PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR, TEXAS
The Portrait of the Comte de Provence exemplifies the genre of “miniature en grisaille,” in which Piat Joseph Sauvage excelled. The artist reveled in the art of illusion, and was unsurpassed at imitating in paint the bas-relief sculptures then much in vogue amongst French collectors. The extreme attention to detail that the artist demonstrates here was most probably learned in his native Belgium, where he studied before he went to Paris to enter the Academy of Paintings in 1781. After this formal training, his reputation grew quickly and he established himself as the primary exponent of trompe-l’oeil painting in France. He was later appointed painter of Louis XVI (1754-1793).
Datable to circa 1790, before the exile of the sitter, this miniature is certainly connected with the series of Royal portraits that Sauvage painted after the beginning of the French Revolution. Approximately twenty of these miniatures were in the possession of the daughter of Mr. Hue, the last valet de chambre of the Dauphin, who was incarcerated in 1792 in the Tuileries.
The sitter, Louis Stanislas Xavier, was the younger brother of the King of France. He received the title of Comte de Provence at birth and spent his childhood in Versailles. In 1771, he married Marie-Joséphine de Savoie; the marriage was childless. As a moderate opponent to his brother, Louis XVI, and Queen Marie-Antoinette, the Comte de Provence soon found himself alienated from court. He successfully fled the country to seek refuge in Germany at the same time that the Royal Family was captured at Varennes. Living in Westphalia until 1793, he then focused on suceeding his brother, managing to become Regent that same year. After the defeat of Napoleon, with the help of Allied Powers, he became King Louis XVIII in 1814, reigning until his death in 1824.
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