47
47
Jean-François de Sompsois
MADAME DU BARRY PAINTING THE PORTRAIT OF LOUIS XV, SURROUNDED BY PUTTI REPRESENTING THE FINE ARTS, MINERVA ABOVE
Estimate
80,000120,000
LOT SOLD. 100,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
47
Jean-François de Sompsois
MADAME DU BARRY PAINTING THE PORTRAIT OF LOUIS XV, SURROUNDED BY PUTTI REPRESENTING THE FINE ARTS, MINERVA ABOVE
Estimate
80,000120,000
LOT SOLD. 100,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Master Paintings & Sculpture Evening Sale

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Jean-François de Sompsois
PARIS C. 1720 - AFTER 1797 PARIS ?
MADAME DU BARRY PAINTING THE PORTRAIT OF LOUIS XV, SURROUNDED BY PUTTI REPRESENTING THE FINE ARTS, MINERVA ABOVE
signed on the left at the base of the column: De Sompsois Invt / & Pinxit Anno / 1774
Gouache on parchment
10 1/2  by 7 7/8  in; 26.5 by 20 cm.
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Provenance

Probably collection of Jeanne Bécu de Cantigny, comtesse Du Barry (1743-1793), Louveciennes (according to the inscription on the reverse, fig. 1);
Probably N. de Sompsois, the artist’s daughter (according to the inscription on the reverse);
Private collection, France.

Literature

N. Jeffares, "Jean-François de Sompsois," Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, London, 2006; online edition [http://www.pastellists.com/articles/sompsois.pdf], updated 16 August 2016, p. 1.

Catalogue Note

This colorful and ambitious gouache is a tour-de-force allegory and celebration of the fine arts by the French miniaturist Jean-François de Sompsois.  At the center of the scene is Madame du Barry, the last mistress of King Louis XV of France, seated at an easel and painting a grand portrait of the King.  Various putti throughout the composition represent the many disciplines of the fine arts: one is busy engraving a copper plate, another going through a box of pastel sticks, a third sits at a table over an oval miniature whilst two others create medals, one plunging the metal into the fire of a brazier and the other proudly displaying the finished product.  Behind them, a sculptor, who also bears a resemblance to Madame du Barry, is at work preparing a bust of the King.  Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts, proudly looks over the busy scene from clouds above.

The portrait of Louis XV in his coronation robes is based on Louis Michel van Loo's famous portrait;1 it is painted on a separate piece of parchment in extraordinary precision that only a miniaturist such as Sompsois could achieve.  Madame du Barry's depiction at the easel is likely based on the bust sculpted of her by Augustin Pajou,2 while the portrait of her sculpting is closer to the engraving of her by Louis Marin Bonnet, dated 1769 and inscribed "Les Grâces & L'Amour sans cesse l'environment, Et les Arts, avec eux, tour-à-tour, la couronment" ("The Graces and Cupid ceaselessly surround her, and the Arts, with them, each in turn, crown her").

This is an unusually large and dynamic work by Jean-François de Sompsois, who was known for his miniatures and pastels.  Perhaps as early as 1751, he spent a number of years in St. Petersburg, where he was commissioned by Prince Pyotr Fedorovich and his wife, the future Catherine II, to complete a series of portraits of the ladies-in-waiting of the court as allegories of the continents, the seasons, and the elements.  He was back in France by 1774, however, when he completed the present work.

We are grateful to Dr. Alexandra Zverera for her assistance in the cataloguing of this lot. 

1.  The original was commissioned in 1759 and sent to Versailles, but has since disappeared.  Numerous studio versions exist including one in the Wallace Collection.  See J. Ingamells, The Wallace Collection Catalogue of Pictures, vol. III, London 1989, cat. no. P477, pp. 258-259, reproduced. 
2. From 1770 to 1773, Pajou created five busts of the comtesse.  The life-size marble version was shown at the Salon of 1773 and is now in the collection of the Louvre (inv. no. MR 2651).

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