Lot 88
  • 88

Hyacinthe Rigaud

80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Hyacinthe Rigaud
  • Portrait of a Man, traditionally called Claude Louis Hector, duc de Villars (1653-1734)
  • oil on canvas


Mary Benjamin Rogers, Paris;
Thence by descent to Millicent A. Rogers, Paris, Virginia, and Taos, 1940;
Thence by descent to the present owner.


Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Exposition Du Troisième Centenaire de l'Académie française, 1935 (where exhibited by Wildenstein & Co., according to an old label on the reverse);
New York, Masterpieces of Art, Exhibition at the New York World's Fair, 1940 (where exhibited by Wildenstein & Co., according to an old label on the reverse).


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 portrait has not been restored for many years. The frame is magnificent and the painting is in very healthy condition. However, the old lining is not stabilizing the paint layer in some areas, particularly on the left side and if the lining were to be changed, the surface would improve. The paint layer is quite dirty and the varnish has become quite compromised in some areas. There are some retouches that will be removed in the shadowed area of the left hand, in some of the unstable areas on the left side, and in the lower right side. However, although when the picture is cleaned older retouches may become more apparent, the condition of the painting is generally impressive, particularly in the head and the elaborate costume of the figure. A complete restoration is encouraged.
"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

Although old labels on the reverse of the present work identifies the sitter as Claude Louis Hector, duc de Villars (1653-1734), it would appear that this is a mistaken identification based on comparison with Rigaud's other portraits of the duc de Villars, known in multiple versions. The prime example from 1704 hangs in the Hôtel National des Invalides, Paris, and yet another is in the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Marseille. Though a firm identification of the sitter remains elusive, this work shares with the aformentioned portraits of the duc du Villars an extremely similar pose and armored costume. This staged pose was apparently favored by Rigaud, as another similarly composed portrait, that of Louis-Antoine de Pardaillan de Gondrain, duc d'Antin, also exists in numerous versions (see for example the work housed in Versailles, inv. no. 7557). Rigaud appears to have first employed this pose for the aforementioned 1704 portrait of the duc de Villars, a year which Ariane James-Sarazin has therefore used a terminus post quem for the execution of the present picture.  

From a broader perspective, the present work beautifully displays Rigaud's hallmark ability to create realistic depictions of features and bravura rendering of material and texture. Dézallier d'Argenville, writing in the following century, noted that "when he (Rigaud) painted velvet, satin, taffeta, fur or lace, one had to touch them to realise they were not the real thing. Wigs and hair, which are so difficult to paint, were but a game for him; the hands in his paintings are particularly divine."1

It seems that Rigaud had intended from an early stage to realise his talents as a portraitist. Although the winner of the Prix de Rome in 1682 at the Académie Royale for his Cain building the city of Enoch (now lost), at the encouragement of its Director, Charles le Brun, he declined the winner's scholarship in Italy in favour of establishing his own portrait practice. That same year he painted a portrait of his fellow-painter Charles de la Fosse, now in Berlin. In 1684 he was approved (agrée) as a member of the Académie, and formally received some six years later. Rigaud's early works betray a conspicuous debt to the art of the great 17th-century Flemish painter Sir Anthony van Dyck.

We are grateful to Ariane James-Sarazin for confirming the attribution of the present work, based on photographs. Sarazin plans to include this work in her forthcoming monograph on Rigaud.

1. Abrégé de la vie des plus fameux peintres, Paris 1745-52 and 1762.