon Rembrandt copy. It is worth noting however that the same catalogue included two “Chardin” natures mortes, “pastels d’une qualité remarquable”, which are most unlikely to be correctly described.

Omitted from the list of copies of no. 44 is that by James Wells Champney (J.219.139) which we know from an 1897 photograph of his studio where a number of his copies of Louvre pastels are visible (it gives an indication of the industrial scale of the copying of Louvre pastels):

Studio of J Wells Champney

The Chardin literature of course is vast. However it is curious not to refer explicitly to Derrida (the Paris 1990 exhibition is indicated but the bibliographie only mentions Séverac). Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Hannah Williams are among the more recent omissions. Edinzel’s work is a Cornell University Ph.D. thesis of 1995; his forename is Gerar, not Gérard. Petherbridge 2010, fig. 194 reproduces the autoportrait aux besicles, and discusses it with the 1939 Giacometti drawing it inspired (also omitted from the oeuvres en rapport) which may be seen on the Art Institute of Chicago website (where it is absurdly described as after Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, particularly puzzling given that Chicago own a version of one of the Chardin pastels copied). Another omission is the passage in the letter from Cézanne to Émile Bernard of 27 juin 1904 which itself has given rise to a secondary literature of analysis of what he meant (see references in Ben Harvey’s blog post, as well as the delightful Prigent & Rosenberg 1999: the book may look introductory but it is packed with thought and information). His self-portrait appears within the still-life of Chardin et ses modèles exhibited by Philippe Rousseau in the Salon of 1867. Chardin’s influence on other artists was not confined to the modern school: in the portrait of Jeaurat attributed to Étienne Aubry (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: see Rosenberg & Stewart 1987, p. 107), the arrangement of clothing is strikingly similar to cat. no. 42, as noted by Puychevrier in 1862 (p. 27).

Also omitted from the bibliographies is one of the more interesting early discussions of the autoportrait aux besicles and that à l’abat-jour is in Champfleury’s 1855 monograph on La Tour (pp. 88f) where the works are lavishly praised, and contrasted with La Tour’s own portrait of the great master (see below). And while the splendid passage from Proust is quoted in the introduction (omitted however from the index), it is the passage from Reynaldo Hahn’s diary, relating his visit to the Louvre with Proust in 1895, that has the most interesting comparison of Chardin, La Tour and Perronneau (it is reproduced in my Florilegium).

Perhaps finally one should note the  exhibition in which the Louvre pastels formed the centrepiece: Paris 1957a. In the anonymous but curious review of “French portraits at the Orangerie”, The Times, 9 January 1958, which mounted a forceful British attack on “this pretty-pretty school”, the Chardins (and one La Tour, cat no. 89) were exempt:

it is difficult to come away from this exhibition without feeling that Chardin bestrides it like a colossus.

46. Coypel Allégorie

J.2472.333. The title was previously “rendant grâces” but is now just “rendant grâce”. The reference to Salmon 1999 should be to Salmon 1999a.

48. Deshays tête

J.2704.107. Again it is unclear why this sheet is included.

The Kraemer jeunes filles cited as not by Deshays may be found in the Dictionary as copies after Boucher (J.173.242 and J.173.227).

49. D’après F.-H. Drouais

J.2818.185. For “Tauzia, 1879” read “Both de Tauzia, 1879”.

It seems eccentric to headline this entry “portrait présumé  de Marie…, épouse de Pierre Grimod-Dufort, seigneur d’Orsay”, when at the time the original was painted Grimod had been dead for 24 years and she had been married to her second husband, Le Franc de Pompignan, for some 15 years.

The entry assumes that the Caulaincourt painting has been correctly identified, which appears to depend entirely on a “mention” (by which XS presumably refers to what Join-Lambert & Leclair refer to as an “inscription sur le portrait” “mariée en 1747 à Dufort d’Orsay”, perhaps the words painted beside her head: but it is far from clear when they were added). XS does not state whether he has seen the pastel’s frame, which had (to judge from the old photograph, below right) an equally convincing inscription painted on the oval frame’s flat frieze “Marie Louise Albertine Amélie née Princesse de Croÿ…Empire Romain Comtesse d’Orsay” (there is also a Louvre plaque with Boze’s name attached, but the lettering of that is later):

The matter is made all the more complicated by the existence (which XS does not mention) of a (pseudo-)pendant in an oval frame of identical moulding (Galerie Pierre Brost, above left): an oil of Grimod’s son Pierre-Marie-Gaspard, comte d’Orsay (his face identical to that in the Valade pastel – XS’s fig. 31, see cat. 72 discussion below), but shown in armour, as a kind of fancy dress that matches the “en sultane” mode of the pastel). We agree that the pictures all date to 1772 or thereabouts, so in the absence of convincing alternative iconography the only discriminant is whether the sitter is 24 (Croÿ) or 41 (Caulaincourt). We know how hazardous that choice is, but my inclination would be the younger woman.

[Postscript: Ólafur Þorvaldsson has kindly drawn my attention to the Drouais studio version (in oil) of the Louvre pastel exhibited in Copenhagen 1920, no. 81, which is of the princesse de Croÿ, shown this time in ordinary costume.]

50. Ducreux auto jeune

J.285.101. Although clearly by him, is this actually of Ducreux? The face is quite different from the later self-portraits, and the eyes are blue instead of the brown seen in the other self-portraits (oddly his description in the 1792 brevet for the Garde nationale says “les yeux gris bleus”, but the remainder “le nez un peu retroussé, la bouche fort bien, le front découvert, le menton pointu et fossette au milieu” agree with the other self-portraits but not this). The signature and date are not completely convincing, and the identification is based on an inscription on the back which is clearly 19th century.

Omitted from the bibliographie is Salmon’s own article in Cabezas & al. 2008, p. 45, where the pastel is erroneously reproduced as c.1795/98.

The question of the progression of Ducreux’s talent and the date of association with La Tour is indeed problematic (XS is not the first since Georgette Lyon to ask – p. 114), but I don’t think it is solved by postponing a meeting until Ducreux was 48 years old, when La Tour was senile and Ducreux could only have been shown his work (which he would already have seen at the salons) rather than see him working. Further XS overlooks examples such as the magnificent pastel of Weirotter (J.285.742) from 1769 which is not only of outstanding quality, but intensely latourien. One should also note the roll call of eminent families Ducreux portrayed from the start of his accounts (1762 on), suggesting that work was directed to him from a studio such as La Tour’s. It is for these reasons that I continue to believe it possible that Ducreux was close to La Tour by the 1760s.

51. Ducreux auto vieux

J.285.151. The donor of inv. RF 2261 (fig. 16) was not the hybridly spelled “Frédéric Anthony White”, but Frederick Anthony White (1842–1933), a well-known British amateur. On p. 114, left column, I published the Louviers pastel (J.285.149) as probably the Salon de 1796, no. 145 (=?J.285.148) in 2012.

XS says nothing about the expensive, elaborate and surely later châssis à cléfs on which this must have been remounted, standing in contrast to the very loose weave of the original canvas.

52. Ducreux Madame Clotilde

J.285.272. Here in particular the location of the Louvre inventory numbers is particularly confusing, placed at the end of often long Historique paragraphs which contain provenance and conservation information.

p. 117: J.285.276 is correctly cited for a work which is in a private collection (not exactly “non précisée” but accorded the proper discretion for a collector), but inexplicably states that it faces left.

56. Ducreux Joseph II

J.285.413. See my Gazette Drouot article. XS does not report that the Louvre pastel (second from right below) is a copy of the figure of Joseph from the famous Batoni painting of 1769 (detail, far left: Vienna, KHM, sent there by Batoni from Florence on 27 June 1769, as reported in the Gazette de Vienne, 12 July 1769 – a few months before the date XS gives for the Ducreux). This has been in the Dictionary since the first edition in 2006.

Kernbauer & Zahradnik 2016, which reproduces most of this group and the versions in Austria, is omitted from the bibliographie; it includes another pastel copy of the Batoni, no doubt by Ducreux as well; the sitter’s right arm is altered (far right). There was at least one more version, given to the comtesse de Brionne and lent by her for the Cathelin engraving published in 1774 (second from left): in that version Ducreux follows the Batoni more closely, including the full display of the stars of the Austrian orders on his coat. In the Louvre and Klangenfurt pastels the drapery is changed (and more of the cordon bleu of the Saint-Esprit is seen), no doubt for the better reception at the French court. Perhaps Ducreux’s failure to paint the emperor from life bears out the statement in Michael Kelly’s Reminiscences (1826, i, p. 207) that “Joseph had a strange aversion from sitting for his portrait.”

Among the other œuvres en rapport omitted is a drawing from the Louvre itself: Jakob Matthäus Schmutzer, inv. 18783.

p.122 left column, top line “jeune portraitiste formé par Maurice Quentin de La Tour”: presumably this phrase was written before the discussion on p. 114 implying a later date for Ducreux’s association with La Tour.

p.122: discussion of the two KHM replicas: XS reports his change of mind about the identity of GG-8732, but there is a further confusion about GG-2123 which has been inventoried in Vienna as of Maria Christina.

57. Ducreux dame âgée

J.285.31. Salmon 2008 in the bibliographie here does not appear in the bibliographie on p. 345, but it is of course a reference to his contribution to Cabezas & al. 2008.

59. Mme Filleul, comtesse de Provence

J.316.139. It is reproduced in Boze 2004 as “attributed to Filleul” and mentioned in articles by Laurent Hugues and by Gérard Fabre, although I believe the original suggestion came from Joseph Baillio. I published it as by her in 2006. Blanc 2006 is also omitted from the bibliography.

61/62. Frey Rozeville couple

J.47.1124 & J.47.1125. The proposed identifications (on the basis of the fragmentary inscriptions) are mine. On their dates and the attribution to Frey, see my exhibition review and my Gazette Drouot article. Here is the signed and dated Lefèvre pastel for comparison:

Lefevre Homme Par15vi01

M. de Rozeville’s dates were 1706-1768, not “1720-1730? – 1791-1820?”, while Mme was 1727-1762, not “1725-1787”. (These are found in baptismal records, inventaires après décès, placards de décès etc.)

63. Gandolfi garçon

J.337.101. On costume/date grounds alone Ubaldo would seem more likely.

The reference to the exhibition “Paris, 1983” leads to a different event on p. 337 (the “Institut de France” exhibition).

64. Gautier-Dagoty Crébillon

J.3408.102. p. 134.”Longtemps négligée &c.”: the pastel is among the anonymes in Ratouis de Limay 1925 (p. 47). It was sold to the Louvre in 1839 as by La Tour, and a report was obtained from M. Cailleux (Archives des musées nationaux).

XS properly credits my discovery of the 1777 text, but misspells the title: it is Annonces, affiches, nouvelles et avis divers de l’Orléanais not Orléannais.

Jacques-Fabien Gautier’s dates, given by XS as 1710? – 1781?, can be found in the Dictionary, as Marseille 1711 – Paris 1785 (he was born on 6 September in the parish of Les Accoules).

65. Gounod Duvivier

J.3546.103. In historique, Nocq was the biographer of the subject (Duvivier), not the artist (Gounod).

66. Gounod marquis de Wailly

J.3546.11. The suggested identities cited by XS in his last paragraph are those proposed (with all necessary reservations) by me where the Dictionary states: “…traditionally described (based on an illegible inscription) as of ‘Mr de Wailly, …général’, it could be of Vincent de Wailly, receveur général des impositions d’Amiens. It does not much resemble the Vincent caricature of the grammarian Noël-François de Wailly or the Pajou bust of his brother the architect Charles de Wailly.” Since there was no “de Wailly, fermier general”, one cannot rule out a non-financier since the reference is wrong. Further “fermier” in the inscription is completely illegible and may be an erroneous interpolation.

67. Greuze L’Effroi

J.361.21. The title would make more sense as L’Effroi, a personification, and the title it was given when it first entered the Louvre (Paris 1990 cat.) and in earlier sources (I could find no general statement about titles of works, many of which – including “autoportraits” – must be new). The bibliographie omits Munhall 2008, no. 10, fig. 34. The provenance is out of sequence, with the 1892 sale preceding the 1875 one (curiously the same error is found in the Dictionary, where the text was corrupted inadvertently).

The arms are reproduced too small to be deciphered (the rather coarse screening is a criticism of all the reproductions): but from a larger photograph they can be blazoned as: “De …, au chevron de … accompagné en pointe d’un [loup, renard, chien?] contourné de … , la tête contournée, et d’un soleil de … naissant et rayonnant en chef à dextre, au chef de … chargé de trois coquilles de …”. They bear a comital crown, but nevertheless are not to be found in any of the standard armorials (d’Hozier, Borel d’Hauterive, Jougla, Rietstap etc.). It seems possible they may be bogus.

68. D’après Greuze jeune fille

RF 35773 [no J number]. Should this xixe  copy of a Greuze oil painting be included in a catalogue of the Louvre’s xviie–xviiie pastels?

69/70. Anonymes

J.361.347/J.9.5148. The entries for these works are hard to follow. Alphabetically they are linked to Greuze, although only one is in fact connected (XS suggests the other is too). As they are not the same size they are not even pendants (Reiset 1869 has only one of them, no. 1406; the no. 1957 which XS prints as in Reiset 1869 is a reference to Both de Tauzia 1879). The inv. nos. are reversed: in fact 69 is 34898 and 70 is 34897. In the list of œuvres en rapport for no. 70, XS includes a sale at “Roseberry’s” (for Roseberys); the same typographical mistake is regrettably found in my entry for J.9.5148. XS also includes a third version from an internet auction in Dijon, Sadde, 30 juin 2017, Lot 2: but this lot was an unrelated drawing by Arthur Gueniot (there was no pastel in that sale).

XS includes no list of copies for no. 69 = J.361.347 in the Dictionary, where one will be found. To these should perhaps be added Adèle Lemaire, whose application to copy the pastel Jeune fille pleurant son oiseau can be found in the Archives des musées nationaux, sér. DA 5, cabinet des dessins, 2 mai 1870; we do not know if her copy was executed.

71. Hoin Tête

J.4.229. “Claude Jean-Baptiste Hoin”: his baptismal name was just Claude (see Dictionary for discussion). My entry should have been cited since I suggest a possible earlier provenance: [=?F. de Ribes Christofle; Paris, Petit, 10–11.xii.1928, Lot 37 n.r.]

72. ?Høyer, Christian or Frederick

J.85.11335. See my Gazette Drouot article. XS cites an early version of my reidentification of this portrait based on my detection of the Elephant order. In fact it is now (since 2017) J.85.11335 [olim J.83.1016] of Christian VII, as we know from the engraving of it by John Sebastian Miller, who may have done the pastel (“ad vivum” in the legend), but which I include as English school as there are no other recorded pastels from his hand. It was published in the London magazine for August 1768 to coincide with Christian’s trip to England. (There is no c in the Danish spelling of Frederik, and no K in the French spelling.)

p. 145 fig. 31. XS reports of this pastel, published by Méjanès under an attribution to Drouais, that “Jean-Jacques Petit en a légitimement rendu la paternité à Jean Valade” and cites a 2017 publication. But in fact the work is reproduced (in colour) as by Valade on p. 529 of the 2006 print edition of the Dictionary, and remains there online (J.74.228; where a reference will also be found to Olivier Ribeton’s 1992 suggestion of Valade).

Valade d'Orsay

Given that Ribeton, Jeffares and Join-Lambert & Leclair 2017 all concur that this is of comte d’Orsay it is strange that XS now qualifies this portrait as « présumé » (v. cat. 49 above).

73. Kucharski Mme Barbier-Walbonne

J.438.104. Why is Kucharski’s first name Aleksander given in Polish form when other names (e.g. “Stanislas Auguste”) are not?

On Kucharski and Stanisław August, see my article “Polska i jej elity na tle popularnosci portretu pastelowego w XVIII-wiecznej Europie”, Rocznik Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie, vi, 42, 2017, pp. 137–55.

Mme Barbier Walbonne, whose death is given only as “avant 1837”, died on 31 October 1818 at Bernes-sur-Oise.

