A Hyacinthe Rigaud revealed

On 07 October 2020, by Caroline Legrand

After in-depth research and many twists and turns, this portrait, soon to be presented in Bordeaux, has revealed its secrets.

Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), Portrait de femme ou présumé de Charlotte de Fleury de La Jonchère (Portrait of a Woman Presumed to be Charlotte de Fleury de La Jonchère), oil on canvas, 141 x 99.5 cm.
Estimate: €100,000/150,000

Surprising as it may seem, on November 17 the Chateau of Versailles will open its first monographic exhibition devoted to painter Hyacinthe Rigaud. Yet the artist’s contribution to establishing and perpetuating the image of the absolute monarchy through his world-famous portraits of sovereigns, such as the authoritarian Sun King draped in his coronation costume, is well known. The show includes 150 of Rigaud’s works and, despite earlier misattributions, this Portrait of a Woman Presumed to be Charlotte de Fleury de La Jonchère could easily be one of them. Last summer, it almost went on sale as the "19th-century school after Nicolas Largillière". The fault lies with a late lining, a signature on a rear frame and a coat of soot hiding the modelling and skilful play of light. Industrialist Mathieu Alfred Lacaze (1846-1922) bought the painting as a copy of Largillière from dealers, the Haro, on the Left Bank in Paris. His Bordeaux descendants never questioned the attribution. But observant Rigaud specialist Stéphan Perreau spotted the work on the internet, alerted Mr Courau and proposed an in-depth study, carried out jointly with the Turquin auction house. He had already seen a lesser-quality replica of the painting, sold on 25 June 2010 at the Hotel Drouot (Libert OVV). Mistakenly identified as a portrait of Madame Marie Aupoys, this painting was later attributed by him to Rigaud's studio and the model recognised as Madame de La Jonchère.

Madame de La Jonchère unmasked
The tricky identification process started with an aesthetic detail: the wig! The young woman wears a 'button' style model, consisting of curls tightly gathered on the crown of the head, with two curls falling on the temples on either side of the forehead, typical of the fashion of the 1720s. Rigaud's account books also reveal that he requested around 1,500 pounds, an exceptional sum at that time for a knee-length portrait including the hands. On examining the candidates found in Rigaud's account books (although caution is advised as some of his major commissions do not appear in them), and considering the model's age, the likeliest hypothesis is Charlotte de Fleury (1692-1757). Known first as "Charlotte Raisin" and then Madame de La Jonchère after her wedding in 1707 to Gérard Michel (1673-1750), seigneur de La Jonchère, Roissy and Vaucresson, Treasurer of the Ordinary and then of the Extra-ordinary of Wars in 1711, she commissioned her portrait from Rigaud in 1719 and paid the 1,500 pounds on delivery two years later. At 27, she was at the height of her beauty and social life, a leading figure in Paris and its salons. It was only natural that the couple turned to the greatest portraitist of the time, that of Louis XIV and Louis XV.

Expressive hands
The painting bears Rigaud’s stylistic imprint, notably the undulating position of the young woman's body, which can be seen in several of his portraits from the years 1710-1720, and the expressiveness of the hands typical of the Baroque period. The left hand folded over the chest is also found in the portrait of her husband, kept in the Château de Parentignat (Puy-de-Dôme), and of the Princess Palatine in the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. Rigaud plays with light, which strikes the model on the right, accentuating the curve of the neck and the positions of the hands, and lets shadows creep over the fabrics on her left. Lastly, the delicately modelled, white-complexioned face illustrates the "beautiful finish" elaborated by Rigaud with his painstaking draughtsmanship. For him, the face and hands were the most important parts of a portrait, and he never left them to his studio’s care. Given the treatment’s quality—visible in the brilliant superimposition of the thin silk veil on the velvet dress—Rigaud seems to have painted the whole portrait: a rare, precious fact at a time when he had nothing left to prove and delegated much of his work to others.

25 October, Bordeaux. A. Courau auction house. Cabinet Turquin.

Worth Knowing
"Hyacinthe Rigaud or the Sun Portrait" exhibition, château de Versailles,
from 17 November 2020 to 14 March 2021.

When Camille Claudel sculpted with her soul

On 14 October 2020, by Caroline Legrand

Made when she separated from her mentor Auguste Rodin, this moving sculpture was intended for her important group L’Âge mûr (The Mature Age).

Camille Claudel (1864-1943), L'Implorante, bronze with green-nuanced patina, signed, stamp of Eugène Blot and no. 48 (of 59), 28.5 x 25 x 16.5 cm.
Estimate: €120,000/150,000

Cast by Eugène Blot in 1905 and 1937, this bronze, L’Implorante (The Implorer), is based on a model created in the 1890s. The kneeling, naked woman stretches out her arms in an intense prayer; her face expresses pain, as does her whole body, especially her back, where every vertebra, every clavicle bone protruding under the skin, can be perceived. It is often said that Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was a highly emotional artist, working from her own feelings. This bronze is one of the most beautiful examples of that: a deeply expressive work typical of her early career when she was still under the influence of her mentor and lover, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). In 1932, Blot said of this model: "One day when Rodin was visiting me, he suddenly stood still in front of this portrait, contemplating it, gently caressing the metal and weeping..." Rodin could not forget the context of its creation. L'Implorante belonged to a highly autobiographical group called L'Âge Mûr, which represents Old Age trying to wrest a mature man from Youth—a metaphor for destiny, but also easily interpreted as a reflection of the couple’s stormy love affair. Rodin eventually went on to marry Rose Beuret. Claudel worked on this piece from 1894 to 1898, after the couple broke up. Wanting to help his muse despite their break-up, Rodin negotiated with the director of Beaux-Arts to obtain a commission from the State for her. Exhibited at the 1899 Salon, but rejected for the Paris Exposition the following year, the plaster was never delivered, nor the bronze cast. A private individual, Captain Teissier, acquired the first iron cast, which was delivered in 1902. Blot, deeply moved by the kneeling female figure, acquired the rights to cast 10 numbered copies in its original 69-centimetre size from 1905 onwards. He also planned to reduce it to 29 centimetres, initially to be cast in 100 bronze copies, but eventually limited to 59.

Sunday 25 October 2020 - 14:00
Bordeaux - 24, rue Ferrère - 33000
Hôtel des Ventes Bordeaux Quinconces
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