Lot 67
  • 67

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard | Portrait of the duchesse d'Aiguillon (1770-1814)

200,000 - 300,000 EUR
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  • Adélaïde Labille-Guiard
  • Portrait of the duchesse d'Aiguillon (1770-1814)
  • Signed lower left: Labille dite Guiard
  • Oil on canvas, unlined
  • 73 x 60 cm; 28 3/4  by 23 5/8  in.


Collection Eugène Kraemer (1852-1912), Paris;
His sale, Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 28-29 April 1913, lot 27 (25 500 francs);
Collection of Mme Vagliano (possibly Danäe ou Hélène Vagliano, Cannes);
Collection Cailleux, Paris;
Collection Visconti di Modrone.


Paris, Bagatelle, Portraits de femmes sous les trois Républiques, 1909, n° 126 repr., p. 30 or 50 (depending on the edition);
Copenhague, Palais de Charlottenbourg, Exposition de l'art français du XVIIIe siècle, 25 August - 6 October 1935, n° 104;
Copenhague, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Portraits français de Largillière à Manet, Copenhague, 15 October - 15 November 1960, n° 26 ;
Rome, Palazzo Venezia, Il ritratto Francese da Clouet à Degas, 1962-1963, n° 114 repr.


R. Portalis, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Paris 1902, p. 72 ;
La Revue hebdomadaire, 12 juin 1909, illustrated supplément, repr. n°20.095 ;
G. Mourey, "Exposition rétrospective de portraits de femmes sous les trois Républiques", in Les Arts, July 1909, no. 91, p. 29, repr. p. 25 ;
G. Grappe, "L'Art français du XVIIIe siècle", Exposition de Copenhague, in L'amour de l'art, July 1935, n° 7, p. 250, pl. 50 ;
A.-M. Passez, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard 1749-1803. Biographie et Catalogue raisonné de son œuvre, Paris 1971, p. 236, cat. no. 113, repr. pl. XC on p. 237.


Le rapport de condition a été réalisé par une restauratrice indépendante, Mme Baron Callegari : Support: Le tableau est peint sur une toile au tissage serré. Elle est en excellent état et n'est pas rentoilée. La toile est tendue sur son châssis d'origine à écharpes. Les semences sont anciennes et non déplacées. On observe quelques petites déformations de la toile au niveau des repeints de la chevelure. Les repeints tirants dans cette zone ont provoqués ces petites déformations. Au revers de la toile on observe une inscription originale posée en sens inverse à la verticalité de la toile L'adhérence est dans son ensemble satisfaisante. Couche picturale : Le vernis est régulier légèrement oxydé et très grisonnant et terne. Dans le visage, on observe quelques repeints légers destinés à recouvrir de légères usures (cf. photo). Légère usure à la commissure des lèvres à senestre. Dans la chevelure à senestre les repeints plus épais recouvrent des transparences et usures qui laissent affleurer les repentirs. On note quelques repeints punctiformes dans le fond. La signature en bas à dextre est légèrement usée mais authentique. Le tableau est dans son ensemble en très bon état. The condition report has been done by an external restorer, Mme Baron Callegari: Support : The composition is painted on a canvas with tight weaving. The canvas is in excellent condition and has not been lined. The canvas is on its original stretcher. The tacks are old and have not been moved. We can notice some little deformations on the canvas located on the hair repaints. The repaints on this area have cause little deformations. On the back we can observe an original inscription M d G / 20 The adhesion is overall satisfying. Pictorial matter: The varnish is homogeneous, slightly oxidized very greying and colourless. On the face, we can notice some light repaints to cover light wears. Light wear on the lips' commissure, on her left. On the hair, on her left, the thicker repaints cover the transparencies and wears that show the pentimenti. We can notice some dot repaints on the background. The signature, lower left, is slightly worn but authentic. The painting is in overall very good condition.
"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

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard was among the very few women who made names for themselves as artists in the 18th century and who became members of the Académie (fig. 1), like the other successful female painter of her time, Elisabeth Vigée-Le Brun (1755-1842). The portrait presented here is that of another very interesting female personality. Jeanne-Victoire-Henriette de Montaud de Navailles, vicomtesse de Saint-Martin d’Arberonne, baronne d’Assat et de Mirepeix, devenue plus tard duchesse d’Aiguillon, was one of the most fashionable women of her day, a member of the Parisian aristocracy and a veritable icon of beauty in her time. Daughter of baron de Mirepeix, she married in 1785 the comte Armand Désiré de Vignerot du Plessis de Richelieu, comte d’Agenois (1761-1800), who became duc d’Agenois in 1785 and duc d’Aiguillon in 1788. History has retained the name of this peer of France who was one of the first to propose the abolition of titles and who was one of the friends of the duc d’Orléans (Philippe-Egalité, 1747-1793), known by the epithet of ‘Regicide’. Labille-Guiard was admitted to the Académie de Saint-Luc in 1769 and to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1783. This resilient young woman was and still is often compared with Vigée-Le Brun who was then painter to the queen. Labille-Guiard herself became painter to ‘Mesdames’, the aunts of king Louis XVI in 1787. Thanks to this title, but also to the numerous contacts she made in the artistic and society circles of the time, the talented portraitist received commissions from many members of the nobility. Later, Labille-Guiard sympathised with the ideals of the Revolution, and, unlike Vigée-Le Brun, remained in France.