“années 1808–1810. Elle pourrait être un peu antérieure.” But is XS claiming it is eighteenth century? If not why is it in the book? In the comparative example repr. as fig. 32, XS gives its details from two sales in New York, Christie’s 10 janvier 1996, lot 251, and Christie’s East, 25 novembre 1997, with the lot number for the second sale omitted. This is exactly the form and (careless) omission that occurred in my entry for J.438.205 (until June 2018; now corrected).

74. Labille-Guiard Bachelier

J.44.118. This is no. 784 in Reiset, not 783.

On the donor (of this and Vincent), Monnier only gave Mme Nannoni; see for her biography.

A general problem with bibliographies is the inclusion of references to books which do no more than repeat the lists of an artist’s salon exhibits. Thus de Léris 1888 (whose list of course includes Pajou too, although he is not cited at cat. no. 76). This too is what is found in the source which de Léris obviously drew upon, Fidière 1885, at the cited p. 43; while two pages later there is a significant discussion of the pastel itself: “fine et spirituelle…d’une exécution très habile et d’une charmante couleur.”

75. Labille-Guiard Vincent

J.44.276. Bibliographie omits Denk 1998, fig. 38; Prat 2017, fig. 423. List of œuvres en rapport follows my J.44.278, which was my identification. The copy sold in 2012 was identified by me. The suggestion in the provenance that this was the picture in Mlle Capet’s inventaire, and that “M. Ansieux” was “[?Jean-Joseph Eléonore Ansiaux (1764–1840), peintre, élève de Vincent]” are mine (unacknowledged). (Note that [ ] in my entries usually means information I have added to previously published data.)

76. Labille-Guiard Pajou

J.44.232. Quincay needs a ç.

My bibliography includes also Renard 2003, p. 147 repr.; XS omits all reference to this work (which includes Perronneau, Huquier, p. 68 in Renard; Perronneau, Cars, p. 84 in Renard; Lundberg, Boucher, p. 101 in Renard; Mme Roslin, Pigalle, p. 114 in Renard), Chardin, auto à l’abat-jour, p. 122, Loir, Belle, étude and pastel, pp. 132 and 133, Boze, autoportrait, p. 139). Similar publications are cited, e.g. Julian Bell’s 500 self-portraits.

Expositions: omits Paris 1963 despite being listed in Passez (see note to cat. 1).

Quotation from Pahin de La Blancherie: it is unclear that this was about the portrait of Vien, not of Pajou. The source quoted is Ratouis de Limay 1946, where however different spelling is given (e.g. “complettement”). The passage in its full context (and with single t) may be found in the Dictionary, at (p. 10 of the current edition of the pdf), where you can see that the passage comes from the Nouvelles for janvier 1783, the month before Pajou was exhibited.

On the composition, see my comments on cat. no. 126 below.

The pastel, its frame by Claude Pepin and his death on 13 January 1782 are discussed in my Prolegomena, omitted from the Bibliographie. This would have been a good case to discuss pastellists’ relationships with framers.

77. Labille-Guiard Beaufort

J.44.136. This was not in “Paris 1927, no. 75” in either the livret or the catalogue commémoratif.

78. La Tour auto (Neilson)

J.46.1009. Is this entry out of sequence? It is far later than the following items, even if the work of which it is a replica is early. The argument can’t be that self-portraits are brought to the front (although this would explain the sequence of the late Ducreux, cat. no. 51), as cat. no. 91 is far later.

XS appears to have made extensive use of my research on Neilson, including my discovery of the pastels by him in a Scottish collection, identifying Dupouch etc. Incidentally they were, but are not now, at Amisfield; they are in a different house. The information he presents is not in the Curmer biography or the Christie’s sale catalogue. In my Neilson article (until I corrected it in June 2018) a typographical error gave Curmer’s first name as Alfred when in fact it is Albert. On p. 339 XS prints my erroneous Alfred.

However XS has simply repeated the erroneous provenance inferred by Christie’s (and followed too by me until 2018) based on the inscriptions rather than independently verifying them. In fact Antoine-Marie Lorin died in 1859, not 1871; and the H. Lorin who received the pastel on the death of “Antonin” was not Antoine-Marie’s son Henri (1817–1914) but the latter’s nephew Henri (1857–1914), brother of the Henriette-Louise (1852–1930) who married Paul Gautier de Charnacé. For the steps see my Neilson genealogy.

Omitted from the bibliographie is Maurice Tourneux 1904a, where the pastel is discussed on p. 36, and reproduced p. 13; it was then in the Lorin collection. It is curious that it escaped B&W’s catalogue, but it was not unpublished when it emerged in 2005.

79. La Tour Mlle de La Fontaine Solare

J.46.2926. I have all the “œuvres en rapport” listed here, not just one as the text suggests. The identification of the source of Stanisław Leszczyński’s pastel is mine. (There is e.g. no mention of the association in the Voreaux 2004 catalogue of Stanisław’s work, where the pastel is included as no. 19, p. 190f.) But there are other related works: the curious Mme d’Authier de Saint-Sauveur, whose condition precludes a determination of its status but seems most likely “wrong”; the autograph Mme Restout recently acquired by Orléans; and the obvious pastiche, J.9.6183.

In the historique, XS notes that the pastel was seized by the Nazis before January 1941. In fact, in common with other pictures from Jewish collections, it was first required to be deposited in a vault (no. 63 in this case) in the Banque de France (along with the 23 Louvre pastels noted above). It was then transferred to the Jeu de Paume on 29.x.1940 before being taken to Germany.

80. La Tour Frémin

J.46.1819. Bibliographie omits Denk 1998, fig. 15; Williams 2015, fig. 5.2, as well as the Goncourt (1867, p. 350: “la coloration puissante”). It is worth citing Lady Dilke’s assessment (1899, p. 164) with which I concur: “the Louvre collection is of the highest value and contains at least one of Latour’s finest male portraits, that of the sculptor René Fremin.”

Since Mariette described the pastel shown in 1743, hors cat., as of Frémin “jusqu’aux genoux, fait en sept jours” I have two J numbers, J.46.1818 and the Louvre’s J.46.1819; XS may well be justified in conflating them. This may or may not be related to the other puzzle: the pastel is mounted on a châssis à clés, of a kind very rarely used for 18th century pastels (although the exceptional size might explain it), and has had a batten attached to one side to extend the work, apparently to fit into the present frame. It it is tempting to assume that this was done around 1852, a date that appears on some newsprint used to line the back. Photographs in the file demonstrate that the batten was applied outside the canvas, which folds between the stretcher and the batten. That would seem to preclude the original state having been bigger – unless there were an earlier, more radical transfer onto the stretcher. That would explain why the canvas that projects from the back has been fixed less tidily than one might expect. But such a transfer is difficult to reconcile with the exceptionally high finish of the work. And while one should not take the story of its being finished in seven days too literally, it might suggest that there was an earlier, less finished version.

To understand this fully it is necessary to establish the detailed provenance (this genealogy may help). XS omits the steps between Frémin’s posthumous inventory in 1744 (as cited by Rambaud) and the acquisition by the Louvre from “Mme Piot” [recte Piat: she signs “fe Vor Piat”] in 1853, noting only that it might be the pastel that had been offered to the Louvre previously. In fact Louvre documents now in the Archives des musées nationaux etablish that the pastel passed to Frémin’s grandson Alexandre-César-Annibal Frémin de Sy (1745–1821), mousquetaire du roi, who left it to his sister, Mme Noël (her name is omitted from all standard genealogies, and her youth suggests she can only have been a half-sister of the marquis de Sy: in fact detailed research in the parish registers at Sy confirms she was the illegitimate daughter of Marie-Charlotte Noblet, the 21-year-old daughter of a local carpenter in Sy, and bore only her family name, as Adélaïde-Cécile Noblet, until her marriage to Laurent Noël). (Since César-Annibal was an émigré during the Revolution, his wife – who had remained in Sy – dying, his château being demolished and all its contents sold, it is likely that during the Revolution the pastel had remained with his father’s widow, who survived until 1817.)

It was Mme Noël who offered the pastel to the Louvre, first in 1829, again in 1834; she was told that the pastel didn’t suit the Louvre, the sitter not being a celebrity. After her death in 1844 it passed to her daughter Marie-Catherine-Clémence Noël (1808–p.1854), who had married Victor-Louis Piat in 1832 (hence “femme Victor Piat”). He was a worker in the clockmaking industry, but lost his job around 1850 and failed to obtain further employment. With three daughters to support Mme Piat wrote a series of increasingly desperate letters to sell the pastel to the Louvre, eventually dropping the price by a third to the 2000 francs for which it was finally acquired 18.xii.1853.

The condition report obtained more than 18 months earlier provides key information about the pastel: it was in perfect condition despite the fact that the frame had suffered “quelques ravages du temps et du différentes déplacements du tableaux”; the dimensions (sight size) were 90×73 cm, and it corresponded exactly to the 1747 Surugue engraving (the aspect ratio of the print and pastel in its current form are both 1.23, while without the extension the ratio would have been 1.27). It being unlikely that the family had reframed the work, the spatial arrangement in the print indeed suggests that the extension has been in place from the very beginning.

Oeuvres en rapport: XS notes that the pastel was engraved by Surugue (who was born in 1716, not 1710, although the error is found in several reference works). On 22 décembre 1743, months after the pastel was exhibited, and two months before his own death, René Frémin was parrain to Surugue’s daughter Marie-Élisabeth, baptised at Saint-Benoît. She died soon after.

The adoption of the spelling “Fremin”, without an acute, is curious – pp. 160, 162; but with the accent in the index, XS’s previous works (Debrie & Salmon 2000, La Tour 2004) and most modern sources.

81. Attr. La Tour, Religieuse

J.46.2183. See my Gazette Drouot article. The entry is very confusing, starting from the beginning “L’œuvre est entrée au Louvre comme attribué à Maurice Quentin de La Tour”: in fact it was given as by him. It was rejected by Monnier but when I saw it with Jean-François Méjanès in 2004 we both thought it had more potential and agreed on at least reinstating it as “attribué à” La Tour. Looking at it again, and allowing for a curious problem with the nose (perhaps explained by earlier restoration) I now think it is probably autograph. XS appears to think so too, but has inexplicably retained the “attribué à” qualification. A tweet by the Louvre suggested that the attribution to La Tour was recent, to which I responded with some of the above. The claim that the pastel entered the Louvre as an anonyme was repeated in XS’s Louvre lecture (available on YouTube, at 6m00 in); further it was claimed that the misidentification as Madame Louise was “généralement retenu” even though I rejected it in the 2006 print edition of the Dictionary. The exhibition history omits Paris 1888 – and Paris 1963 (see note at Cat. 1 above), where indeed the identification was questioned (“portrait présumé de”). The historique given by XS, which starts with “Georges [sic] de Monbrison”, is incomplete; reference to the Dictionary when XS was writing would have extended this back to 1851, and another researcher (Ólafur Þorvaldsson) has recently kindly drawn my attention to the 1863 sale. Subsequently I noted that the pastel had been lent to an exhibition in Paris in 1874 (as of “Mlle de Charolais, fille de Louis XV, en carmélite, très-beau pastel de Latour”) by Maurice Cottier, the painter and collector who co-owned the Gazette des Beaux-Arts. Cottier probably bought it at the 1863 sale. After his death it passed to Monbrison, who was the nephew of Mme Cottier. The full provenance should be:

Baron de Silvestre; Paris, 11.xii.1851, Lot 234, anon. René Soret; vente p.m., Paris, Drouot, Perrot, 15–16.v.1863, Lot 152 n.r., as by La Tour, ‘très beau pastel d’une conservation remarquable’, ₣360. Maurice Cottier 1874; desc.: le neveu de Mme Cottier, née Jenny Conquéré de Monbrison, George Conquéré de Monbrison (1830–1906), château de Saint-Roch 1888; sa nièce Laure-Augusta-Marianne de Monbrison, Lady Ashbourne (1869–1953); don 10.vii.1920 ‘au désir de sa mère’ [Mme Henri-Roger Conquéré de Monbrison, née Élisabeth-Louise-Hélène Hecht (1848–1912)].

Since it was given in memory of Lady Ashbourne’s mother, that name should be given.

During the war, this was one of the pastels damaged while stored in the vaults of the Banque de France. “Un très léger point de moisissure sur le portrait anonyme de Madame Louise de France a été retire par Mr Lucien Aubert”, according to a contemporary report; it is not clear if this was the spot on the nose mentioned above.

82. La Tour Le dauphin


It is unclear why XS now refers to Louis le dauphin as “le dauphin Louis Ferdinand”. It is not the form given in the almanachs royaux or in Jougla de Morenas, in XS’s previous work, or on p. 331 of XS (where the normal style is given).

There is no discussion of the curious appearance of the face, which presumably is the result of some form of rubbing.

83. La Tour Orry


Omissions from the bibliographie include Champfleury 1855, p. 89; Graffigny 2002, vii, p. 115 repr.; and James-Sarazin 2016, i, p. 521 repr.

On Duval de l’Épinoy, Mme de Graffigny etc. discussed p.168 one should cite my essay, not simply My other essay would also be helpful.

The copy in Sierre mentioned in the œuvres en rapport is J.46.2433, repr. in the Dictionary.

There is no suggestion for the maker of the frame in stuc doré with the curious mark DL. The question is discussed Pons 1987 p. 42, of which there is an illustrated version online in Is this not (as Bruno Hochart suggests) the Sieur De Launay, quai de Gesvres recommended by Petit de Bachaumont for his composition frames at this time?

84/85. La Tour Restout/Dumont

J.46.2687/J.46.1681. Why combine the entries? Why aren’t there sections for the œuvres en rapport? (There are many in the Dictionary, including of the full versions and the preparations.) A more consistent approach to œuvres en rapport (which are sometimes just cross-referred to the Dictionary, sometimes set out in full, sometimes embedded in the text) would make the book easier to use. Among the omissions from the bibliographie is Denk 1998, figs. 22 and 23 (her work is cited for the Chardins, but has many more pastels).

86. La Tour Lemoyne

J.46.2015. The incomplete bibliographie omits for example Denk 1998, pl. VI; McCullagh 2006, fig. 8; Williams 2015, fig. 5.5.

A far more extended discussion of which salon etc is required, including of my classification: I published the Dormeuil version as not autograph in the online Dictionary (J.46.2011) in 2013. But I think it likely that it is a copy of the lost La Tour rather than (as XS implies) a pastiche (a derived work with alterations) after the Louvre J.46.2015. There are three points XS does not discuss. First, there are differences in the face: notably the cleft chin and tighter jowls in J.46.2011 indicate that J.46.2015 does show an older figure, albeit probably not as much as 16 years older (but the pastel shown is 1763 was probably executed in the 1750s). Second, XS does not mention the Valade painting in which the head (including the wig) seems to be copied directly from J.46.2011 (or the lost autograph prototype J.46.201, quite possibly the Joly de Bammeville pastel J.46.2023). Third, an examination of Lemoyne’s workshop sale in 1778 (see ) reveals that he owned other copies after La Tour pastels (the strongest hope for the Dormeuil pastel was the provenance).

87. La Tour Maurice de Saxe

J.46.2865. All the copies and more are of course in the Dictionary. XS and I disagree about status of some versions. XS discusses the Pannier version, which he regards as autograph, and mentions the Christie’s 2015 sale but does not state that it was there classified as “attribué”. XS does not disclose which pastels he has examined de visu (the Dictionary does disclose this, using the symbol σ).

For “Prohengues” read Pierre, marquis de “Prohenques”; B&W’s error has been repeated in numerous secondary sources, obscuring the identity of the maréchal de Saxe’s executor.

XS’s bibliographie omits Jeffares 2015e, fig. 11.

