Lot 51
  • 51

ELISABETH-LOUISE VIGÉE LE BRUN | Portrait of Mrs. Spencer Perceval, née Jane Wilson (1769-1844), bust-length

150,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • Portrait of Mrs. Spencer Perceval, née Jane Wilson (1769-1844), bust-length
  • signed and dated lower right: LeBrun / 1804
  • pastel on paper
  • 19 by 14 3/4  in.; 48 by 37.5 cm.


Joseph-Hyacinthe-François-de-Paule de Rigaud, comte de Vaudreuil;
By descent to his widow, Victoire-Joséphine-Marie-Hyacinthe de Rigaude de Vaudreuil;
By descent to Comte Charles-Philippe-Louis-Joseph-Alfred de Vaudreuil;
His sale, Paris, 20 May 1881;
Collection Vicomtesse de Courval;
By whom sold, Paris, Sotheby's, 25 March 2014, lot 109;
There acquired by the present owner. 


N. Jeffares, "Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun", Dictionary of pastellists before 1800, London, 2006; online edition [http://pastellists.com/Articles/VigeeLeBrun.pdf], updated 11 November 2016, cat. no. J.76.327. 


Please note that this lot has not been inspected unframed and the following condition report was produced outside of studio conditions. The sheet of paper on which this highly refined pastel has been drawn remains in seemingly very good condition, with only a small, old crease to the centre of the right edge visible. The pastel medium remains in a predominantly good state of preservation with the areas of pigment to the sitter's face, hair and clothing, fresh and vibrant. There are some very minor old areas of slight foxing to the right edge, though this does not distract from the overall aesthetic of the work and is only noticeable upon very close inspection. There is some slight rubbing to the pastel in the lower right corner, however the image is otherwise strong throughout and the colours richer and warmer, in reality, than the catalogue illustration suggests. Sold in a carved and giltwood, 18th Century style frame.
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.

Catalogue Note

Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun was one of the most highly regarded portraitists of 18th century France and one of the most successful and internationally renowned female artists of that century.  This elegant pastel portrait of the Irish aristocrat Lady Spencer Perceval is a mature work by the artist, completed during her time in England in 1803-5.    Though she is more famous for her work in oil, Vigée first trained as a pastellist under the tutelage of her father, the artist Louis Vigée (1715–1767).  As her career progressed she increasingly turned to the presumably more lucrative activity of painting, though she did return to pastel throughout her life, both in her commissioned work and for herself.  As a result, far fewer pastels than oil paintings by Vigée are known; the present work is a rare and particularly well-preserved example from her later years. In this fully finished yet loose portrait, her appreciation for the immediacy and softness of the medium is well on display.

Vigée was a precocious and talented artist from a young age; she succeeded in gaining entrance to the Académie de Saint-Luc at just nineteen, a remarkable accomplishment for a woman at the time. By the late 1770s Vigée Le Brun’s reputation as a portraitist had become well-established. In 1778 she was called to Versailles to paint a full-length portrait of the young Queen Marie Antoinette. The tremendous success of this portrait led to a number of royal commissions and the continued patronage of the Queen and her circle.  She also served as a mentor and friend to many other female artists of her generation, such as Marie-Genevieve Lemoine (see lots 49 and 50) and the Marquis de Grollier (fig. 1). As a royalist and portraitist of Marie-Antoinette, fearing for her life, Vigée fled France during the Revolution and traveled throughout Europe for many years, spending time in Italy, Vienna, Russia, England and Switzerland. She was greeted warmly in most aristocratic circles, and in the tradition of the courtier-artist, was often treated as the social equal of her sitters.

Dated 1804, the present pastel was executed while Vigée was living in London. The high society and nobility in London received the artist warmly; indeed she wrote in her memoir that “in England, I found myself surrounded by many of my compatriots, whom I had been familiar with for quite a while… at a gathering held by Lady Parceval who often received émigrés.”1

Born Jane Wilson, daughter of Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, Lady Parceval married Spencer Perceval, younger son of the Earl of Egmont, in 1792.  Though at the time his career as lawyer was unpromising (enough so that Sir Thomas disapproved of the marriage and the couple eloped), he soon experienced a rapid rise to power and in October 1809 became Prime Minister of England. Jane and Spencer Perceval had thirteen children, of whom twelve survived. When this pastel was made in 1804, Lady Perceval was pregnant with her 11th child and Spencer Perceval was a leading politician in the conservative Pitt administration, which supported the old regime in France. Hence it comes as no surprise that Lady Perceval was closely acquainted with Vigée.  Given the kind mention in her memoir, their friendship must have been important to the artist, who mostly painted émigrés rather than British sitters while she was in England.


1. “Je retrouvai en Angleterre une grande quantité de compatriotes que je connaissais depuis longtemps … dans une réunion chez lady Parceval, qui recevait beaucoup d’émigrés” E.L.Vigée-Lebrun, Souvenirs II. Editions Des femmes, 6 rue de Mézières, Paris 1984, p. 352.