Lot 205
  • 205

French School, circa 1795

40,000 - 60,000 USD
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  • French School, circa 1795
  • Portrait of a mother and child
  • oil on canvas
  • 44 1/2 x 35 1/8 inches
  • 113 x 89.2 cm


Vicomte and Vicomtesse de Boissard, Paris, by 1928;
By descent to their son, Vicomte de Boissard, La Chauvière, St.-Germain-des-Prés, St.-Georges-sur-Loire;
By inheritance to his widow, Suzanne, Vicomtesse de Boissard, La Chauvière;
By whom sold, Monaco, Sotheby's, 14 February 1983, lot 683 (as by Vincent, for 116,550 francs);
Where purchased by a consortium of dealers including Stair Sainty Matthiesen;
With Stair Sainty Matthiesen, New York;
From whom purchased by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Howard Isermann Gift, in honor of his wife, Betty Isermann, 1983 (Inv. no. 1983.264).


Northampton, Smith College Museum of Art, The French Portrait: Revolution to Restoration, 30 September - 11 December 2005, cat. no. 1 (as French School, artist unknown, circa 1795-98).


G.Tinterow in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1983-1984, New York 1984, p. 65, reproduced (as François-André Vincent, circa 1795);
K. Baetjer, European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by artists born before 1865, A Summary Catalogue, New York 1995, p. 386, reproduced p. 387 (as French[?]painter, fourth quarter 18th century);
M. A. Oppenheimer. The French Portrait: Revolution to Restoration, exhibition catalogue, Northampton 2005, pp. 26-29, 203, cat. no.1, reproduced (as French School, artist unknown, circa 1795-98).


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 has been quite recently restored. If dusted, it should probably be hung in its current state. The lining is recent. The paint layer is stable. Although the cracking, which is typical for this period, is still slightly visible, the condition is very good throughout. There are hardly any retouches within most of the picture, and it is only an original canvas join about 2 inches from the bottom edge that has attracted some restoration. The condition of the picture is generally very good.
"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

The painter of this striking portrait has yet to be convincingly identified, though it was most likely painted by a French artist in the years immediately following the Revolution.  Based on the woman’s costume, which reflects the transition from the full skirts of the ancient régime to the narrow, high-waisted gowns of the Consulate and Empire, the portrait has been dated to circa 1795-98.1  When in the collection of the de Boissard family, who owned it for many years (see Provenance), the painting had been given to François-André Vincent, and was sold as by that artist when it was auctioned in Monaco in 1983. Since that time, an attribution to Jean-Laurent Mosnier  (1743/44-1808) has been suggested3 and, more recently, when the portrait was in the Smith College exhibition (see Exhibited), Margaret A. Oppenheimer tentatively proposed an attribution to Adèle de Romance, called Madame Romany (1769-1846).

The pose of the figures, with the mother pulling back a large olive green curtain while protectively supporting her child who sits across a window sill, is unusual for a large-scale portrait of this period and gives it a sense of spontaneity and movement.  The child reaches out to the viewer offering a rosebud and further creating a sense of interaction with the observer.  It recalls the pose in Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Lebrun’s Portrait of Madam Perregaux of 1789 in the Wallace Collection, London, where the sitter is also shown in three-quarter length, drawing aside a curtain and leaning over a balustrade.  The artist of the present work may also have been referencing works by some of the Dutch 17th century masters, such as Gerrit Dou and Willem van Mieris, in which half-length figures were depicted leaning out of trompe l’oeil windows.4



1.  See M.A. Oppenheimer, op.cit., p. 26
2.  According to family tradition, the sitter may have been a member of an old Alsatian family named Sommervogel (letter of 27 September 1983, from the Vicomtesse de Boissard, in the files of the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
3.  An attribution to Mosnier was suggested by Hermann Mildenberger (letters dated 13 April 1999 and August 2005 in the files of the Metropolitan Museum of Art); this attribution rejected by Gerrit Walczak (letters dated 15 March 2002 and 2 January 2003, also in the files of the Museum)
4.  See M.A. Oppenheimer, op.cit., p. 28.