88. La Tour Louis XV

J.46.2089. The bibliographie omits Fumaroli 2005 and Fumaroli 2007. The presentation of the œuvres en rapport (here and in other entries) doesn’t assist in determining whether the sales refer to the same or different versions. In the discussion of the Liotard versions, the pastel in Vannes which R&L include was discovered by me in Vannes, and first published by me in the 2006 print Dictionary. The copy in the musée Garinet is in oil, not pastel. Among a number of omissions (listed in the Dictionary) is a pastel copy in La Salle University Art Museum, and the version listed (with the queen photographed) in Schloß Seifersdorf in 1904 (see further under cat. 89).

In XS’s Louvre lecture (YouTube, at 46m30s) it is stated that the frame for this and for the queen (cat. 89) were made by Maurisan, and his receipt for frames for pastels of these subjects is mentioned on p. 164 of the catalogue. But according to Pons 1987 (p. 48), only that of the queen could correspond with the works in the Louvre: the 1748 invoice covered works by La Tour and Nattier, “dont un par M. La Tour” [my emphasis]. Indeed the entremilieux of the frames for the king and dauphin were “d’un losange et entrelas et de bandes très délicatement travaillé”, which are not found on the Louvre frames. If XS has new evidence, he should give his source and explain Pons’s error.

As XS has repeated (on p. 176f) his previous discussion about the provenance of the other pastel of Louis XV now deposited in the Getty (fig. 40), it may be worth correcting this at some length. (The online version of the Dictionary was amended to follow Salmon’s 2007 Metropolitan Museum journal article, but I will shortly correct it in line with this discussion.) The pastels of Louis XV and Marie Leszczyńksa in the Delaherche sale, respectively lots 176 and 177, were described in considerable detail in the catalogue:

La Tour Louis XV Delaherche sale 1889

This makes if quite clear that they were copies of the pastels in the Louvre (the king’s ermine mantle is not present in the Getty pastel, and the frame described is a copy of that in the Louvre, quite different from that of the Getty; the queen’s frame is also evidently a copy of that in the Louvre, which differs from that of the king). These were no doubt the pastels that appeared in the Sichel sale, where they were respectively lots 32 and 31 (not 31 and 32 as in XS, p. 176);

La Tour Louis XV Sichel sale 1899

but it was there, not in 1910, that they were separated, with the queen being bought by Perkins, while the king was acquired by Bourdariat. At this sale they were “école de La Tour”, a euphemism for copies; they were of different sizes, and had different frames. It isn’t clear if they were reunited by the comte de B… whose sale took place in 1910; it seems more likely that these were a different pair, now described as pendants, both 65×54 cm, and the attribution upgraded:

La Tour Louis XV cte de B sale 1910

The annotation in the sale catalogue is ambiguous, but is consistent with the statement that Mannheim bought Marie Leszczyńska (as he died three weeks later it would have been back on the market very rapidly), while this version of the king was bought by the great-grandfather of the owner of the Getty pastel in 2004. But that pastel cannot have been the one in the Delaherche or Sichel sales. And that pastel copy and that of the queen, missing from the œuvres en rapport, are significant perhaps because of the trouble that had been taken to copy each of the two different frames. One speculates if they might even be among the copies recorded by Durameau in the magazin at Versailles in 1784.

89. La Tour Marie Leszczyńska

J.46.2269. The bibliographie omits Fumaroli 2007, repr.; Tarabra 2008, p. 294 repr.; Grison 2015, fig. 7; Perronneau 2017, fig. 12; Goncourt 1867, p. 350f has a passage that should not be overlooked but appears only on p. 38. See also the 1958 Times review cited above (Chardin, cat no. 42-45).

The œuvres en rapport refers to the Dictionary, but incorrectly states that I have omitted an oil copy sold at Sotheby’s Olympia, 20.iv.2004; I have not – it appears between J.46.2294 and J.46.2297 (oils don’t get J numbers but do appear in the sequence). The copy in the mBA Bordeaux (inv. 1431) is not a painting but a pastel (XS repeats Monnier’s error). The version listed in Nancy in the 1895 catalogue does not appear in the 1897 edition.

Huin portraits at Seifersdorf2The version said to be “conservée à Berlin (ancienne collection Cassirer, vente, Londres, 23-24 mars 1926” is my J.46.2291, sold in Berlin, at the auction house Cassirer & Helbing, 23–24.iii.1926, Lot 416 from the collection of Graf Brühl – apparently the one photographed in Schloß Seifersdorf in 1904 (left). Given Brühl’s importance in the Saxon court this and its pendant, Lot 415 from the same sale (which Monnier and so XS didn’t mention), are of some interest: all the more so because the frame, which is just barely visible in the photo (and which I originally mistook for a Dresden frame), appears also to copy the Louvre frame for Marie Leszczyńska:


See the discussion above (cat. 88) for the Delaherche and Sichel copy: on p. 179, XS writes of the Delaherche version “il ne semble pas s’agir de la version du Louvre”: this seems to suggest he thinks it is of a different model – but the Delaherche catalogue description above follows the Louvre version precisely. We have no evidence of what the frame  on Graf Brühl’s Louis looked like, but it seems quite likely that at least two sets of contemporary copies of the La Tour pastels were issued with the frames as well as the pastels being copied.

Among the oeuvres en rapport, XS lists a copy of the La Tour by Tocqué at Gatchina. This again is taken from Monnier without identifying her mistake. She cited Serge Ernst, Gazette des beaux-arts, April 1928, p. 244, where the Gatchina painting is stated to be after the large painting in the Louvre: but this of course is after Tocqué’s own painting in the Louvre, inv. 8177, sd 1740, and commenced 1738 (ten years before the La Tour), as comte Doria pointed out in the Gazette des beaux-arts just a few months later (September 1928, p. 156). Gillet 1929 reproduces the Tocqué and La Tour on facing pages (8/9).

La Tour, tête de Marie-Josèphe de Saxe, inv. 27618 bis

J.46.22251. The recently discovered first attempt at a portrait of Marie-Josèphe de Saxe (as the paper size indicates, surely an abandoned work rather than a préparation) is mentioned and reproduced in two places (p. 179, fig. 41 and pp. 198ff, fig. 55). This has perhaps distracted attention from the chronological problem it raises, which isn’t adequately dealt with by XS’s statement “On ne sait si ce fut La Tour qui utilisa lui-même sa préparation pour doubler son carton ou si cette opération eut lieu postérieurement.” The problem is that XS relates the unfinished head to the 1761 portrait of the dauphine, while he also considers that the pastel of the queen was that exhibited in 1748. It is scarcely likely that a completed pastel, exhibited at the Salon and delivered to the royal collection, would be returned to the artist’s studio a dozen years later to have a new backing fitted.

The problem seems insoluble, but thanks to two discoveries Ólafur Þorvaldsson has been able to propose an ingenious solution. Although at first sight the unfinished head (fig. 55) appears to match closely cat. no. 94 (and indeed the related preparation fig. 54, as well as the large Saint-Quentin LT 17), you might think that it looks a little younger, before dismissing that as a subjective and unreliable judgement. But there is a crucial (and objective) difference in the hair on the left side of her head. In the 1761 work this is swept back in a series of curls which are all concave up: in the unfinished head, however, they are concave down, indicating a series of tighter, smaller curls from a previous era. The discoveries are of two miniatures which share this feature, one in the Habsburg collection in the Miniaturenkabinett at the Hofburg, which is somewhat perfunctory (and hitherto misidentified), but the other, in the Wallace Collection (set in a later box), gives us I think a pretty clear idea of what La Tour’s very first pastel of the dauphine must have been like:

G7 miniature ; E 20555-B

The miniature is in Reynolds 1980, no. 30 repr., as anonymous, but recognised by Guy Kuraszewski of Versailles (letter of 1975 in Wallace Collection archives) as of Marie-Josèphe de Saxe at the time of her marriage in 1747. It is evidently after the lost La Tour, and shows the dauphine in almost exactly the same pose as the 1761 pastel, ignoring the 1749 composition entirely. Commissioned in 1747, and finished by the following year (as XS notes, p. 198), it must have been in La Tour’s studio at the same time as he was preparing the pastel of the queen (cat. no. 89) for exhibition at the salon.

90. La Tour Mme de Pompadour

J.46.2541. I have numerous additions to the inevitably incomplete bibliographie, ranging from Gautier 1858 to Guichard 2015. It was reproduced as early as 1851. By 1890, when an American called Hamilton McKay Twombley thought he had bought the original for $2250, Alfred Trumble, editor of The collector, discussed the swindle in several articles, pointing out that copies were available for as little as 1000 francs. The copy XS says I have omitted is in fact there (J.46.2568), and has been since before the sale (20 October 2017), but no doubt there are many others out there. XS erroneously states that it was engraved by Jean Massard (1740–1822); this is a confusion with the steel engraving of 1838 by Léopold Massard (1812–1889).

It is surely of interest to cite Mantz (1854, p. 177), writing just 100 years after its completion, describing the work as “un de ceux que le temps a effacés.” Less accurate is Champney 1891, who thought “the head cut out during the Revolution”. The  omission of Professor Goodman’s monograph on The portraits of Madame de Pompadour (2000) is odd. Champfleury 1855 prints in full (before adding to it) the full two pages of Sainte-Beuve’s famous discussion, from Monday, 16 September 1850 (the citation in XS is the first page only in the 5th edition of the collected Causeries), but it was Arsène Houssaye who first wrote extravagantly about the pastel (1849), and probably inspired Saint-Beuve.

The most significant omission however is the correspondence of Mme de Graffigny, specifically her letter of 8.vii.1748. Even if we believe La Tour’s claim to have destroyed the first version of the portrait, it is perfectly clear that XS’s account (“La première mention du portrait date de 1752”, p. 184) is far too late.

A general problem is the treatment of salon critiques, which are not explicitly listed in the bibliographies. Several are discussed in the main essay, but there is no reference for example to the Gautier-Dagoty Observations… (1755), which is omitted from all standard bibliographies until I published it online in 2015 (you can find the full text in my exhibitions). It contains important observations on the significance of the original glass which had to be removed at some stage after 1942. The standard spelling (p. 184) of synérèse (synaeresis) is with an initial s, not a c (as the etymology requires).  Guiffrey 1873 reproduced accounts for the workmen and carpenters employed to relocate the pastel overnight during the Salon of 1755 due to the reflections in the glass exacerbated by its initial position.

Also omitted is the discussion of the portrait in two letters by Prinz Wilhelm von Preußen to the marquis de Valori, 23.xii.1755, 17.i.1756; these relate both to the perceived likeness of the work and to the role of the image as a diplomatic tool (Wilhelm being offered an unrecorded copy).

XS speculates (p. 182, repeating exactly Monnier’s text, drawn from Cordey’s 1939 transcription and his question) that this may be the “tableau peint sous glace, représentant la dite Dame de Pompadour, sans bordure” in Mme de Pompadour’s posthumous inventory, but with necessary reservations – it is inherently unlikely in view of the weight of the original sheet (evidently present in 1755 and 1803 on, until c.1942) that the pastel could be under glass without a frame. However XS should have consulted the original manuscript rather than relying on Cordey; Marigny’s copy is now at INHA. Although the (exhausted) notary has carelessly omitted the word “dans”, the next word is clearly “sa”, not “sans”: I think item 288 correctly transcribed includes “un Tableau peint sous glace representant la ditte dame de Pompadour [dans] sa bordure”:

Pompadour inventaire 288

(In case you think this is some obscure notarial convention, this is what “sans Bordure” looks like (item 1245):


The writing for the pastel is rather smaller than for the large painting of her (item 168), evidently considered more important by the notary; but the most puzzling thing is its location – among an industrial quantity of pieces of glass (nothing else is inventoried in the room), suggesting it was effectively in storage rather than on display. You don’t get the full impression of this from Cordey, who cannot bring himself to transcribe these pages from item 288 preceding the picture.

91. La Tour Préparation

J.46.2608. See my Gazette Drouot article. The Bibliographie omits Dayot 1904, p. 321 repr.; Dreyfus 1909, repr.; MacFall 1909, repr.; New York times,, repr.; Gazette Drouot, 21.iii.2008, p. 113 repr.; Prat 2017, p. 233 n.r.

Expositions: Paris 1908a, no number, repr. p. 39: XS confuses this with a quite different pastel, no. 51 in Paris 1908a, which is in fact J.9.6645 (Éc. fr., Allégorie de l’Architecture).

It should be noted here that the technique is quite different from the La Tour preparations of the “second category” as defined in the entry; it is unusually highly finished and has a dubious inscription. In 1883 it was simply a “tête de femme”, and in 1922 it was sold as of the “Comtesse de X” even though Roger-Milès (as was his habit) had given it the nom de fantaisie of la Pompadour in 1908. When Haldane MacFall reproduced the work (again as of an inconnue) the words “La Comtesse” were clearly visible; they may have been obscured subsequently, perhaps in order to present the sitter as the marquise de Pompadour, as she appears in Roger-Milès and B&W. But the face is so different to hers that I do not think we can retain even “présumée”.

The postscript from letter from Kaunitz cited here as though unpublished has appeared frequently in print since it was first published by the Goncourts, Madame de Pompadour (p. 214 in the 1888 edition).

92. La Tour d’Alembert

J.46.1218. Omissions from the bibliographie include Denk 1998, fig. 11; Conisbee 2003, fig. 13; Tarabra 2008, p. 91 repr. Also overlooked (I am grateful to Ólafur Þorvaldsson for pointing this out) is the letter from d’Alembert to Mme Du Deffand of 27 janvier 1753 which sheds light on the commission: “Latour a voulu absolument faire mon portrait, et je serai au salon de cette année avec la Chaussée, qu’il a peint aussi, et un des bouffons italiens: je serai là en gaie et triste compagnie.”

XS relies upon Gasté’s 1896 article for the sitter’s legacy to Condorcet, although Gasté thought the will itself was lost. It is not (it was deposited in the Archives nationales on 29.x.1783, where it may be found under code MC/RS//504, together with d’Almbert’s posthumous inventory, carried out in his apartment at the Louvre, 1.xii.1783, MC/RS//505). The documents are of some interest as they indicate the obscurity into which La Tour’s work had fallen, even though one of the executors who assisted at the inventaire was Watelet. Most of the pictures, including the La Tour, were found “dans la chambre ou led. feu d’Alembert couchoit & ou il est décédé”. The pastel was valued together with another undescribed oil painting, 20 livres together, and fell into the residual estate, which did indeed go to Condorcet. But many of the other portraits were singled out: in the valuation Mlle Lusurier’s oil portrait was explicitly described, and specifically bequeathed by d’Alembert to Remy; Watelet was given d’Alembert’s portrait of Descartes. Pride of place however was given to another portrait – a portrait of Friedrich der Große “en Grand & en Pastel”, which had been valued at 120 livres in the inventaire, and was left to Mme Michel Camus Destouches, née Jeanne Mirey (it reappeared in her posthumous inventory a few years later). The artist isn’t named, but might perhaps have been Cunningham.

There are more œuvres en rapport than listed. But the most interesting question concerns the preparatory study J.46.1238, formerly in the Doucet collection, and which bears a striking resemblance to the Louvre pastel: indeed the orientation is far closer to that finished portrait than the Saint-Quentin préparation LT 13 (J.46.1227; fig. 52). XS dismisses the Doucet sheet as not of d’Alembert because it clearly relates to the second Saint-Quentin préparation LT 42 (J.46.1235): this latter subject has blue eyes, and so cannot be d’Alembert whose eyes were brown. But there is arguably a different possble explanation. LT 42 is itself rather odd: it is exceptionally weak, and has a number of atypical features (such as the green outline). I have previously defended it as just within the artists’ range, but the condition makes it hard to judge, and the sharp strokes could have been added by a determined copyist. While apparently belonging to the “ancien fonds de l’atelier”, the documentation leaves room for doubt. And if that sheet is set aside, there is no longer any objection to J.46.1238 as of d’Alembert.

93. La Tour auto vieux

J.46.115. Bibliographie omits Denk 1998, fig. 85; Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Necklines, 1999, p. 36, fig. 14. It also does not list, although the passage is cited at the end of the entry (and repeated in extenso on p. 38), the Goncourt brothers’ wonderful description of this pastel. Omitted too is Champfleury’s description of the late autoportrait (pp. 92f in the 1855 edition): he preferred it to La Pompadour, and thought it “le meilleur des pastels de La Tour”; his description of “son sourire un peu satyrique et un peu comédien &c.” may arguably have inspired the Goncourts’ “fantôme ironique”.

