Lot 49
  • 49

MARIE-VICTOIRE LEMOINE | Portrait of Madame de Genlis (1746-1830)

60,000 - 80,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Attribué à Marie-Victoire Lemoine
  • Portrait of Madame de Genlis (1746-1830)
  • signed and dated center right: Vic. Lemoine / 1781
  • oil on unlined canvas, oval
  • 23 1/2  by 19 1/4  in.; 59.7 by 48.9 cm. 


Anonymous sale, Monaco, Sotheby's, 16-17 June 1989, lot 381;
Anonymous sale, New York, Sotheby's, 15 January 1993, lot 126;
There acquired by a private collector;
By whom sold, New York, Sotheby's, 26 January 2007, lot 452;
There acquired by the present collector. 


J. Baillio, "Vie et Oeuvre de Marie Victoire Lemoine (1754-1820)," in Extrait de la Gazette des Beaux-Arts, April 1996, pp. 128, 147, cat. no. 7, reproduced fig. 24.


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 is in beautiful condition. The canvas is unlined. The tacking edges have been reinforced to allow for proper stretching. The canvas is lightly loose on the stretcher now, and could be tightened. The painting seems to be clean and well varnished. Retouches have been sparingly applied in the chest and shoulder addressing a few isolated cracks. The background, hair and floral wreath show no retouches. There are a few small isolated retouches addressing cracking around the mouth. There is one retouched loss above the white ribbon in the center of the left side. The canvas could be tightened, but the work can otherwise be hung as is.
"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

This sumptuous portrait of a young and attractive girl, holding flowers to her chest as her undershirt delicately falls open, depicts Madame de Genlis, a writer who later became the first female governess to the royal princes, charged with the education of the sons of Philippe, duc d'Orléans. Marie-Victoire Lemoine painted Madame de Genlis with a soft yet commanding beauty, elegantly and directly looking out at the viewer in this sensual depiction of the young writer. 

Stéphanie Félicité du Crest de Saint-Aubin, later the comtesse de Genlis and more commonly known as Madame de Genlis, was born to a noble family in Burgundy and received her education at home. She left for Paris and married the comte de Genlis at the age of seventeen.  In 1769 they moved to the Palais Royal when she became as a lady-in-waiting to Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, the new wife of Philippe d'Orléans, with whom Genlis was having a passionate affair.  At the same time the comte de Genlis received an appointment as the duc's Captain of the Guard, though he left the Palais Royal a few years later to take up with his own mistress. 

In 1777, Madame de Genlis became the governess to the daughters of the duc and duchess; at this time she also began writing her own books on educational theories.  In 1782, the year after the present painting was completed, the duc boldly appointed Genlis as governess to his sons.  This was the first time a woman had held the role, and the appointment was met with much scandal.  Madame de Genlis persevered and continued to educate the children as well as publish her own books, eventually moving out of the Palais Royal and settling in Germany after the Revolution. 

Dated 1781, this early work by Lemoine shows Madame de Genlis in a rather coy pose, alluding more to her role as mistress to the duc d'Orleans rather than as a formidable governess.  In 1790, Adelaide Labille-Guiard painted a very different portrait of Madame de Genlis (fig. 1).  In this mature portrait, she is seen in formal clothing, including gloves and an elaborate hat, and her smile has hardened, evoking a more serious, even foreboding, personality that captures the power and influence she held in the Orleans family.