"Croesus Crozat" Sets Off to Montpellier

On 01 February 2021, by Anne Doridou-Heim

The Musée Fabre scored yet another bull's eye by carrying off this portrait of Antoine Crozat by Alexis-Simon Belle, presented at the sale of the last collections of the Crédit Foncier de France.

Alexis-Simon Belle (1674-1734), Portrait of Antoine Crozat, Marquis du Châtel, in the dress of the Order of the Holy Spirit, of which he was Grand Treasurer from 1715-1724, oil on canvas, 138 x 105 cm (54.3 x 41.3 in).
Result: €30,480

This was a fresh preemption typical of the Musée Fabre, for the Montpellier museum plays an active role in the art market at public sales, exhibitions and galleries as it seeks to expand its collections, particularly with paintings and sculptures connected with its history. La Gazette regularly covers these acquisitions, and naturally made sure the museum did not lose out on this Portrait of Antoine Crozat, Marquis du Châtel by Alexis-Simon Belle (1674-1734). There were several good reasons to acquire it. Firstly, Crozat (1655-1738) cuts a magnificent figure in his dress of the Order of the Holy Spirit (he was its Grand Treasurer from 1715 to 1724), and the painting is an admirable illustration of Belle's deft skill in official portraits. Secondly, the model's career was intimately linked with the history of France, in this case the end of Louis XIV's reign. According to Pierre Ménard, who devoted a biography to him in 2017 (Le Français qui possédait l'Amérique. La vie extraordinaire d'Antoine Crozat, milliardaire sous Louis XIV, published by Le Cherche-Midi), his personal fortune at the Sun King's death amounted to 20 million livres: the equivalent of over €300 billion today... He acquired most of this staggering sum through decidedly ignoble means: triangular trade and multiple financial embezzlement operations. Voltaire nicknamed him "Croesus Crozat". Lastly, the portrait of the financier, which fetched €30,480, is to be reunited with the fine portrait of his wife by Jacques André Joseph Aved (1702-1766), which has long hung in the Montpellier museum. Previously, Antoine Crozat appeared on the walls of the Crédit Foncier de France alongside a version of her portrait attributed to Aved's studio (138 x 108 cm/54.3 x 42.5 in), bought from the Cailleux gallery at the same time as Crozat's splendidly haughty figure. She now goes to a new home at €8,890.

Divine Vines by Dodin and Boucher

On 01 February 2021, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Cherubs eating grapes wafted a Vincennes porcelain jar to the heights, alongside objects from the final splendors of the Crédit Foncier de France.

Vincennes factory, soft-paste porcelain milk jug decorated with two cherubs in the clouds eating grapes after François Boucher (1703-1770), in a reserve of flowers and foliage standing out against a green background, chased gold mount, letter-date of 1754, h. 12 cm/4.7 in).
Result: €133,350

This milk jug did not come from the Crédit Foncier collections on offer at this sale, but its high quality earned it a glorious €133,350, proving that fine rare antique porcelains continue to attract an informed public and achieve six-figure bids. This one certainly had a few assets: it was made at the Vincennes manufactory—and thus in soft paste—in 1754; it was probably painted by Charles-Nicolas Dodin (1734-1803), who had recently joined the factory (and was at twenty already a brilliant artist), after a drawing by François Boucher of cherubs eating grapes in the clouds, and it sports a Parisian chased gold mount and a glowing green background. The porcelain fairies were definitely present at its birth.

We return to the works of the Crédit Foncier with the €27,940 garnered by the Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo and her Son, an oil on panel (118 x 90 cm/ 46.5 x 35.4 in) by the studio of Angelo di Cosimo Allori—better known as Bronzino (1503-1572)—based on his original. In the furnishing section, a biscuit and gilt bronze clock embellished with a Cupid and Bacchus, produced by the Duc d'Angoulême's factory in around 1790, fetched a resounding €24,130, while €30,480 went to a 17th-century wool and silk tapestry (297 x 597 cm/ 117 x 234 in) woven in Brussels. This one, depicting Europa, is part of the Tenture des Continents (a complete set of these hangings is now in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antigua in Lisbon). Finally, a "marquise" seemed to take on a few years, which for once did no harm at all! A Louis XVI style armchair of this type (91 x 118 x 60 cm/ 35.8 x 46.5 x 23.6 in) in giltwood with richly carved scroll and palmette decoration and a foliage frieze garnered €54,610: a result more to be expected from a period piece.

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