The provenance of the work is indeed rather confusing. XS cites Fontaine’s list (of pictures at the magasins de Versailles), which he reads as implying that the work was in the former Académie royale, but is then unable to find any confirmation of that in other Académie lists. But Fontaine explained (Fontaine 1910, p. 119) that this list is “l’état des portraits d’artistes ou d’amateurs deposes dans les magasins de Versailles assez peu de temps sans doute après la suppression du musée des monuments français…comme…nous ne trovons pas, pour beaucoup d’oeuvres, d’indication de provenance, il est naturel de penser qu’elles étaient arrivées directement de Paris.” Further the La Tour entry, which occurs on p. 124, is unnumbered (so it was not included in the inventaire of an II), and Fontaine adds a footnote: “Jamais il n’y eut, semble-t-il, à l’Académie, de portrait de La Tour par lui-même.”

94. La Tour Marie-Josèphe de Saxe

J.46.2242. See discussion of inv. 27618 bis above.

95. La Tour Chardin

J.46.1436. Bibliographie omits Denk 1998, pl. VII; Williams 2009, fig. 4; Lajer-Burcharth 2018, fig. 2.86; and the Champfleury 1855 (p. 89) discussion where the pastel is contrasted with (“fort éloigné”) the two Chardin self-portraits the author so much admired; nevertheless “il a de la physionomie”.

The conservation report of 12 February 1943 commented on “les zébrures noirâtres qui balafrent la figure et lui donnent un aspect très désagréable paraissent dûes à deux causes: des restaurations au blanc dit d’argent qui ont noirci et d’autre part l’usure qui a fait apparaître l’ébauche en ton grisailles. Il semble qu’il soit impossible de remédier à cet état.”

96. La Tour comte de Provence

J.46.2624. Bibliographie omits Versailles 2006b, fig. 61.

97. La Tour Deschamps

J.46.162. The reference to the Chicago version in œuvres en rapport cites only B&W; the Dictionary, under J.46.1622, provides more information about its history.

The discussion on p. 206 of XS is based on an old assumption that Deschamps was a first cousin of La Tour, so that his grandfather would be Jean de La Tour as XS states. In fact, after painstaking research leading to this pedigree which I published in 2016 (see also my essay La Tour’s family), it is now clear that Deschamps was La Tour’s second cousin. Deschamps’s grandmother Marguerite Garbe, Mme Pierre Caton, was sister of La Tour’s grandmother, Marie Garbe, Mme Jean de La Tour. Although he refers to one document I published, XS appears not to have read my work on the family; and when he cites Besnard & Wildenstein 1928, pp. 74-5, he does not cite my hugely expanded and heavily annotated revised edition .

98. Lenoir Lekain

J.478.182. Bibliographie omits RED, “Art in France”, Burlington magazine, xiii/64, .vii.1908, p. 233 n.r. (“a fine pastel portrait”); and Neil Jeffares, “ ‘Why bother with Joseph Boze?’ Pastels in The Burlington Magazine”, , 29.i.2014.

99. Liotard Mme Tronchin

J.49.234. Bibliographie omits Baud-Bovy 1903, p. 30; Plaut Weinreb 1995, p. 399, fig. 4; Rosenberg 2007, pp. 667f n.r.; Burns 2017, p. 27 repr. To it may now (September 2018) be added Jeffares 2018k, fig. 3. In the exhibitions, “Genève 1974, no. 13 (non exposé)” is cited – but this is from a separately numbered iconographical appendix, not the exhibition list. The bibliographie also omits the delightful reference (cited in R&L) in the Arikha exhibition catalogue (Madrid 2008, p. 33, repr.) where the artist mentions that the work inspired him to return to pastel in 1983:

One winter afternoon, during the first months of 1983, I was present at the arrival and unpacking of a crate at the Cabinet des Dessins of the Louvre. It contained the pastel-portrait of Madame Tronchin by Jean-Etienne Liotard. Its impact was such that I rushed to get pastels on the very next morning. I had not practiced this medium since the early ’50s.

XS discusses the provisions of Mme Tronchin’s will, taken from Galiffe’s footnote. He omits however the point of the story: the elder son, having married a rich lady, was cut out of his inheritance – until his younger brother protested that they should be treated equally.

The magnificent frame deserves comment: it is surely original as it is one of a number of similar frames made for Liotard in Geneva.

100. “Lips” Lavater

J.92.1438. I regard both attributions as rather speculative (what does “attribué à X ou à Y” mean in a system where “attribué” means “more likely than not”? I could find no avertissement covering XS’s use of such terms). XS cites the Dictionary for “le seul autre pastel de Lips que nous connaissons”; the other work I list J.4916.101 is even less like the Louvre pastel. Has XS found any example of Lavater himself using the LG monogram? The Dictionary suggests Longastre (see the Dictionary article for why; the connection is certainly worth discussing) or Swiss school as alternatives to anon. German where they should remain.

101. Loir Belle

J.495.106. “A la technique unique”, and repeated in XS’s Louvre lecture (YouTube, at 22m20), where XS suggests that this is the only pastel on copper known. The technique was developed and extensively used by Luttrell and infrequently by Faithorne, H. D. Hamilton and J. H. Schmidt. It is notable that Loir travelled to England and may have come across examples there (see also the discussion of cat. 155 below). The bibliographie omits Denk 1998, fig. 53.

102. Lundberg Catherine Opalińska

J.503.1398. This has been in the online Dictionary as of Katarzyna Opalińska since 2010. Salmon 1997a, p. 113f, has this as attr., inconnue, and so I first published this correctly, but am omitted from the bibliography.

103. Lundberg Natoire


104. Lundberg Boucher


Bibliographie omits Dezallier d’Argenville 1781; Ananoff & Wildenstein 1976, reproduced as frontispiece; Michael Levey, “A Boucher mythological painting interpreted”, Burlington magazine, cxxiv/952, July 1982, pp. 438–46, fig. 59 and Lajer-Burcharth 2018, fig. 1.1. There is extensive wet pastel on the Boucher in particular not reported in the description.

105. Lundberg Frederick [sic]

J.503.1197. I reproduce two versions of the later work cited, possibly the same. In the expositions, Paris 1994 should be Paris 1994a.

106. Lundberg Vergennes

J.503.172. The tentative identification of this as =?J.503.1722, the inconnu in the saisie d’émigré of 1797, was my suggestion; XS claims “Nous pensons qu’il faut le reconnaître parmi…” without crediting me.

108. Montjoie Homme

J.543.114. My discoveries of Montjoie’s biographical details are credited, but the url cited, [sic], won’t even take you to the home page.

109. Natoire tête

J.553.107. Why is this sheet with only touches of pastel in the book?

110. Nattier jeune femme

J.554.194. Here XS includes a reference to Jeffares 2006, p. 389. I can add that the pastel was in the sale of Beurnonville and others, Paris, Drouot, Pillet, 20–21.v.1873, Lot 112, not reproduced.

The standard spelling is Maupeou, not Maupéou.

111. D’après Nattier, princesse de Condé

J.554.303. Monnier has as inconnue; my entry is correct.

112. Perronneau Huquier

J.582.139. In the exhibitions, XS gives “Paris, 1927, n° 96 et 74” which is unexplained. In my entry I have “Paris 1927a, no. 96, pl. li-74” which is my system (explained ) for indicating the numbers in the livret and the catalogue commémoratif. To be consistent with the system XS adopts for the Paris 1908a exhibition, the 1927 livret numbers should appear in the Expositions, and the catalogue commémoratif should appear under Bibliographie, as Dacier & Ratouis de Limay 1927.

XS’s bibliographie omits Jeffares 2015e, fig. 12.

The identification of Huquier fils as André-Prosper (1741– ) was made by me before 2012.

113. Perronneau Mlle Huquier

J.582.1393. To bibliographie add Dilke 1899 and Перова 2006, p. 15 repr.; as well as the article by Florence Ingersoll-Smouse (La Revue de l’art ancient et moderne, xli, 1922), where she cites the Louvre pastel as inferior to the National Gallery girl with a cat (most of us regard the latter as a fake). The reference to Vaillat 1908 should be to Vaillat 1912 (La Société du XVIIIe siècle et ses peintres), and p. 233 should be 232; XS repeats the errors in d’Arnoult (Vaillat 1912 also reproduces cat. no. 90, and discusses cat. nos 114, 119). I question the status of the Huau version; I can find no evidence that he was the “heir of Huquier” on which the attribution of this badly worn version depends.

I have already commented in my review on the unsuitability of the present frame: it is not even the one visible in the photograph of the salle des pastels of 1919:

Perronneau Mlle Huquier frs

114. Perronneau Homme dit Bastard

J.582.1059. I have several additions to bibliographie, including an 1873 article in the London Standard; Gimpel 1963 and 2011; and Adair 1971. The provenance is complicated: prior to Wilson, it belonged briefly to William Tilden Blodgett of New York, as it was included in a list of 25 pictures he bought according to a list prepared by Gauchez and Le Roy, Paris, 10.vii.1872, where it was no. 23.

116. Perronneau Couturier de Flotte

J.582.1266. Inv RF 1697, not 1967

Jean Couturier de Flotte died in Paris 9 février 1780, not 1779.

The provenance confuses Henri Dussumier de Fonbrune with unrelated Henri Poussou de Fontbrune (see my exhibition review). Add Les Donateurs du Louvre 1989 to bibliographie.

117. Perronneau Cars

J.582.1155.The bibliographie omits early discussions by La Rochenoire 1853, p. 62f; E. & J. de Goncourt 1867, p. 13.

I agree with d’Arnoult about the status of the two copies XS wishes to promote to répliques. On p. 244 XS correctly refers to Cars’s mother as Marie Barbery, as I have in J.582.1154 (and highlighted in my important discussion; while Arnoult 2014 erroneously had Babuty.

118. Perronneau Tassin de La Renardière

J.582.1758. Add to exhibitions Portraits français, Galerie Charpentier,–3.x.1945, no. 80, where it was reproduced.

119. Perronneau Van Robais

J.582.1782. In many of the provenance discussions reference to the genealogies in the Dictionary would simplify the narrative.

120/121. Pillement paysages

J.592.249/J.592.248. Bibliographie omits Gordon-Smith 2006, fig. 265/266. The pictures were left by Mme Paul Mottard, née Laure-Anne-Marie-Henriette Bonehill (who had died in 1944). Here (and on p. 102) it is odd to describe the Horvitz pictures as in Wilmington, the place of incorporation of a holding company, rather than Beverly Fields, Massachusetts, where the works are kept.

122/123. Prud’hon


124. Prud’hon Mme B


It is unclear why these are included as they seem to be nineteenth century.

125. Regnault Gardel

J.613.101. XS has acknowledged my 2016 solution to the biographical confusions – but still omits me from bibliographie. To it should be added Benoît Dratwicki, Antoine Dauvergne (1713–1797), Wavre, 2011, p. 382 repr. To the exhibition list should be added the Rameau exhibition at the BnF, 1964-65 (no. 354).

126. Suzanne Roslin Pigalle

J.63.142. Although Mme Roslin’s forenames are frequently given as Marie-Suzanne, official documents while her mother was still alive name her as Jeanne-Suzanne, and it is safer to call her just Suzanne (see Dictionary article).

The article on Roslin published in 1856 was not by Henri (or even Henry) de Chennevières, who was not yet born, but by his father, Charles-Philippe. In it mention is made of Dezallier d’Argenville fils’s Description sommaire of 1781, an overlooked document with much interesting information about the display of works in the Louvre. It describes the portrait of Pigalle as one of seven pictures displayed on easels in the Galerie d’Apollon (the preceding work was Loir’s Belle, suggesting a possible source for the confusion in attribution in Reiset).

Omissions from the bibliographie include Los Angeles 1976b (the influential exhibition on Women artists 1550–1950), where it is reproduced on p. 41 (the reference on p. 40 to Labille-Guiard’s Pajou is also omitted). The passage in Pilon 1927, p. 90 (“reflet féminin de La Tour, Mme Roslin marchait, de la manière la plus heureuse, dans le sillage du maître”) is typical of the patronising remarks that do not find favour today.

The pastel today remains one of the most striking works in the Louvre’s collection, much of its distinctiveness arising from the dramatic di sotto in sù composition rare in French portraiture of the time, but practised repeatedly by Alexander Roslin from the 1750s, particularly for subjects connected with the arts: his own self-portrait (Louvre, 1766), the architect Adelcrantz (Stockholm, Akademien, 1754). Dandré-Bardon (1756) and Marigny (1761). The present exhibition hangs the picture close to Mme Labille-Guiard’s own morceau  de réception, executed just 12 years later in 1782: Pajou too is shown in a similar perspective (Labille-Guiard used the trick again – but I think just this once – in the pastel of Vincent). Was this her tribute to a fellow woman artist?

Valérie Luquet has kindly pointed out (Twitter, 1.ix.2018) that “ce cadre porte l’estampille ‘E.L INFROIT’ et est accompagnée de celle de la Jurande des maîtres Menuisiers ébéniste ‘JME’.”

127. Russell Mary Hall

J.64.172. The identification of the sitter was set out in detail on my blog which XS simply cites as “blog en ligne”; the url is

In the transcription of the signature, Russell’s long s (ſ) has been incorrectly rendered as a capital S.

The work was reported at the time of its admission in Le Temps (20 juillet 1869) as by Lawrence, of Lord John Russell when a child, leading to a vigorous response from the editor of the The Art Journal in an article entitled  “The sole British picture in the Louvre”.


Among the works omitted from the bibliographie is Maurice Tourneux’s earlier (GBA, 1897, p. 449) note in which he described the work shrewdly as “la joie et aussi le pain quotidien des copistes”. According to the system in the Dictionary, of the numerous copies listed the two I have called “versions” rather than “copies” are because I have seen no images, and cannot therefore assess their status. It does not follow (on the contrary it is improbable) that they are “de meilleure qualité”.

p.264: XS suggests that Russell was unique in providing written instructions for conservation pasted to the back: he was not (see §iv.19 “Artists’ conservation instructions”, Prolegomena).

128. Russell Bartolozzi

J.64.114. “J W S Tomkins” was Peltro’s grandson, Jocelyn William Smith Tomkins (1841–1920), a fine art dealer. “Ingamels” [sic] is misspelled here and on p. 341 (once, but correctly immediately below). The pastel was shown at the Russell exhibition in the Imperial Institute in 1894 (no. 94), but the frame (which I questioned in my post on The Frame Blog) is not the one in which it was then exhibited.

129. “Russell” lady

J.64.006. “Russells” monogrammed with initials in red chalk are rarely if ever genuine. The frame is French. The provenance before 1967 is also curiously unsatisfactory. If reliable, it would be easy enough to find ladies of the family of the right age – for example Anne, Lady Jocelyn’s daughter-in-law, Frances Theodosia Bligh (1760–1802), who would have been a plausible age in 1792. “Claneboye” is a viscountcy, not a barony. But this is irrelevant: the rather bland face (left) in my view is derived from a genuine Russell pastel (right) of Mrs Ralph Leeke, née Honor Frances Harvey Thursby (1769–1843):

Commissioned for 15 guineas in 1792, Mrs Leeke descended in the family and is known only from a letter in Country Life in 1962, five years before the Louvre pastel appeared on the French art market for the first time. Russell pastiches of similarly high quality are not unknown: a recent example is “Mrs King” J.64.1956. Doubts are not allayed by the internal construction: the pastel is mounted on a châssis à clefs, of a kind Russell did not use (and which were very rarely used in the 18th century for strainers of this size), and the canvas shows no sign of the tension found in Russell pastels where the paper is pasted wet; there are no rust stains on the canvas from the tacks; and the canvas appears to have been painted on the reverse.