The painting presented here is, according to her biographer in 1902, ‘one of her most successful paintings’ (see Literature). Signed by the artist, our splendid portrait depicts a lady of proud carriage, with no ornaments in her hair or jewels adorning her very simple blue-grey dress and scarf of a darker shade. Neither the closed fan nor the discreet earring indicate the sitter’s social rank: only the natural distinction that emanates from her presence could be a clue left by the painter. The duchess was particularly integrated into fashionable circles at the end of the Ancien Régime. As part of the exclusive circle of the Palais-Royal, she mixed with this world through her husband, an intimate friend of the duc d’Orléans. She became friends with the comtesse Charles de Lameth – also painted by Labille-Guiard – with whom she lived during the Revolution at the château de Busagny, near Pontoise.

Thanks to the curly hairstyle and the costume, in fashion in 1790, the painting can be dated to that year. There is also a discernable relationship between this portrait and that of Madame de Genlis, signed and dated by the artist (‘Labille dme Guiard 1790’) [1]. Furthermore, it is likely that the portrait of the duchess’s husband (signed and dated ‘Labille fme Guiard l’an 2e de la liberté’) [2] was painted later to serve as a pendant (fig. 2). The couple were in effect depicted symmetrically, half-length and turned three-quarters so they could be placed face to face. Likewise, in both case oil was used, rather than pastel, and the dimensions match exactly, which confirms the theory that they were pendants.

The beginning of this year was an empty passage for the artist, who no longer received commissions from the daughters of Louis XV, who were about to go into exile. A page of her life had been turned and she needed to acquire a new clientele. Only in the second half of 1790 was Labille-Guiard introduced to the circle of the duc d’Orléans. It was probably while going to Bellechasse to paint the portraits of Madame de Genlis and the princesse Adélaide d’Orléans that she had the chance to meet certain prominent political figures of that time: the duc d’Aiguillon first and foremost, but also Alexandre, vicomte de Beauharnais, Charles and Alexandre, comtes de Lameth.
Not long after the present portrait was finished, Anne-Marie de Lameth and Jeanne-Victoire-Henriette d’Aiguillon were arrested and imprisoned in the former Carmelite convent until the end of the Reign of Terror. After her liberation, the duchess re-joined her husband in London and accompanied him to Hamburg, where they remained until his death on 4 May 1800. She remarried Louis, marquis de Girardin (1767-1848), with whom she had three children. For a time lady in waiting to the queen of Spain, Julie Clary, wife of Joseph Bonaparte, Jeanne-Victoire-Henriette d’Aiguillon died in 1818, at the age of forty-eight.

During her exile in the Oise, the brother of the comtes de Lameth, Théodore, took refuge in 1793 at the château de Busagney where the duchess was staying. In his memoirs, he extols the memory of the beautiful duchess: ‘I seem to see Madame d’Aiguillon, model of all imposing and ravishing forms and of all the charms of beauty. What would I want to do with her melancholy sadness, her scorn for our oppressors, her noble, proud indifference to her own dangers, her honourable fears for my own and her tender compassion’[1]. And, indeed, the duchess was reputed to be one of the most beautiful women of her time; to the point that some affirmed that her portrait, so emblematic of the feminine ideal of the second half of the 18th century, could be considered the Mona Lisa (fig. 3) of the Enlightenment.

Concerning the state of conservation, Anne-Marie Passez already judged in 1971 that it was ‘excellent’ (see Literature), thus permitting the appreciation of the portrait’s beautiful execution. Thanks to its quality, this portrait is a milestone in the history of art and the maturation of the artist: it is a modern portrait: the Louis XVI period is over, giving way to the evolutions and new reflections provoked by the French Revolution. Furthermore, this painting is a sweet testimony to a privileged relationship between the artist and her sitter, as evinced by the relaxed nature of the pose. Painting slowly (only about a dozen canvases per year), Labille-Guiard studied the psychology of her sitters in order to reveal their personality and character. Having argued in vain for the opening of the Académie royale de peinture to all women with no restrictions on their numbers, Labille-Guiard is firmly grounded in the history of women’s art. Over the last century, these pioneers have been rediscovered, at last valued on their own merit – without consideration of their sex – and appreciated by the art market, which has at last recognised the audacity and talent of these female painters.

[1] Portrait of Madame de Genlis, oil on canvas, 74 x 60 cm ; recorded in the collection of Mrs. Harry Blunt, Bethseda, Maryland; see Passez 1971, pp. 232-234, cat. no. 111, repr. Pl. LXXXIX on p. 233.
[2] Portrait of the duc d’Aiguillon, oil on canvas, 73 x 60 cm ; recorded in a French private collection; see Passez 1971, pp. 252-253, cat. no. 123, repr. Pl. XCVIIIL on p. 253.
[3] E. Welwert, Mémoires de Théodore de Lamerth, Paris, Fontemoing, 1913, p. 285 cited in Passez 1971, p. 236.