Lot 27
  • 27

James-Jacques-Joseph Tissot

150,000 - 180,000 USD
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • James Jacques Joseph Tissot
  • Portrait of Clotilde Briatte, comtesse Pillet-Will
  • pastel on linen
  • 35 3/4 by 63 1/8 in.
  • 91 by 160.5 cm


Clotilde Briatte, Comtesse Pillet-Will
Thence by descent through the Pillet-Will family, Saumur


Willard E. Misfeldt, The Albums of James Tissot, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1982, p. 110, no. IV-25, illustrated (as Portrait of an unidentified lady, possibly a niece of the artist)


The following condition report was kindly provided by Alvarez Fine Art Services, Inc.: Overall this pastel on thin cotton canvas is in stable condition and shows no sign of any planar distortions. The tacking edge and verso are protected with acid free blue corrugated strips and backing, but underneath the strips the tacking edge looks weakened and is pulling and tearing slightly in several places. This is most noticeable at the upper left corner and the lower left edge. Visually, this work is in good condition although it exhibits some disturbances. In the center of the image above the right arm of the sitter there is an approximately 3" x 1" drip stain which was caused most probably from the original mounting process where excess water was deposited. At the time it did not show but it has become visible with age. In addition there are scattered surface scratches of different sizes and degrees throughout the image, possibly due to a broken glass at one time. The most severe and noticeable ones are an approximately 4 1/2" long one in the transparent sleeve of the right arm and an approximately 7" long one above the left arm in the fur area. The only other area which could be considered visually distracting is a tiny dark spot in the right cheek of the sitter. This most probably is just a disturbance in the canvas under the pastel and is original. Otherwise, the pastel medium does not exhibit drift, displacement or obvious loss.
"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

In 1882, after eleven successful years painting in London, Tissot returned to Paris and chose pastel as his new medium, recognizing an opportunity to develop new patronage. Public interest in pastel was revived by a widespread interest in eighteenth century art, and the innovative work of contemporary artists like Edgar Degas and Édouard Manet. Always cognizant of fashionable trends, Tissot submitted eight new pastel portraits for exhibition at the Palais de L’industrie in 1883, and critics immediately praised the artist for their “freshness” of touch and artistic vision. Following the accolades, Tissot executed virtually all of his portraits of parisiennes in pastel — the exact number still unconfirmed because so many remain unlocated (Michael Wentworth, James Tissot, Oxford, 1984, pp. 156-7).  Indeed, for over a century the present work was known only by an image in Tissot’s photographic albums, and was misidentified as “a portrait of an unidentified lady, possibly a niece of the artist.” The subject was only recently revealed to be Clotilde Briatte, Comtesse Pillet-Will, the wife of the noble Frédéric Pillet-Will (1837-1911), a banker and owner of the Château Margaux vineyard. Clotilde’s lifestyle resembled that of many of Tissot’s most fashionable models, yet she stood apart from the princesses and other wealthy women who sat for the artist because of her interest in the occult; in the early 1900s she authored several books on the subject under the pseudonym Charles d’Orino.  Tissot was similarly fascinated by spiritualists, and had attended séances since the death of his beloved companion and model, Kathleen Newton, in 1882. The “otherworldly” association of model and artist is subtly suggested in the comtesse’s portrait, where she is a spectral (and highly fashionable) vision in her shimmering white dress with gold bracelets gleaming against a fur-lined wrap with a celestial blue outer lining. Pastel allowed Tissot to experiment both with color and new ways to convey texture—from the luxurious, fluffy fur of the cloak to the cloud-like heads of the hydrangeas held in the ceramic glazed jardinière, its Asian decoration pointing to the continued vogue for all things Japonisme.  Tissot often painted women in garden or conservatory settings, and the present work may have been executed in the artist's home where he has placed the Comtesse in front of a mirror, her coiffure cleverly detailed in the reflective surface. As the Portrait of Clotilde Briatte, Comtesse Pillet-Will evidences, pastel brought Tissot new inspiration, and elevated his subjects from mere fashion plates to innovative, expressive visions of compelling personalities.

We would like to thank Cyrille Sciama for providing additional catalogue information.