130. Russell Jeans family

J.64.1863. The biographical details I established and XS acknowledges were provided again in another post on my blog: Readers may be baffled how to find this when the only reference given is “blog, 19 décembre 2017”. Even would be better. I can update the biographical details with the elder son’s year of death, 1806: he was buried at St Mary’s, Ashford on 30 May, aged 13.

The picture must have been in the possession of Duveen Brothers by c.1911 when it was included in their London exhibition of ten pastels by John Russell. My research in the Duveen and Seligmann archives (respectively at the Getty and Smithsonian) has now established that the pastel was indeed with Duveen Brothers, stock no. 2044, by 1911. It was then with Jacques Seligmann, Paris, stock no. 7166, who sold it to Mme Démogé on 9 April 1919. Further research in an unpublished archive reveals that the picture was sold by the Jeans family to Charles Wertheimer in 1907. It also passed through the hands of Leopold Hirsch before Seligmann acquired it by 1917.

131/132/133. Anon. a/r Schmidt Victor Amédée/Maria Antonia Fernanda

J.9.2882/J.9.2229/J.9.2231. The bibliographies for 131/132 omit Reiset 1869, nos. 1408/1409.

XS credits Jean-Jacques Petit (presumably an unpublished private communication) with the identification of these sitters. But I first published these (in 2010, after a private communication from another source) as an anonymous copy of a portrait of Victor-Amédée and his wife on the basis of another version in oil of Victor-Amédée in Versailles (MV 3964 – the one XS reproduces as fig. 75 but without the MV inv. no.). XS notes the visit of Johann Heinrich Schmidt to Turin and his (lost) portrait of the king which I mention in my Schmidt article, but goes on to infer “pour des raisons stylistiques” that MV 3964 is by Schmidt. Unfortunately to my eye there is nothing in common with the fairly extensive œuvre of Schmidt established in my Dictionary, and I think MV 3964 should remain anonymous (like all other royal figures, Victor Amadeus was painted by many different artists). The Louvre pastels are frankly of execrable quality, and below the standard I should expect from the “copistes de cour chargés de multiplier les versions…” as XS suggests.

136/137. Valade Lacroix couple

J.74.239/J.74.24. It might be interesting to comment on the miniature on Mme Lacroix’s wrist, which is derived from the pendant, but shows her husband in a red rather than a blue coat. XS notes the curious size of the daughter, Suzanne-Félicité, but the greater curiosity is her age; XS gives her birth as “après 1766” in the headline of no. 137, but she is in fact older than the son born that year, and was the twin of the eldest son: she was born in Paris on 2 juillet 1760, as in the Dictionary. (XS knows this, as he reveals on p. 273, right hand column, 4 lines from the bottom, that she was born in 1760.)

138. Vigée Mme des Radrets

J.758.305. The identification of Monnier’s “Mlle d’Estraret” as Mme Louis-Grégoire Mirleau de Neuville des Radrets, née Anne Racine (1731–1805), fille de Louis Racine, petite-fille du poète was first published by me in 2006 in the print edition of the Dictionary. This is unacknowledged; indeed the claim that the old identification was believed “jusqu’à présent” is repeated in XS’s Louvre lecture (YouTube, at 19m45s).

141/142. Vigée Le Brun Duc d’Orléans, Mme de Montesson

J.76.318 & J.76.306. These were my discoveries in 2013 and published online in early 2014. My research was acknowledged by name in the 23 March 2014 sale catalogue. When XS published a short article with an incomplete provenance I provided a key link which XS initially dismissed in private correspondence but has now published as correct on the basis of the detailed proof I established. I believe the discovery of the invoice for the versions was due to Geneviève Haroche.

Louis-Philippe, duc d’Orléans should not be headlined “Le duc Louis-Philippe d’Orléans”.

143. Vigée Le Brun Jules de Polignac

J.76.33. The bibliographie omits Prat 2017, fig. 251. I note an oil copy which XS does not report.

144. Vigée Le Brun Inconnu “comte de Fries”

J.76.195. The identity in Monnier was questioned by me in 2006 (“?comte de Fries”), and subsequently rejected (“??comte de Fries”) in the online Dictionary – and of course by others too (notably Joseph Baillio, probably the first to do so), but not in earlier publications that I know. XS however retained the identification, as recently as in Salmon 2014b, p. 14; he has however omitted this work from the present bibliographie.

145. Attr. Voiriot homme

J.773.152. Monnier’s attribution has never seemed convincing, and I have [?attr.] in the Dictionary indicating that I do not really believe it, but have no better suggestion. While I agree with the parallels between Hazon and the Pasadena man (J.773.12 and J.773.15), I don’t think either helps lift the Louvre pastel out of anonymity. But the step from there to suggesting that the sitter be Jean Voiriot (1672–1740) is too far for me: the Louvre pastel appears to date from the mid-eighteenth century and the sitter to me looks 40–50 years of age.

p. 290ff. I cannot understand sequence of the anonymes. Is there a difference between “École française du xviiie siècle” and “Anonyme français du xviiie siècle” or is this just carelessness?

146. Anon. xviiie femme

J.9.514. Possibly a later pastiche, but in my view French, not “anonyme étranger”.

147. Éc. fr. xviiie Richelieu

J.9.26034. XS is no doubt correct in rejecting the attribution of the principal version to Carle Van Loo (I’m not sure why he doesn’t cite the sale, New York, Sotheby’s, 25.i.2007, Lot 90), but it seems eccentric to describe the attribution as “sans raison aucune” without mentioning that it it appears as an autograph work in Louis Réau’s Van Loo catalogue (1938), and it was accordingly under Van Loo copies that I listed a number of pastels in earlier editions of the Dictionary (they will now all be found under Éc. fr., from J.9.2603 on). Unfortunately XS has conflated two oval copies: the one discussed in Trope is from the Lavedan collection (J.9.26031), while that in the Madame Geoffrin exhibition is different (J.9.2603). There are indeed many more related pictures than the two XS lists, including the copy in oil (Versailles MV 2968, on loan to the palais de l’Institut) signed by the mysterious abbé d’Haine, whom we know to have worked also in pastel, making him at least a possible suspect for the Louvre pastel, or for some of the four oval pastels. I doubt if they are all by the same hand (one cannot rule out that one might be by the chevalier de Boufflers, about whose skill in pastel Voltaire wrote to Richelieu); but the multiplicity of these copies leaved no doubt about the sitter’s identity, even if the eye colour varies considerably. Nor can it be said that Richelieu’s eyes are chestnut in all his other portraits: a pastel in the Confrérie des Pénitents Bleus, Montpellier, reasonably attributed to Vialy (J.7566.14), shows light blue eyes.

148. Éc. fr. xviiie Enfant aux cartes

J.9.5136. The discussion of the possible identity is too inchoate for inclusion here.

149. Éc. fr. xviiie Femme en robe blanche

J.9.5142. XS again suggests Frey, but I am unconvinced.

150. Éc. fr. xviiie Nicole Ricard

Nicole Ricard Timbre postale France 1951 bJ.103.126. On the attribution to Lenoir or Allais see my exhibition review. Among the more curious oeuvres en rapport (if that is the right term) one should note that the pastel was reproduced on a French postage stamp in 1951, as after La Tour. As far as I am aware a Chardin self-portrait was the only other Louvre pastel so to appear until Mme de Pompadour in 2014.

153. Éc. fr. xviiie Bacchanale

J.9.8262. The tentative attribution to Caresme was my suggestion, before 2011. XS notes the parallel with my J.197.119, but suggests that he knows only one such example while my Caresme article lists four more in his preferred coloured chalk medium. I also have a signed conventional pastel.

In his lecture, in a passage on frames and cadres d’origine, XS suggests that the frame is based on an Oppenord design from c.1700. But the frame itself appears to be in composition and quite probably later than the pastel.

154. Éc. fr. xviiie duchesse de Civrac

J.9.1381. The identification of the “duchesse de Civrac” as Anne-Marie de La Faurie de Monbadon is mine (Jeffares 2006, p. 580).

155. Éc. fr. xviiie Paulian

J.9.2394. I relegated this to the anonymes in 2006 (p. 587). I see nothing to connect the pastel, which is of very modest achievement, with Alexis Loir, whose magisterial pastel (cat. 101) cannot be much earlier and which demonstrates a vastly more sophisticated modelling etc. The analogy between the use of preparation on a copper support and on a paper one is too tenuous to supplant connoisseurship.

The unusual technique in the pastel may reflect the Italian connections of the sitter: Chaperon (§323) attributed its use to several pastellists in Rome (although of course it was developed by Reiffenstein in Germany, used by Liotard etc.).

Let us take the opportunity to note that Marie-Auguste-Albert-Marcel Simon (although omitted from Les Donateurs du Louvre), born 1856, was an officier de la Légion d’honneur and conseiller à la cour d’appel de Paris. XS, who reports only his death, provides a detailed genealogy of the donor up to his great-grandmother, “Marie-Lucrèce de Paulian” [sic], but failed to identify the latter’s father, the donor’s “trisaïeul” and thus the sitter. He was (according to information kindly located by M. Louis Lapierre in the archives du Ministère des affaires étrangères) François Paulian, whose wife was Marie-Anne Bontory. (Not to be confused with François Paulian (1761–1822), maire de Nice, whose features are known from another pastel, by Henri, J.3856.051.) The “marquis” and even the “de” are simply wrong, and the search for a marquesal seigneurie pointless. I could find no record in the online registers of the marriage of their daughter Marie-Lucrèce Paulian to Innocent Rey (1755–1835) in Marseille (20 juillet 1800) as XS states (a pedant would note that the pastel of her father did not enter the family on that marriage): they had already married, in Genoa on 9 October 1798 (archives MAF), and the birth of their eldest son was registered in Marseille (Midi) on 29 June 1800 (when the parents already described as “époux”). Rey was a commis in the Levant trade, and acting consul for Cyprus etc. His father, Pierre Rey (who married Rose-Catherine Sardou in 1753), was a painter in Marseille, of whose work nothing is known: there is nothing to identify him as the pastellist.

MNR section

This section of the book is not presented as an appendix or annex, but as a full part, although the works do not belong to the Louvre. The “comme de” formula for all the MNR items seems inappropriate in a catalogue raisonné, and a distinctly unhelpful basis for alphabetisation. (I don’t have a copy of the English translation of XS, but a glimpse of some pages suggests this phrase has been rendered as “ascribed to”, while elsewhere “attributed” is used with its common meaning. That seems no clearer to me without explicit definition: the term is used quite differently by various auction houses, sometimes with the implication that the ascription is incorrect, sometimes the opposite.) The url for the Rose Valland site is correctly printed. I note that XS does cite the Dictionary in the bibliographies for these works (unlike for the Louvre’s own property); this may be connected with the fact that I am included in the bibliographies for these pastels on the Rose Valland site.

REC 10 Bernard Femme en bleu

J.147.251. I provided the full names and dates in the provenance from the fragments on the label, unacknowledged.

REC 3 Coypel marquise de Beuvron

J.2472.125. A second version of this is now known (J.2472.127, recently spotted in an old photograph by Ólafur Þorvaldsson), adding support to my identification. It is unclear which is referred to by the duc d’Harcourt in his 1793 letter asking Phipps to rescue the portrait (J.2472.126), surely an important part of the story.

REC 9 Allais Dame

J.103.186. I first reattributed this work to Allais, which had traditionally been attributed to Heinsius. I inserted a cross-reference from Heinsius to Allais in the Heinsius article. But XS cites the cross reference but not the entry in the Allais article, making it appear that I retain the Heinsius attribution.

As for Allais, the pastellist was misidentified in all sources (including by XS in a 2008 publication) as Pierre Allais until my researches c.2010 when I reidentified him as Jacques-Charles Allais and discovered the dates which XS now quotes on p. 308 (a cross-reference to the acknowledgement on p. 294 would help).

REC 166 Labille-Guiard Mme Clodion

J.44.16. Bibliographie omits e.g. Labat 1909.

I am correctly cited in the Bibliographie as in the 2017 online edition, although of course it is in the 2006 print edition of the Dictionary (p. 270) that I list the work as autograph notwithstanding Mme Passez’s rejection; the 2006 edition predates the 2008 and 2009 publications cited. The Dictionary incorrectly stated that the work was restituted, although in fact that has now happened (28 June 2018).

The discussion in XS reports (somewhat unclearly) Mme Passez’s confusion of the original with a copy in the family signed and dated “Melle B./1785”. XS’s text states that Mme Passez confirmed this was “sans doute de la main de Mlle Bocquet”, while n.10 is more measured: in fact the note she wrote at the time says “il ne serait pas impossible qu’il soit de Melle Bocquet.” Whoever it was who made the copy of Flore Pajou in 1785, we can be quite sure it was not Rosalie Bocquet, as she had been Mme Filleul since 1777. (It is more likely to be by one of Labille-Guiard’s pupils, Jeanne Bernard, who became Mme Dabos in 1788. Although no other pastel has survived, her autograph initials are known from an 1820 notarial document which might confirm or contradict the suggestion if the pastel or an image can be located.)

It seems probable that REC 166 and Mlle B’s copy were the “deux portraits de Mlle F. Pajou (Pastels)” recorded in the posthumous inventory (12.iv.1878) of Flore’s nephew Augustin-Désiré Pajou, grandfather of Mme de Saint-Germain, the owner in the earliest sighting (1908) given in XS.

The biography of Flore given by XS is extremely brief: at the very least one should note that after her divorce from Clodion she married Louis-Pierre Martin, but after some years she divorced again for the second time. She is usually referred to as “Mme Clodion”, although since Clodion is not a family name this is more useful that strictly accurate. But it is misleading to headline her “Catherine Flore, née Pajou” suggesting Flore is her husband’s family name.

REC 7 ?La Tour Albespierre

J.46.1214. I first sorted out the confusion in the photographs in Monnier in which this was swapped with Rozeville. This has now been restituted (May 2018), so it surprising to see that XS expresses the opinion (for a work that is no longer in the Louvre’s charge) that “Stylistiquement, l’œuvre ne peut être rattachée au corpus de Maurice-Quentin de La Tour” without analysis. I don’t share this conviction that this is not by La Tour (although the handling is unusual, to me it shows remarkable parallels with J.46.1829, including the unusual bold strokes over the coat).

REC 8 Anon. Carlin

J.758.138. I first published this as not by La Tour (2006, p. 578). XS cites my La Tour chapter where there is only a cross-reference to the proper entry among the anonymes, making it look as though I think the work is by La Tour (see my exhibition review n.2). In 2006 I published the work as éc. fr., noting the possibility of Vigée which has remained online in that form (as J.9.1147 until now). I now think that more likely than not, and attribute it to La Tour. The iconography of Carlin is far more extensive than the wretched print XS cites, and includes another (rather earlier) pastel by Vigée.

REC 128 ??Liotard jeune femme

J.9.515. The bibliography omits Roethlisberger & Loche 2008, no. R75, and the confused reference to the Dictionary seems misleadingly to suggest that I consider it to be by Liotard which of course I do not. According to the Rose Valland site, this pastel is “comme d’après Jean Étienne Liotard” rather than “comme de Jean Étienne Liotard”.

More recently (September 2018, private communication) Alastair Laing has suggested (and, notwithstanding the absence of other securely attributed pastels, I concur) an attribution to Françoise Duparc, the genre painter from Marseille.

REC 4 & REC 5 Perronneau Michel de Grilleau couple

J.582.1594 & J.582.1593. There has been much discussion of the identification of this couple. D’Arnoult made a specific choice which I question and I am pleased to see that XS follows me in regarding the matter as undecidable.

Pastels deposés hors du musée

Catalogue numbers would have been helpful. It is not immediately clear why some of these get numbered entries in the main sequence but it appears that those which XS has previously catalogued in Versailles are not discussed (even when he has revised his attributions, or when new scholarship has been published since 1997, so that the bibliographies are now substantially out of date – only a few of the omissions are noted below; further Salmon 1997 was largely illustrated only in black and white). These however are given different information on different pages: e.g. Ducreux, Marie-Élisabeth d’Autriche is given the Louvre inv. 19179 on p. 327 (but no MV number), but also reproduced on p. 118 as fig. 18, given as Versailles (neither inv. number, but the full title of “Versailles, musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon” which is repeated for each – but not on pp. 327ff, where they are also reproduced); the MV number only appears on p. 119. My concordance may help.

