Lot 83
  • 83

Louis Gauffier

300,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Louis Gauffier
  • Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Webster, later Lady Holland, seated full-length, in a white dress and feathered hat, with her spaniel Pierrot, on a 'chaise-longue,' with a guitar, in an interior
  • signed, inscribed and dated lower left: L. Gauffier. Flor. ce 1795
  • oil on canvas


Henry Richard Vassall Fox, 3rd Lord Holland (1773-1840);
Thence by inheritance to his illegitimate son, General Charles Richard Fox (1796-1873);
Charles Fox Frederick Adam (died 1913);
Thence by descent to his son, Frederick Edward Fox Adam;
Bequeathed to his cousin, Elenora Constance Mylne (née Adam);
By whose Executors sold, London, Sotheby's, 3 July 1985, lot 77;
Anonymous sale ("The Property of a Gentleman"), London, Christie's, 13 December 1996, lot 63;
There acquired by the present collector.


Possibly Princess Marie Liechtenstein, Holland House, vol. I, London 1874, p. 282 (as located in the Journal Room);
Earl of Ilchester, ed., The Journal of Elizabeth Lady Holland (1791-1811), vol. I, London 1908, reproduced between pp. 212-213;
P. Bordes, "Louis Gauffier and Thomas Penrose in Florence," in The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin, vol. LX, 1971-1973, pp. 73, 74, note 12;
F. Davis, "The High-stepper of Holland House," in Country Life, 7 November 1985;
F. Russell, "Notes on Grand Tour Portraiture," in The Burlington Magazine, July 1994, p. 443;
C.E. James, Grand Tour Portraits of Women, B.A. Thesis, Ohio State University, 2001, pp. 43, 86, reproduced fig. 40;
J. Bryant, Kenwood, Paintings in the Iveagh Bequest, New Haven and London 2003, p. 126, reproduced fig. 1;
S.-A. Kitts, Leandro Fernandez de Moratin's 'La Mogigata': The significance of the Holland Manuscript in the Light of Comments from Elizabeth, Lady Holland's 'Spanish Journal' (BL, Add. MS, 51931) in Electronic British Library Journal, 2006, Article 8, reproduced p. 11, fig. 4.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in beautiful condition. The canvas has an old lining which is nicely stabilizing the paint layer without robbing it of its texture. The paint layer is clean. Retouches are sparingly applied. The inscription in the lower left is in beautiful state. The details and character of the figure are also very well preserved. The work should be hung as is.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Elizabeth Vassall, successively Lady Webster and Lady Holland (1770-1845), was the only child of Richard Vassall, the owner of extensive estates in Jamaica. At age fifteen, she married Sir Godfrey Webster, Bt. of Battle Abbey. In 1791, Lord Webster took his wife and two infant sons on the Grand Tour.  Following the birth of a third son in Naples in 1793, Lady Webster met Henry Richard Fox, 3rd Baron Holland in Florence in 1794.  Her marriage, which had never been happy, broke down irretrievably in 1795 when Lord Webster returned alone to England and she continued her travels with Lord Holland.  They had a son in 1796 and, following her divorce, married in July 1797.  Lady Holland would become one of the most influential women of her generation and it was due in large measure to her forceful personality that their home in Kensington, Holland House, became the undisputed center of the Whigs’ political and intellectual life until her husband’s death in 1840.

Louis Gauffier is considered the last major painter of the Grand Tour portrait in the 18th century.1  Upon winning the Prix de Rome in 1784, he immediately moved to the Eternal City as a pensionnaire at the French Academy.  He remained in Italy, except for a brief trip to Paris in 1789, until his early death in 1801.  In 1793 anti-French demonstrations in Rome forced Gauffier to flee to Florence, where in order to make a living he largely abandoned historical, mythological and religious themes and began executing portraits.  This portrait of Lady Webster appears to be one of a group of three portraits apparently paid for by Lord Holland, the others being a portrait of himself (probably the one sold London, Sotheby's, 3 July 1985 lot 78) and one of Lord Webster (Kenwood House, London).  Holland entrusted his friend, the painter François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837), with safely delivering all his Italian acquisitions to England.2  A list by Fabre in the Holland House papers records “un petit portrait en pied de My Lord Holland, par Gauffier/celui de Milady Webster/celui du chevalier Webster.”3  Gauffier’s portrait of Lord Webster was painted in Florence in 1794 and Lord Holland’s portrait mentioned above, like the present portrait of Lady Webster, was executed in Florence in 1795.  Many of Gauffier’s English sitters in Florence were from the close circle of Lady Webster and include Lady Bessborough, Lord Wycombe, Lord and Lady Ailesbury, and Thomas Penrose.  The present portrait and that of Lord Holland mentioned above were inherited by their son, Charles Richard Fox (1796-1873) who, having been born before their marriage, was thus unable to succeed the peerage or entailed estates.

This composition of Lady Webster can be found in a composite work of eleven small-scale, finished oil sketches by Gauffier, all executed on the same canvas, and now in the Musée Fabre, Montpellier (fig. 1).  The Montpellier work shows individuals who were in Italy during Gauffier's time there, and may have served as a personal record for the artist of works which he executed during his sojourn abroad.  Similar to the present example, Gauffier painted full-scale portraits of other sitters shown in the Montpellier canvas.  For example, that of The Salucci Family (1800; Musée Marmottan, Paris), a Portrait of an Officer of the Cisalpine Republic (1801; Musée Marmottan, Paris), and Portrait of an Officer, thought to be Général Jean-Claude Moreau (private collection).

Gauffier also painted Lady Webster’s portrait in 1794, depicting her with one of her young sons and, again, with her beloved spaniel, Pierrot (Montpellier, Musée Fabre). Gauffier's depictions of Lady Webster, more than those of any other artist, deftly capture the intelligence, beauty and charm of his young sitter, as in this beautiful portrait.


1. See J. Bryant, under Literature, p. 126.
2. Ibid.
3. See list of 17 April 1796. British Library, Add. MSS. 51637, f. 52.