Lot 109
  • 109

Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun

150,000 - 200,000 EUR
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  • Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun
  • Portrait of a lady said portrait of Jeanne de Valois, comtesse de la Motte
  • Oil on canvas


Sale Frederick Muller & Cie, Amsterdam, 27-28 November 1906 ;
Gallery Willis & Smith, London circa 1936 ;
Collection Sir Stephenson Kent, London ;
Acquired by the familiy of the present owner in the 1980s


A l'oeil nu : Le tableau se présente en bel état de conservation. Il a été ré-entoilé au début du XXème siècle. Rentoilage très bien réalisé, et qui n'a pas tassé la matière. Le tableau est sous un vernis ancien qui donne un aspect un peu jaune. On remarques quelques petites usures dans les fonds. Le visage, la chevelure et les drapés sont bien préservés. A l'oeil nu, on ne remarque pas de restaurations anciennes. A la lampe U.V. : Le tableau apparaît sous un vernis vert épais uniforme. On remarque de petites restaurations anciennes dans le coin inférieur droit. To the naked eye : The painting is in a satisfactory condition. It has been relined in the beginning of the 20th century. The relining has been very correctly realized, it has not felled the material. The painting is under an old varnish, giving a little yellow appearance. We notice a few little wears in the background. The face, the hair and the draperies are well preserved. To the naked eye, no visible restoration. Under the U.V. light : The paintings appears under a thick green uniform varnish. We notice some small former restorations in the lower right corner.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Witness of the final flames of the Old French Regime, Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun had, at the end of the 18th century, offered her genius for the representation of a society that was destined to disappear. It is partly through their nature as the ultimate testimony that her pre-Revolution canvases are today among the most sought after.
Paradoxically, it was with this modern woman, free and revolutionary in one sense, who was accused of embodying the ideals of another era. Whereas being a female artist, she owed her ascension and support to her great dispositions, abnegation, and immense work ethic. Improperly driven out of French territory, she retained an immense resentment and found, within the reprieve of the European monarchy, a diverted means to practice her art. "The women reigned then; the Revolution dethroned them,"1 she wrote as a final provocation in a letter to the Princess Kurakin.
Her father, Louis Vigée was a pastel painter of portraits and recognized as excellent. While the father had enjoyed an honorable career, it was no comparison with the prodigious elevation of his daughter, as member of a modest studio for a ceiling painter, Gabriel Briard2 painted at the age of twenty-three the portrait of the new Queen of France, Marie Antoinette in 17783.
At the age of nineteen, she was admitted into the Saint-Luc Academy, where her father had worked before her. All Paris then requested her. "... I was overwhelmed with orders and was very much in vogue4 (...) " she confided again. From Libertines, who forced Louise's anxious mother to watch her during the sitting sessions,5 to the Princesse of Craon in 1776, all Paris was waiting for a portrait by Le Brun.
Her method of making women pose naturally was well-liked. "After getting the confidence of my models, I was able to drape them according to my fancy6."
A certain tendency would have us see in our model, with a somewhat enigmatic smile, the features of the instigator of the Queen's necklace affair, Jeanne de Valois, Countess de la Motte (fig. 1). It was in 1780 that she had sought the title of Countess and tried to integrate into certain cenacles, a date that might suit our portrait. Indeed, the painter of princesses and ambassadors often no longer painted the upper middle class during this decade.

1. Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, Souvenirs, t. I, Paris, 2015, p. 109
2. Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Le Brun, cat. exp. Grand Palais, Paris, p. 14.
3. Elisabeth Louise-Vigée Le Brun, Marie Antoinette en grand habit de cour, 1778, Vienne, Kunsthistorischesmuseum.
4. Souvenirs, t. I, Paris, 2015, p. 15
5. Ce fut réellement le cas lorsqu'entre 1768 et 1772, elle réalisa le portrait du marquis de Choiseul-Beaupré visiblement sensible au charme de la jeune prodige.
6. Souvenirs, t. I., p. 43