As Boze, L.-H.-J. de Bourbon, inv. 35116/J.9.1193. This now appears as by Boze, following an appearance in Boze 2004 as attributed to Boze, which did not convince. Salmon 1997 (anon.) is preferred.

Bréa, Laromiguière, inv. 25045, J.179.104: this is signed and dated 1813 (which is not stated in XS p. 326), and so does not belong in the book.

D’après Carriera, Löwendal, inv. 35113/MV 4466/J.21.0718: this is not a copy of a known Carriera pastel, but a pastiche after Carriera’s pastel of Ambrose Philips (J.21.0854), a version of which was erroneously described as of “Philipps Dashwood” in Salmon 1997. The opportunity should have been taken to correct the entry.

As Ducreux, Marie Christine, inv. 35422/J.285.5691: Salmon 1997 was “attr.”, a qualification that has disappeared. This remains a problem picture, with several unreported related versions.

As Ducreux, Choderlos de Laclos, inv. 27625/J.285.261: Salmon 1997 was “attr.”, a qualification that has (correctly in my view) disappeared.

Morel, inv. RF 1187/J.5448.101: In 1997 XS mentioned only Jean-Paul Morel, following Ratouis de Limay 1946. My researches identified the artist reçu in 1759 as just “Jean Morel”, which XS now follows (unacknowledged).

Suzanne Roslin, Dumont, inv. 32737/J.63.112: recent bibliographie adds Stein 1997, fig. 58; Vallayer-Coster 2002, p. 78; Renard 2003, p. 113 repr.

Schmidt, Choiseul & Jarente (inv. 35108/J.662.118; 35107/J.662.16): the signature which was difficult to read on the latter has now been (correctly) deciphered (neither I nor XS in 1997 had been able to do so), but the reattribution of these since 1997 is not explained on p. 332; a cross reference to p. 270 would help but even there the explanation is incomplete. The Dictionary lists a number of related items.

Voïart, Rouget de Lisle inv. 35277/J.7724.101. This work was done in 1835 and has no place in the catalogue.

Éc. fr. Alary: the correct inv. no. is 35159, not 35149. I agree that the pastel belongs among the anonymes.

Éc. fr. prince de Condé: J.1162.101. Bernd Pappe has attributed this in his 2015 catalogue raisonné of Augustin.

Éc. italienne, Don Philippe, inv. 35482/J.94.1025. Add Malinverni 2010, fig. 2 to bibliographie.


I could find no reference to the following pastels although they have Louvre inventory numbers and are included in the Inventaire informatisé:

Lambert, Homme Louvre inv. RF 41186; dep.: Gray, musée Baron Martin J.445.102

Vivien, un abbé Louvre inv. RF 41187; dep.: Tours, mBA J.77.349

École française xviiie, Menou Louvre RF 2004; dep.: Versailles, MV 5343

Fouquet, Brissot Louvre RF 16680; dep.: Versailles, MV 6091

Table de Concordance

In addition to the above entries, the table omits cat. 115. The numerical sequence is not followed correctly (e.g. RF 1697), and errors such as the Chardin inventory number are repeated. Inv. 34982 is a duplication of 34892. It also omits the pastels déposés unless they happen to be in Châteauroux.

It would have been useful to tabulate accession dates and to include earlier catalogues such as Reiset (Reiset numbers are omitted for anumber of entries). You can find these in my concordance.


p. 338: Salzbourg 2017. The name of the curator of the exhibition was not Xavier Salmon (a contributor and the author of the relevant notice), but Regina Kaltenbrunner.


It appears that far from being comprehensive (and while there are many references to general books that reproduce Louvre pastels), the bibliographies are a compilation of indirect secondary references. I have not looked into this systematically, but consider for example Lothar Brieger’s important early pastel survey. It was published without a year on the title page, but is generally reported as 1921. It may have been reprinted in 1923 (and other years) but as far as I know all the reprintings are identical and a single reference is all that should appear; XS prints the two side by side. “Brieger 1923” is the style in Arnoult 2014 where it is cited for cat. no. 113 (Mlle Huquier) but not for 117 (Cars). The only citations of Brieger I could find in XS were to no. 104 (as 1921; the Lundberg Boucher) and to 113 (as 1923), although there are at least nine more Louvre pastels reproduced in Brieger which are not cited in XS (nos. 27, 33, 42, 43, 44, 49, 90, 96, 117; inv. 27039).

There are of course numerous other omissions, particularly of non-French sources, and curiously of more recent ones. Listing would be an endless task; here are a few examples. Adrian Bury’s 1971 study of La Tour may not be much missed, but the omission of Burns 2007 (full details of these omitted short form references are in the Dictionary bibliography) is more surprising. It seems that the only citations of Zolotov’s monographs on La Tour (1960) and French portraiture (1968) are the handful Monnier included, although many other Louvre pastels (La Tour and Perronneau) were reproduced. I published two of the Louvre pastels in the Liotard exhibition catalogue (2015): also overlooked. Among the surveys of French eighteenth century art in which Louvre pastels make an occasional appearance, the omissions are aleatory: Bailey 2002, Chastel 1995 (with a Chardin pastel on the cover), etc.

“Levey et von Kalnein” [sic] is included, although Wend Graf Kalnein’s name precedes Michael Levey’s on the title page (the later edition by Levey solo is better illustrated, but not mentioned). Bizardel’s first name was Yvon, not Yves. Guiffrey & Marcel is by “Jean Guiffrey”, not Jean-Jules (his full names were Georges-Henri-Jean; his father’s, Jules-Marie-Joseph).

Vernezobre’s clients

La Tour VernezobreThe figure of Jean-Nicolas Vernezobre (1719–1789), peintre de l’Académie de Saint-Luc (reçu 1750), quai Pelletier, would be completely forgotten today if it weren’t for the striking (and much copied) portrait of him by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour in the musée Antoine-Lécuyer at Saint-Quentin (J.46.3054; right). It is almost certainly the pastel described in the 1806 will of the artist’s brother as “Un Arménien”, although for obvious reasons that was long confused with a portrait of Rousseau.

More recently a box of pastels supplied by Vernezobre surfaced – in a private collection, and was recently lent to the pastel exhibition at Lausanne which I discussed here. I had of course done quite a lot of research on Vernezobre, both as pastel-maker and as artist; and indeed Vernezobre’s first wife exhibited a pastel at the Salon de Saint-Luc in 1753. His brother too may have dabbled, while a cousin, Geneviève Vernezobre de Laurieux, “travaillait en peintre”, although not necessarily in pastel. There are detailed articles on Vernezobre and his wife in the Dictionary, which I don’t need to duplicate here. There is also a genealogy at Vernezobre.


There was evidently a connection with La Tour’s teacher Claude Dupouch, since the posthumous inventory of Dupouch’s mother (who also lived in the quai Pelletier) recorded a debt of 130 livres from Vernezobre’s father. And in 1760 Vernezobre was remarried, to the sister of the pastellist Jean-Baptiste Lefèvre. Lefèvre you may recall from my last blog post is the artist I think responsible for two striking (if not brilliant) pastels currently on show in the Louvre.

But it turns out that he played a role in connection with a fascinating document which I recently discovered in the Archives nationales. This is the posthumous inventory carried out in 1760, several years after the death of Vernezobre’s first wife. This provided a valuation of his stock, undertaken by Lefèvre and another pastellist, Claude Pougin de Saint-Aubin.

Pougin de St Aubin sig Mme Vernezobre inv 1760

There were 6534 “crayons en pastels a cinquante livres les cahier prisés entre les boites dans lesquels sont enrangées”, valued in total at 330 livres 14 sols. It also provided an invaluable list of two dozen debtors who owed relatively small amounts for crayons they had purchased (about half were already known as pastellists, and several others known hitherto only as artists in other media). A smaller number of creditors include marchands de couleurs. While it would have been nice to discover La Tour’s name among the customers, his absence doesn’t prove he didn’t use Vernezobre’s pastels – he might have settled his accounts promptly. And in the absence of the full accounts, we have little idea of turnover or profits from the business.

There follows my transcription of the relevant parts of the inventaire après décès de Mme Jean-Nicolas Vernezobre, née Françoise-Marguerite Desbois.[1] While all the debtors now have entries in the Dictionary, I have added notes only for those about whom we have independent information (consult the Dictionary to find it).

Les marchandises et ustensils servant en l’art de peinture prisés et estimés de l’avis de Sieur Claude Pougin de Saint-Aubin et Jean-Baptiste Lefèvre maîtres peintres à Paris…

Item six mille cinq cent trente quatre crayons en pastels a cinquante livres les cahier prisés entre les boites <dans lesquels sont enrangées> la somme de Trois cent trente livres quatorze sols.

Item un livre Intitulé, Relevé de ce qui m’est du de la vente des pastels tant bonne que douteuse, sommé enfin a ladt somme de quatre cent sept livres quinze sols, düe, Sçavoir–

par M. Gauges une livre cinq sols

par M. Garand[2] une livre

par M. DuRonceray[3] et plusieurs artistes, pour reste, quatre cingt onze livres onze sols six deniers

par  M. Lambert[4] aussi et plusieurs artistes, pour reste, sept livres sept sols

par M. Loir[5] aussi et plusieurs artistes, pour reste, six livres, dix neuf sols six deniers

par M. Huquier[6] douze livres

par M. Hermans neuf sols

par M. Boquet[7] une livre dix sols

par M. Lion[8] quatre livres seize sols

par Melle de Bery quinze livres

par M. Cherfils[9] quinze sols

par M. Lepeintre[10] neuf livres

par M. … ami de M. Aubry une livre seize sols

par M. Trenelle dix huit livres

par M. … de la connoissance de M. Cottin une livre

par Melle de Belgarde douze livres

par M. L’abbé de St Non[11] douze sols

par M. Allais[12] six huit livres

par M. David une livre

par M. Deschamps vingt quatre livres

par Melle Desgroux dix huit livres

par Melle Glachand un sol

par M. Naudin[13] douze livres

par M. de Bertherand Cent quarante deux livres

par M. Delaroche six livres

Et par Melle Ledoux une livre Treize sols

Ledt relevé Inventorée en une piece Unique            Neuf

Declare led. Sr Vernezobre qu’il est du aux du communauté et succession scavoir–

Et par M. Le President Renouard quarante huit livres pour restant d’ouvrages de peinture que led. Sr Vernezobre a faits pour lui…

Comme aussi declare led. Sr Vernezobre qu’il est du par les. Communauté et succession, scavoir–

Au Sr Solvet Md de couleur la somme de deux cent dix sept livres par billets dont quatre et trente livres chacun, …de vingt quatre livres aussi chacun etvu de vingt cinq livres

Au Sr Buldet Me Peintre Cinquante neuf livres huit sols six deniers par memoire arreté pour fourniture de verre blanc qu’il lui a faites

Au Sr Langlois[14] Md de couleur en six billets de vingt sept livres chacun, cent soixante deux livres

[1] AN mc/cxxii/711, 11.iii.1760.

[2] Jean-Baptiste Garand, miniaturiste et pastelliste (see Dictionary; in the following notes, q.v. means there is an artist article with additional information).

[3] The brother of Mme Favart, known hitherto only as a painter of two oil on copper portraits of his sister and brother-in-law.

[4] Possibly the pastellist Jean-Louis Lambert, but there are several other homonyms in the Dictionary.

[5] Alexis Loir (q.v.).

[6] Jacques-Gabriel Huquier (q.v.).

[7] Probably Louis-René Boquet (q.v.).

[8] Pierre-Joseph Lion (q.v.), just before his departure for Vienna.

[9] Jean Cherfils (q.v.).

[10] Charles Lepeintre (q.v.).

[11] Jean-Claude Richard, abbé de Saint-Non (q.v.).

[12] Jacques-Charles Allais (q.v.).

[13] Charles Naudin (q.v.).

[14] Jacques Langlois: v. Suppliers.

Pastels at the Louvre

cvrEveryone reading this will now know that the Louvre’s long-awaited pastel exhibition has just opened (until 10 September), and I thought some preliminary impressions might be helpful. I have not yet had an opportunity to study Xavier Salmon’s catalogue raisonné of the collection whose publication coincides with the exhibition, and which doubles as a catalogue. I have seen it, but will confine this post to observations about the exhibition only.

Anyone with the slightest interest must go to see the show. Most of the reviews that appear will inevitably focus on the great works in the exhibition, and tell us why La Tour and Perronneau are important. And rightly so – but all my readers know that already, or at least know that I think so. The music critic doesn’t have to take up space explaining why a Beethoven late quartet is important (perhaps a solo sonata would be a better analogy in this case), but launches straight into a discussion of the performance, not the piece. Which I shall do – after of course noting that a show which includes 20 pastels by La Tour and four or more by each of ten more artists (Vivien, Carriera, Lundberg, Chardin, Perronneau, Boze, Ducreux, Labille-Guiard, Vigée Le Brun and John Russell) cannot but be a triumphant success (which in those terms the exhibition certainly is). What could possibly go wrong?

Curatorial performance has many dimensions. First is getting people through the door. Standard practice is to arrange all sorts of enticements – inviting prominent specialists (or even sociétaires des Amis du Louvre) to attend a vernissage might be one, while failing to organise a scholarly colloquium to discuss findings seems rather more important (unless there is one to which I also haven’t been asked). Neither the title “En Société” (apparently an afterthought, with unfortunate resonances with the title of the recent Rijksmuseum show High Society) nor the bizarre graphic immediately outside the exhibition seem likely to draw in many passers-by or give any intimation of what delights await:


A story?

Far more important of course is the “hang”. Here there are again many aspects. First of all, what is the logic or narrative? This exhibition is hamstrung by its association with a book whose own structure and compass are curious. While beautifully produced, intellectually it is essentially an update of Geneviève Monnier’s catalogue from 1972: so we follow the division into seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with artists then ranged in alphabetical order. Of course that wouldn’t do here, so we start off with some chronological progression – Vivien, Carriera, La Tour etc. – but thereafter non-specialists are likely to get lost: confused by a wall which ends with Regnault, in an Empire frame, but dated 1765, while behind have been Hoin, Greuze etc.

This could easily have been dealt with by the most obvious of solutions: print the date (whether known or estimated) prominently on the labels (or cartels in French). But there are no dates systematically given on the cartels. This is inexplicable. Sometimes they are discovered within the text. Sometimes they are given, but are simply wrong. How in the world a cartel labelling two pastels by Vivien as his “morceaux de réception à l’Académie royale… le 28 juin 1698” got past checking I don’t know. There are other such howlers in the wall texts (further examples are discussed below): Louis Vigée, we are told, continued to use pastel after La Tour and Perronneau – although he died more than 15 years before either. None of this assists in communicating a coherent story to the public.

Another astonishing hole in the project is the complete absence of any explanation about pastel as a medium. There are no heuristic aids to tell visitors what pastel is, how it is made, how it differs from natural materials, or how drawing with coloured chalks evolved during the seventeenth century into painting in pastel. I would be personally sympathetic to this approach if I felt it marked the maturity of public interest in the medium, but I am surprised that a museum such as the Louvre felt it an appropriate level at which to present the subject. But even within its own terms the compass of the show, and that of the catalogue, share Mme Monnier’s definition of pastels as complete works, distinct from sheets with touches of pastel, as set out in the Avertissement on p. 31 of the catalogue – but then go on to confuse by including (but not exhibiting) sheets by Deshays and Natoire.[1]

Physical description

Instead of dates, however, the cartels focus in obsessive detail on certain matters of construction. We told for example that one is in

Pastel sur quatre feuilles de papier gris-bleu assemblées à joints couvrants marouflées sur une toile imprimée d’une couche de préparation de couleur rouge-brun tendue sur châssis

while another is

Pastel sur plus de treize feuilles de papier bleu raboutées à joints couvrants marouflées sur toile tendue sur châssis

This is information of interest to specialists, but not I think to the general public, and is far better restricted to the catalogue. Sizes would probably be of more interest, but are not given. It would also be helpful if the information were consistently presented, and matched with other scientific descriptions – there seems for example little agreement on whether paper is blue or grey compared with recent publications, or whether there are 13 or 12 sheets on a particular work. What is of significance (unless you merely wish to evidence the curator’s close inspection) is where the joins are, which pieces have been isolated, why and when (for example, are the heads done on separate sheets and pasted into larger works where working in situ would have been awkward?). None of this is presented, in the exhibition or catalogue, although maps showing the joins turned the current Getty show (Pastels in Pieces, to 29 July) into a far more interesting report. Another particular point is the references to “gouache” which are probably simply wet pastel (whether applied with the tip of the pastel moistened, or ground into dust, mixed with fluid and applied with a brush). Again many of the pastels that have this are not so described, while others are.


