The Lavoisiers, posing for French painter Jacques-Louis David's workshop, celebrates science alongside a Virgin by Goswin Van der Weyden.
First workshop of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), Portrait of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794) and His Wife, Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze (1758-1836), oil on canvas mounted on panel, c. 1789, 109.5 x 83.2 cm/43.11 x 32.7 in.
Estimate: € 40 000/60 000
This auction of Old Master paintings covers the whole of Europe, with a predilection for Nordic, French and Italian painting, not to mention the Spanish court of Philip II. The sale starts its journey in Antwerp with two key works, the Virgin and Child Flanked by Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Margaret of Antioch, painted by Goswin Van der Weyden, heir to the style of his grandfather, Rogier. This panel, painted around 1460 (72.4 x 64.2 cm/ 28.5 x 25.2 in), should fetch between €200,000 and €300,000. Bearing the stamp of the collection of Marie-Louise of Austria, Duchess of Parma, the painting was kept in Italy and has an export ban, but it is sold thanks to a special arrangement. The same estimate of €200,000 and €300,000 is given to a still life executed two centuries later by Jan Davidsz de Heem. Upon arriving in Antwerp, he adopted its prevalent, opulent style, here featuring fine silverware and a Chinese bowl from the other side of the world amidst a feast of fruit and ham.
For Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier and his wife, wealth was not a question of commerce, but of the mind. Given his famed Traité élémentaire de chimie (Elementary Treatise on Chemistry), published in 1789 and illustrated by his wife and valuable collaborator, Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze, many have forgotten that Lavoisier was also a financier (fermier général) and public administrator (régisseur des Poudres). Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze is believed to have studied with the French academic artist David, who painted their portrait in 1788. It is a monumental painting worthy of these aristocratic intellectuals. The Enlightenment of the eighteenth century has come and gone and the portrait is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Of more reasonable dimensions, the painting reproduced here is a second version, faithful to the original, executed by a talented student of the master. It has been preserved to this day by the descendants of Mme Lavoisier.