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).
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.