The opportunity has not been taken to explore the frames in similar detail. This is to be regretted, as many are original and of very great interest (I may write more about this later). Others are later Louvre frames of Empire style which are to be expected. But there have been a number of less satisfactory recent additions. I don’t know why the Bartolozzi is in a Kent frame, a style that went out of fashion in England when Russell was born (perhaps this is less obvious to a French audience). A particularly unfortunate intervention is with the Perronneau Mlle Huquier, which formerly had an elaborate spandrel with curved corners which neatly concealed the tear in the lower left corner. That has now been removed and replaced by a bright straight-edged slip which serves only to reveal that the frame never fitted. This is a case for reframing completely if we want to see the whole pastel and enjoy it as Perronneau originally intended (many of his original frames were very modest and were widely changed c.1900 for more prestigious ones).


What would also be of great interest is to have comments on the condition and losses which these works have endured. While the catalogue goes into meticulous detail on recent interventions, it rarely provides explanations as to why we have misread images (the nun’s nose is perhaps an example, J.46.2183). There is nothing in the exhibition, and little on a first glance at the catalogue, which reveals scientific examination of these works – none of the spectroscopy or other scientific analysis which the Rijksmuseum for example have applied to their pastel collection and which might allow us to detect the presence of fixatives or later interventions with anachronistic pigments.

The catalogue also informs us that 11 restorers have worked on the collection for six years, which perhaps explains the obsession with descriptions of the physical construction. Of course we all want to see these works preserved to the highest standard, but this is a surprising amount of intervention not all of which I think it fair to say has been equally successful, but this isn’t the right place for a detailed discussion.

But one intervention in particular raised my eyebrow. The debate about what to do with old glass has been raging for years (you can find more about glazing pastels in my Prolegomena, §§ IV.15 and V.9): it is more fragile than modern replacements (and so too risky to travel) but its appearance is prized by connoisseurs. For reasons that escape me for a collection that is not supposed to travel, there has been a fairly systematic campaign not of removing the old glass, but of putting a second sheet of Mirogard behind it. While Mirogard is definitely preferable to acrylic alternatives (Optium is particularly popular, but has many drawbacks), the double glazing solution seems as dubious as the wares normally sold under that name. The idea misses the point of what connoisseurs value – the integrity of the original object, the assembly itself being part of the work of art. It is indeed a curious interpretation of the ICON duty to “conserve cultural heritage [as] reliable evidence of the past.” Whatever the theory (or deontology as the French might put it), there are practical objections. The installation may require deepening the rebate, and will certainly result in a considerable increase in overall weight, putting unnecessary strain on the frames and increasing vulnerability to shock. But the most obvious point that this exhibition makes plain (particularly because of the positioning of many of the works) is that the assembly results in bizarre double reflections from the lighting equipment. Mirogard’s principal fault is that it reflects white light as green. With the double sheeting you see each spot reflected as two, slightly separated ghost images, one white, the other green. It’s a weird effect, and once noted very disturbing. It shatters any illusion of being in the dix-huitième.

Lighting and hang

Readers of this blog will know that I am not a great fan of directional rather than ambient lighting for pastels: raking light can cruelly expose any conservation problems (including after restoration). Here we must praise the fact that the colour temperature has been kept down (avoiding the harsh colour distortions resulting from some equipment), but the lighting and the points made above on reflections and raking light take me to what I think is one of the most serious criticisms of the hang. The exhibition includes 115 pastels (not the 120 promised – see below) plus four drawings. Of these, twenty-four have been skied – hung as a second row, at a level at which only someone as tall as the curator could see them.

This was an extraordinary decision. Nor were the works concerned confined to the weaker examples: they include three of the very finest pastels in the show, La Tour’s Maurice de Saxe, Perronneau’s “Bastard” and one of the Chardin self-portraits. They are the ones that suffer most from the raking light and reflection problems. Even dirty glass (e.g. greasy streaks on La Tour’s Lemoyne) is painfully evident under these conditions (a good many of the pastels evidently recently bore sticky labels, approximately 1×5 cm, in the top left corner of the glass, the residue of which has not been cleaned properly). But housekeeping aside, it is a real shame that pastels of this quality that have not been visible for years (and presumably won’t again for another generation) should be exposed where they cannot be seen.

Double rows in displays are not unheard of. In many ways this show sites itself intellectually with the great exhibitions of the past, the famous Cent pastels of 1908 or that of 1927, and it is true that the latter had a wall of Perronneaus in two ranks. But compare these hangs for elegance and symmetry:

Display2018Perronneau paneau 1927

The current hang is dense, crowded and simply untidy. What a pity.

Wall colour

But nothing to the second and gravest issue with the presentation: the choice of wall colour. The second part of the show has a sort of crushed raspberry hue: it’s not unfamiliar in the Louvre, but I can’t say I like it much. M. Salmon’s previous choices, such as the crimson for his Versailles show, were far better. But it is the colour for the first rooms, and the final one, which I find the most baffling. Images on social media do not capture it well: cameras find it hard to locate the precise hue somewhere between light sage and mustard. I don’t know if this is the colour Germain Bazin called “vomis d’ivrogne”, but that is a more precise description than any I can muster without feeling queasy.

This isn’t just a matter of design. What colour you paint the walls can have a transformational effect on the pictures you put against them, particularly when, as with pastels, their whole effect depends on colour. Balance, harmonies and the very essence of a picture can be destroyed. Those of you who recall the great Chardin exhibition at the Grand Palais in 1999 will remember just how magically these great self-portraits came to life: here they lie struggling for breath. If Oscar Wilde and his wallpaper were fighting a duel to the death, this greenery-yallery would surely have hastened his demise.

The cartels

For many visitors who do not have the catalogue to hand, or cannot afford it, the cartels are the opportunity to tell the story, choosing something that will draw people’s attention to the significance of what they should find when they look at the work. Many of the cartels are banal and unhelpful. Others are hardly original. On Valade, all they can think of saying is:

Valade fut avec La Tour et Perronneau l’artiste qui, entre 1751 et 1769, exposa au Salon le plus grand nombre de portraits peints au pastel.

This comes straight from Ratous de Limay (1946), p. 81:

Valade fut, avec La Tour et Perronneau, l’un des académiciens qui, entre 1751 et 1769, exposèrent le plus de portraits au pastel aux Salons du Louvre.

Some errors

I should perhaps highlight a number of mistakes in the cartels in the hope that they can be changed. They should have been reviewed by someone familiar with the subject. Apart from those noted above, there are some issues with names, foremost among which is the reference to “Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin”, a well-known chestnut. Pierre Rosenberg sorted this out in 1979, but a quick reference to the online Dictionary of pastellists will remind you that Chardin’s names were simply Jean Siméon. The erroneous Jean Baptiste Siméon arises from an error in his inventaire après décès (18.xii.1779, AN mc/rs//921), but was the subject of a notarial deed of rectification (4.iii.1780, AN mc/lvi/248). If M. Salmon has found evidence that overturns this, he should publish it. There are other problems with names (I won’t dwell on the examples, which include Lenoir and Coypel, proving my contention that the hyphenation convention for forenames adopted by M. Salmon always results in inconsistency). Séguier has an acute. L’Effroi needs a capital E if the title is to be meaningful. Some of the foreign names are given in French, others not, some sort of. (For Fredrik I, born von Hessen-Kassel, you could try German, Swedish or French, but adopting the English Frederick seems odd.)

Nor are dates any more successful. Mmes Labille-Guiard and Vigée Le Brun were indeed admitted to the Académie royale at the same time – but 1783, not 1774. M. Salmon has adopted my specific identification of the Rozeville couple (I am pleased to see how much of my work he has drawn on throughout the catalogue), but has decided to assign them new dates. But a few seconds on the Archives nationales website would show him that Marie-Angélique did indeed die in 1762, not 1787 (perhaps if he had explored the genealogy further he would have realised that her daughter-in-law was also a Colignon). Similarly it would not take long to discover that Couturier de Flotte died in 1780 (in Paris on 9 February), not as stated (an error drawn from secondary sources). (Incidentally the inventory number is RF 1697, not RF 1967.) Again a proper examination of this family would have revealed that his daughter Marthe-Lydie-Olympe Couturier de Flotte (1768–1836) married, in 1788, Jean-Pierre Dussumier (1761–1802), so the Louvre donor was far more likely to be from the Dussumier de Fonbrune family than the (as far as I am aware unrelated) Poussou de Fontbrune family. Perhaps as much attention should have been given to the provenance of this collection as to the conservation details. An analytical index of collectors would be interesting, but there is none here, as there was none in Monnier (readers can always resort to my index of collectors).

Rosalba JF avec singe Louvre 4798Another disappointment concerns the Rosalba little girl with a monkey, the future marquise d’Havrincourt, née Antoinette-Barbonne-Thérèse Languet de Gergy. It would be useful for the cartel to tell us that this is the “ritratto della figlia dell’Ambasciator di Francia” recorded in the artist’s diary on 13 May 1725. (My annotated transcription of Rosalba’s diaries is here.) But as she appears to be about 8, not 2, M. Salmon cannot do that as he is under the widespread impression (floating round on the internet) that she was born in 1723. But in fact, as I explained in a previous post on this blog, she was actually born in Regensburg on 6 June 1717.

Another surprising comment is on the Le Brun pastel of Louis XIV which, we are told with confidence, is the model for the frontispice for Colbert fils’s thesis, which Véronique Meyer, the great specialist in these matters, has specifically challenged in her definitive study, Pour la plus grande gloire du roi: Louis XIV en thèses (Rennes, 2017, p. 189). Even if M. Salmon wants to sustain his view, it seems odd to flatly state it without discussion.

The Louvre’s collection

What then of the Louvre’s collection viewed outside the context of the presentation in this show? Readers will know from my earlier blog that the Louvre has not always had the most enlightened acquisition policy. Let’s turn to the numbers in that context.

As mentioned above, there are 115 pastels in the exhibition. The no-shows appear to be among the recuperated works which the museum holds on trust for the victims indefinitely. Two of these (by Perronneau) have recently been handsomely installed in the newly opened cabinet de pastels in Orléans, and it is unsurprising that they have not come (although cartels were prepared assuming they would):

Orleans MNR

Photo mBA Orleans, social media

Among the other disappointments are the Labille-Guiard of Catherine-Flore Pajou and the disputed M. d’Albespierre. But the cartels for the MNR pieces are bizarre: the information is appropriate for a catalogue, but these look like legal documents, with “comme de” heading even when they are thought wrong. For example we cannot tell from the cartel whether M. Salmon does or does not agree with the attribution to La Tour of Carlin (REC 8; my J.758.138).[2]


Restitution would be better served by explaining these works rather than setting out legal arguments which are of course freely available online. And perhaps they could have been integrated into the main hang.

Of the 115 some 75 come from just 11 artists. But almost all of the works are French – hardly surprising, and entirely justifiable in terms of the dominance of France in the eighteenth century. Of course, although billed as pastels of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this is essentially an eighteenth century show: the Vivien group at the beginning are all close to 1700, and there are really only three purely seventeenth century works in the exhibition. The final three, by Prud’hon, all have a definite dix-neuvième aesthetic and look completely out of place in the show. Whether they are actually made after 1800 cannot be determined from the cartels as no dates are given. Prud’hon appears in the Dictionary of pastellists before 1800 because most of his pastels were made in the eighteenth century, and all of them are there presented together.

What is more remarkable is the nationality. Accepting Lundberg (in Paris for 37 years) and (more hesitantly) Carriera as effectively French, practically all the works are French school apart from the group of four Russells. M. Salmon is aware of this point, and hopes to rectify it by future acquisitions, “for example, of Cornelis Troost, Anton Raphaël Mengs or Hugh Douglas Hamilton”. Indeed. One might add Vaillant, Ashfield, Hoare, Cotes, Copley, Luti (why wasn’t his self-portrait shown?), Fratellini, Tiepolo, Rotari, Schröder and Roslin. So despite the certain victory in the exhibition stakes for a show with 20 La Tours, one has to concede that the Met’s 2011 show had a better balance in terms of giving an overview of pastel as a European phenomenon. In fact there might have been an argument for omitting the Russells and making this the definitive study of French pastel in the eighteenth century.

Except that is isn’t. There’s another gap right at the heart of this project, and while it would have been far easier to plug it is much less conspicuous and easily overlooked. This is that the story of pastel in France in the eighteenth century is far deeper than just the top names. While other countries had talented individuals (some of the names above), France had a system which led to a great many pastellists capable of producing wonderful examples. Few of them are household names, but the single example of the recently acquired Lenoir pastel makes this point clearly. To it one could have added (even on a very limited budget) examples of gorgeous work by Hubert Drouais, Glain, Lion, Pougin de Saint-Aubin, Davesne, Saint-Michel, Hall, Capet, Mme Gault de Saint-Germain, Berjon etc., not to mention better and more typical examples by Allais, Bernard, Hoin, etc. (Of course many of these artists are uneven, and most of their work is not of Louvre quality; but the examples that are should be embraced and promoted.) And although the Louvre is already rich in works by Vivien, all are in the vein of his official portraits: several recent examples, most notably the abbé Lalouette (J.77.248, now in Stockholm) which I discovered recently, would have provided a glimpse of the other side of his talent.

Instead these are the only pastels in the show that have been purchased since Monnier (a Ducreux autoportrait was received by legacy in 1985):

  • Liotard, Mme Tronchin 1982
  • Perronneau, Tassin 1985
  • Greuze, L’Effroi 1986
  • Hoin, Tete 1987
  • La Tour, auto à l’index, 2005
  • Vigée Le Brun, Jules de Polignac 2007
  • La Tour, préparation dite de Mme de Pompadour 2008
  • Russell, Bartolozzi 2008
  • Lenoir, Lekain 2013
  • La Tour, Mlle de La Fontaine Solare 2014
  • Vigée Le Brun, duc d’Orléans & Mme de Montesson 2014

The message (with the exception of the Lenoir, itself not a typical work) is more of the same rather than a conscious attempt to rebalance. The most recent examples, the two Vigée Le Brun pastels which I first discovered in 2013 and which I first published (although M. Salmon does not consider this worth reporting in his bibliography), are rather weak repetitions and arguably not really of Louvre quality (this was evident in the Vigée Le Brun exhibition in 2015, where the better version of the duc made the point, and again today where each of the four Labille-Guiards comprehensively trumped the Vigée Le Bruns.)

I cannot pass over in silence one of the ironies in the hang, where the Louvre’s sole Liotard is placed between Valade and – yes – Perronneau. Was this a subtle allusion to the very French view of Liotard of one of M. Salmon’s precedessors, that “Ses pastels, tant vantés par ses contemporains et ses compatriotes, n’égalent pas le moindre ouvrage d’un élève de Perronneau”? (You can of course find the reference in the Liotard article in The opportunity to discuss this is not however taken.


Since the Louvre collections have been the subject of vast research it is hardly surprising that there are relatively few problems of attribution for the works in the show. I will mention only a few here. Of course like everything else in this blog I offer a personal opinion only.

Inv. 24780 & 24781 /J.173.873 & J.173.874. Le petit dénicheur & La petite oiselière: I am surprised that the pastels Monnier catalogued as copies of Boucher have now been elevated to “attributed to” him.

