Nicolas de Largillière breaks a French record with a beautiful portrait of a man: the great 18th century in all its splendour.
Paintings by the great 18th-century artist Nicolas de Largillière are scarce on the market, so it makes sense that when one does appear its fair value is recognised. This portrait fetched €546,100, perfectly within the high range for this type of work. The price set a new French record for the artist, surpassing the €514,250 achieved by Autoportrait en tenue d'atelier (Self-portrait in Studio Clothes) at Christie's Paris on 24 June 2004 (source: Artnet). The model is probably Jean André Soubry (1703-1774), the treasurer of France in Lyon, whose father, Jacques Soubry (1656-1740), was alderman in the same city. The treasurers of France, a position established in the 13th century, were administrators of the royal finances, earning them the sobriquet "Messieurs des Finances". Soubry was quite young, around 26, when his portrait was made. Grand bourgeois, financiers, officers and magistrates asked Largillière to paint them, while his friend and colleague Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743) painted the aristocracy. He combined like no other a lifelike treatment of faces with a rendering of materials that showed the model in the most flattering light. The shimmering silk, velvet drapery falling precisely where it should and just the right amount of lace echo the flesh tones. Largillière painted his portraits from life but made studies of the fabrics, which explains the degree of realism achieved. By the time he died, he had contributed to the renewal of French painting and paved the way for future generations.