Maurice-Quentin de La Tour
The figure portrayed in this pastel is Louis Duval de l’Épinoy, the Lord of Saint-Vrain and an adviser and secretary to Louis XV. The model’s expression, which conveys a striking vitality, hints at the presence of a shrewd nature. The artist ingeniously captures the apparent informality of the moment and transforms it into a living, breathing instant.
The composition reflects the artist’s enthusiasm for the rationality of the time since, as can clearly be seen, the values of the ‘age of the enlightenment’ are wholly affirmed by the work’s analytical realism. Replete with allusions to geography and the arts, the painting reflects ideas and bears witness to the mentality of the age. The presence of the snuff box also provides a documentary record of sophisticated customs.
Blues, greys and soft pinks, La Tour’s preferred colours, are shown to especially favour the visual harmony of the whole. At the Paris Salon of 1745, this work was considered to be the supreme example of pastel painting and the greatest portrait hitherto produced by Maurice-Quentin de La Tour.
Jean-Jacques Gallet de Mondragon; Patrimoine national, France; Mondragon; Jacques Doucet., Paris; Baron Henri de Rothschild, Paris. Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian from the Baron Henri de Rothschild, 1943.
H. 119.5 cm; W. 92.8 cm
Albert Besnard and George Wildenstein, La Tour. La vie et l’oeuvre de l’artiste. Paris: Les Beaux-Arts, 1928, pp. 35–6, 69, no. 133.
European Paintings from the Gulbenkian Collection, exhibition catalogue. Washington D. C: National Gallery of Art, 1950, pp. 92–3, no. 40.
Luísa Sampaio, Painting in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon/Milan: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum/Skira, 2009, pp. 82–3, cat. 31.
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2011, p. 135, cat. 109.
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