RF 29662 & 29661/ J.47.1124 & J.47.1125. The Rozeville couple (mentioned above) are here attributed to Frey on the basis of a vague compositional similarity to the Jacquemart-André pastel by him which M. Salmon admits is in a poor state of repair (while astonishingly considering that the Louvre pastel “a conservé toute sa fleur”). But comparing the face of the Louvre pastel with one of another Frey in better condition (J.329.133, identified by Laurent Hugues, left; Mme de Rozeville is right) shows why the technique is completely different from Frey’s whatever the compositional similarity:

Salmon dismisses my proposed attribution to Lefèvre on the basis that his work is less “psychological”. Judge for yourselves whether there is (as I suggest) a similarity of facial expression (both the Louvre pastels share rather bovine, dim demeanours), of composition and of technique with the pastel by Lefèvre signed and dated 1743 (J.47.12, right; M. de Rozeville is left):

M. Salmon also provides no account of the social situation of these clients. Frey worked for the court; Lefèvre for a Parisian clientele, including people just like M. de Rozeville, who was an avocat au parlement de Paris.

RF 4241/J.103.126. M. Salmon has previously published the pastel of Nicole Ricard as by Lenoir, several times. I’m glad he’s retreated to École française, noting merely similarity with the Boston pastel by Lenoir (who in fact has a completely different technique – as you can now see for yourself as the pastel hangs immediately opposite the Louvre’s new Lenoir). My attribution to Allais in 2012 remains I believe far more plausible. M. Salmon rejects this on the basis that Allais’s technique is more graphic, less modelled. But those are precisely the reasons for my attribution, together with the characteristic treatment of the hair and the use of black chalk in the passementerie, as is evident to some degree from the other pastel by Allais[3] in the exhibition, but perhaps more clearly in this example signed and dated 1741 (J.103.221):


Much as we owe to the Louvre and to the many people involved in so large a project for the opportunity to see these wonderful treasures, I think it will be clear that I should have favoured a more accessible and collaborative approach in presenting it to the public. You must of course see it for yourselves.


[1] The Avertissement goes on to justify the exclusion of almost all reference to my website Pastels & pastellists ( on the basis that M. Salmon’s bibliographies do not cite dictionaries – despite the fact that he does cite, for example, Audin & Vial’s Dictionnaire…, and has extensive reference to Ratouis de Limay’s Le Pastel en France, 1946, which is nothing other than a dictionary with a few of the longer articles placed in the front of the book. Everything in that book will be found included or corrected in my “dictionary”, which has 15,000 reproductions in place of Ratouis de Limay’s 100 – and a great deal of information about the artists whose work M. Salmon catalogues which I suggest might well be of interest to his readers.

[2] In the catalogue M. Salmon makes it clear he does not think it can be by La Tour. He is right; neither do I. In the 2006 Dictionary and online until now, I listed it among French school, noting a possible attribution to Louis Vigée. Because it was originally referred to as by La Tour, I have a brief cross reference in the La Tour chapter to the main entry. M. Salmon does not cite the real entry, but does cite my La Tour chapter where the cross reference is placed. Anyone reading this page of his book would conclude that I think the work is by La Tour, and that M. Salmon is correcting me when in fact he is following me. (Postscript: I have now moved the main entry from French school to attributed to Vigée.)

[3] REC 9/ J.103.186. I first reattributed this work to Allais, which had traditionally been attributed to Heinsius. I inserted a cross-reference from Heinsius to Allais in the Heinsius article. Bafflingly M. Salmon cites the cross reference but not the entry in the Allais article, making it appear that I retain the Heinsius attribution.

Antoine Levert, maître menuisier-ébéniste

Opnamedatum: 2012-06-07 SK-L-5512

Introducing his magisterial catalogue of the Fragonard exhibition in 1987, Pierre Rosenberg borrowed the injunction “Gens, Honorez Fragonard” from a letter of the artist’s grandson written at a time (1847) when the great rococo painter had sunk into obscurity. But while everyone now knows the important painters of the dix-huitième, almost no one pays any attention to the framemakers of Paris whose extraordinary skill embellished and enhanced the productions of artists from Fragonard to Vigée Le Brun. In part that is because we rarely look behind the frames of pictures on the wall, and in part it is because even when we do, so few of the frames bear the maker’s mark. This article is about one who is known – and indeed has caught my eye because a disproportionate number of the original stamped eighteenth century pastel frames are by him: and because hitherto virtually nothing is known about his life. As I shall show, the full name of the frame-maker whose stamp is shown above was Honoré-Antoine Levert, and he was born around 1710 and died in 1785. Honorez Enfin Levert!

You won’t find those dates in reference books. Indeed in Mitchell & Roberts’s excellent History of European Picture Frames, or Paul Mitchell’s original 1985 article (helpfully reproduced on The Frame Blog) all you get is a list of the 14 Paris framemakers known from their stamps, among them “Abraham or Antoine Levert”. A subsequent article by Edgar Harden, also now available online at the NPG website, extended this list to 22, and (correctly) narrowed Levert to Antoine; it also provided excellent background to the distinctions between menuisiers, ébénistes and sculpteurs and outlined the training and hierarchies in the related professions. As Harden observed, the battles between the guilds were complicated and confusing. (The much needed longer study promised in the article has however not materialised.) Harden noted too that the Paris framemakers all worked in the faubourg Saint-Antoine district.

As for our “A Levert”, Mitchell’s uncertainty stemmed from two entries in the still essential reference, Henri Vial & al.’s Les Artistes décorateurs du bois (Paris, 1912) which appear thus:


Before you get too excited in assuming Abraham Levert must have been Maurice-Quentin de La Tour’s framemaker, have a look at the 1779 document referred to (you can find it on my La Tour chronological table of documents, currently at p. 54): there are a dozen artisans listed from various trades. We can in fact trace this Abraham Levert quite easily from the parish registers at Saint-Quentin (at Notre-Dame, later Sainte-Pécine): he was born in 1719 or 1720, outlived two wives, Marie-Louise Douet and Catherine Gobron, and died 17 septembre 1783. There is no evidence that he ever worked outside Saint-Quentin or that he ever made a picture frame. And anyway La Tour’s pastels were made and framed in Paris, not Saint-Quentin.

We should also dispose of another possible homonym (Levert is as common a name in France as Green is in England): an Alexandre Levert, maître menuisier (although omitted from Vial) was recorded in Paris, rue de la Clef, paroisse Saint-Médard in 1731, when he was witness to one of those “miracles” so elaborately documented for the purposes of canonisation. However, he was probably the Alexandre Levert from that parish who died aged 39 at Les Invalides.

But what of our Antoine Levert? Vial’s references add nothing to the bare facts of his maîtrise in 1774, when he lived in Saint-Jean-de-Latran. Based on the examples known when I first encountered a frame with his stamp (Edgar Harden, private communication, 2008), Levert’s output was confined to fewer than ten frames, all oval, and it was thought that he died soon after his maîtrise, perhaps c.1779. The date sparked my interest as some of the pastels seemed a little later (well into the 1780s), and while framers might have some frames for stock which were not used immediately, the date of his death seemed an important clue in dating several pastels I was researching. (Many pastels remain in their cadres d’origine – although one has to be careful with bigger names: works by La Tour and Perronneau were routinely reframed by dealers in the early twentieth century to make them look more important and justify higher prices for what were then fashionable. Subsequently good frames became more valuable than the pastels they housed.)

Armed only with this information you might conclude that Levert had been born around 1750, had been apprenticed at the normal age and served his nine years before his mastery, and must then have died very young.

It is also worth noting that the enclos de Saint-Jean-de-Latran is a different part of Paris than the faubourg Saint-Antoine. It was where the place Marcelin-Berthelot currently stands. But, as you can read in Vial’s introduction or in more recent studies such as Alain Thillay’s La Faubourg Saint-Antoine et ses “faux ouvriers”: la liberté du travail à Paris aux XVIIe et au XVIIIe siècles (2002), both areas enjoyed special protection from the guild system that otherwise would have made it impossible for many of these workers to survive. These rights were granted by a king anxious to find something to do with soldiers returning from wars. Saint-Jean-de-Latran was of course far smaller than the faubourg Saint-Antoine: only a handful of menuisiers operated there.

The document I have now unearthed that allows us to identify Levert is another precious find in the Registres de tutelles at the Archives nationales (AN Y5065A). Dated 5 février 1780, it concerns the guardianship of the four minor children of Levert’s recently deceased cousin, who bore the unusual name of Wanang-Crispin Levert [sic], and had been a maître perruquier in the rue Saint-Honoré. His widow, Margueritte-Gabrielle Bécüe, was the sister of Antoine-Martin Bécüe (1732–1793), marchand de tableaux, rue des Grands Augustins, and the other “parents et amis” included more perruquiers, a marchand de vin and a maître tailleur. None of this will come as a surprise to readers of this blog: the families of many eighteenth century pastellists often included artisans in these luxury trades.

We know from a further document in the same registres de tutelles (Y5139A) dated 4 mars 1786 that Marguerite-Gabrielle was remarried after Wanang-Crispin’s death, to Jean-Antoine de Melun, another maître perruquier, a document necessitated by her own death. We shall see why Antoine Levert does not appear in it. Her brother Antoine-Martin Bécüe had by then abandoned picture dealing, and was described as an “officier au Charbon”; when his carte de sécurité was issued, 22 juillet 1793, just a few months before his death, he was a “journalier”.

But let us return to the 1780 document, where Antoine Levert is described as “S Honoré Antoine Le Vert mtre menuisier a Paris y demeurant enclos et paroisse de St Jean De Latran oncle paternal a la mode de Bretagne” to the children, i.e. their first cousin once removed.

LevertV enfants tutelles 1780i

That suggests that he was considerably older than we thought. Indeed the full name makes it pretty certain that he is the Honoré-Antoine Levert, menuisier, who was married in Dijon in 1734:

LevertHonoreAntoine mariafe DijonND16ix1734

His bride was Jeanne Breton, daughter of a local maître menuisier, Jean Breton (surely the “Breton” mentioned in Vial, p. 68, without prénom as in Dijon in 1718, when he signed a document concerning the rights of apprentices) and his wife, née Jeanne Gage (they had married in the same church, Notre-Dame de Dijon, in 1712). Levert, whose name appears in the register with the “Honoré” inserted later suggesting that he was habitually known as Antoine, is described as “natif de Am en Picardie”, his parents being Furent [?; illegible] Antoine Levert, menuisier and Marie-Gabriel [sic] Cohardy. Sadly the parish records for Saint-Martin in Ham (Somme) are not available, but the Cohardy family records overlap with nearby parishes, and Levert’s mother was surely related to Charles Cohardy (1692–1757), a butcher from Ham, whose brother was also called Vaneng (the more usual spelling of this seventh-century saint).

So in all likelihood the framemaker was born in this village, about 13 miles from Saint-Quentin, probably about 1710. He had no doubt completed his apprenticeship and was travelling around France as a journeyman when he probably worked for Jean Breton in Dijon, and married the patron’s daughter. The witnesses included several compagnons menuisiers, doubtless colleagues. There is then a forty year interval before his maîtrise in Paris: but given the exemptions enjoyed by the enclos Saint-Jean-de-Latran, it seems quite possible that he traded in Paris from much earlier than 1774, as work of his quality has nothing provincial to it.

One cannot completely exclude the possibility that he had a son with exactly the same name, but Occam’s razor dissuades us from inventing such an unnecessary hypothesis. And while the differences between his signature on the 1780 document (above) and the marriage register entry (below) are considerable, they are consistent with some infirmity at this much greater age:

Levert sigs 1780 1734

What then of his death? An entry in the notary’s records for 1 août 1785 records a “renonciation à la succession” to an Antoine Levert of unspecified trade or age by his heirs, two daughters, Jeanne, wife of Jacques-François Noël (who I think is the son of a vitrier) and Claudine, wife of an Yves Le Valois (whom I have not traced).

Levert renonciation 1785

I speculated previously that this was our framemaker, consistent with the absence of his name from the 1786 entry in the registres de tutelles. One further document surely confirms this: an entry in the table alphabétique des scellés (AN Z2 3675) showing that the seals were applied to the premises of a menuisier named “Leverre” [sic], first name unknown, on 10 mai 1785. Two months later the daughters went through the formalities of renouncing the estate, presumably encumbered with debts exceeding the assets. Who pays their framemaker when he’s dead?

Fortunately Levert’s stamp means that he has left a rather different legacy, which increasingly careful cataloguing at auction is bringing more and more to our attention. Not all of it were picture frames: as an ébéniste, his stamp appears on a number of items of furniture such as these commodes which have appeared at auction in recent years:

Nor were all his frames oval: here is a rectangular example (Binoche & Giquello, 15.x.2015, Lot 157):

Levert cadre rect Par15x2015 L157

Despite the quality and no doubt expense of his frames, they appear on works by artists of varying quality. Here are two on the pastels which originally caught my attention (both in a private collection), by Ducreux:

Levert Cadre ducreux fill

and Mosnier:

Levert Cadre Mosnier

Click on the links for essays on the pastels concerned, and a discussion of the dating of the two works.

Another stamped frame recently seen at auction (Doullens, Herbette, 24.vii.2011, Lot 65) is from an oil portrait of a woman signed and dated 1775 by the 22-year-old Lié-Louis Perin-Salbreux:

Perin JF hst Cadre Levert

It is an oval adaptation of the standard French flat seen so widely in the Louis XVI era, including on many pastels. This is one of the earliest stamped Levert frames, from the year after his maîtrise (perhaps only weeks later).

Two pendants which will shortly be auctioned in Bruges (Carlo Bonte, 20–21.iii.2018, Lot 497), described as of the marquis de Corberon and his wife (but rather of his brother, Marie-Daniel Bourrée, chevalier de Corberon (1748–1810), the diplomat and writer, and his wife, née Charlotte-Marie-Christine de Behmer) are in frames by Levert that have lost much of their delicate ribbon superstructure, revealing mouldings very similar to the 1775 example above (swapping the pearl and leaf decorations):

An. ms de Corberon Bruges29iii2018 L497

They are probably marriage portraits, and the date of the union (1781) sets a terminus post quem for Levert’s activity (assuming, as seems most probable, that these are cadres d’origine).

A simpler model appears on this anonymous pastel (J.48.114: Vendôme, Rouillac, 20.ii.2017, Lot 67) copied from a 1776 print by Helman after Leprince:

ar Leprince Astronome Vendome20ii2017 L67 fr

Another more elaborate example, closer to the frame on the Mosnier, is found on an oil of a lady whose costume seems to belong to the mid-1780s. The unsigned painting could belong to the circle of Labille-Guiard, but it is not inconceivable that it is a copy of a lost Vigée Le Brun: a particularly interesting possibility since this moulding is very close to those by an unidentified framemaker that I discussed in my blog post on Vigée Le Brun’s frames.

An. D cadre Levert o

Lastly I turn to the Levert frame most widely cited in the literature (see, for example, Henry Heydenryk, The art and history of frames, London, 1963, pp. 80–81, fig. 3; Claus Grimm, The book of picture frames, New York, 1981, p. 229, no. 307): the oil of the marquis de Saint-Paul in the Rijksmuseum traditionally attributed to Greuze and dated c.1760:

Greuze Saint-Paul rijksmuseum

The traditional attribution of this painting has recently been questioned, and Joseph Baillio (private communication, 2016) sees it as an early work by Vigée Le Brun (c.1776: he compares it with her portrait of Jacques-Louis-Guillaume Bouret de Vézelay exhibited in the recent Vigée Le Brun show, no. 24).

We have no firm evidence as yet that Vigée Le Brun’s mystery framer was Antoine Levert, but certainly a number of his frames were very similar to those she used in the early part of her career. Perhaps the most striking thing that emerges from this brief survey is the range of his work: by no means was he restricted to turning out identical mouldings.

In any case we are perhaps a little closer to the social circle in which Levert developed his remarkable skills, even if the full biographies of craftsmen of his day will never be known for certain.

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